how to dress for garden party

Getting an invite to a formal British garden party event, such as the Royal Garden Party that takes place every year at Buckingham Palace, is a big deal and an afternoon to cherish forever. It’s important to remember though that these are formal events that you need to dress your absolute best for.

Royal garden parties take place during the summer and usually begin between 3 to 4pm and last around three hours. Food and drink will be provided and guests are encouraged to mingle and chat, and enjoy a stroll around the garden where the party is being held. Often a band will play a selection of music to provide atmosphere and entertainment for the guests.

If there is a dignitary present, such as the Queen or another member of the Royal Family, they will circulate through the party and their aides or assistants will introduce them to various guests. This could be you, so it’s important that you’re looking your absolute best.

How should Women Dress for a Garden Party?

The most important part of dressing for a formal garden party is making sure you look smart and sophisticated. However, you must consider that you will spend a lot of the day on your feet (there are a lot more guests than chairs), potentially in warm weather, so you need to feel comfortable too. Choose light, cool fabrics such as cotton or linen, and don’t forget your hat: as well as looking helping you look your best, a hat protects you from the sun.

Choosing a Dress

For a formal garden party, choose a dress that sits on or just below the knee. Anything resembling a ball gown is too formal and rather impractical, as you’ll be outside and will need to navigate a garden, and a floor length dress will make that difficult. In terms of fabric, dress for the season: choose a floral fabric or a bright, summery colour. If a more subtle approach is your style, choose cool, pale blues or greys, or light pastel shades.

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Ronald Joyce Floral Print Tea Dress in Red and Green

Can I Wear a Skirt or Trousers?

Yes, but they have to be smart. A separate skirt and top with a jacket over can look just as stylish as a dress, especially if they are in carefully chosen colours that compliment each other well. For trousers choose a wide leg style in a light fabric so you can look sophisticated whilst feeling comfortable.


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John Charles Two Piece Trouser Suit in Carnation and Ivory


Leave your stiletto heels at home. Garden parties are usually held on grass and you may end up ruining both your shoes and your host’s lawn, which could be extra embarrassing if it belongs to the Queen. A pair of elegant, open toed flat shoes is the perfect choice, though sandals can also work as long as they have a suitably ‘dressy’ look.. If you’re sure you won’t have to walk on any grass of soft, uneven ground, a kitten heel in a nude or neutral colour is a great look.


A tailored blazer in a cotton or linen fabric will keep the chill off whilst looking smart. If it’s a very hot day you should cover your arms as much as possible to avoid sunburn. A soft and floaty jacket will protect you from the sun’s rays without causing you to get too hot. Match your jacket to the rest of your outfit so it works together as a whole and your jacket doesn’t look like you’ve thrown it on as a hasty afterthought.

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Condici Ruched Georgina Chiffon Dress with a Georgina Floaty Jacket in Peach and Cream


An elegant hat will keep the sun from your face whilst looking sophisticated, or you could choose a fascinator, which is a beautiful accessory that won’t cause your head to overheat should it be very sunny. Alternatively, you could go for a combination of the two and wear a hatinator. Hatinators, which are a particular favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, are fastened to the side of the head like a fascinator but have the appearance of a hat.

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Nigel Rayment Hatinator with Silk Flower and Barbed Feather Detailing


An invite to a formal garden party will be the highlight of your summer, so it’s important to dress your best. When thinking about what to wear, remember that you need to look smart and sophisticated whilst also keeping cool should the weather be very warm. However, as the British summer is notoriously unpredictable, it’s equally as important to be prepared for chilly weather too. As long as you look elegant and feel comfortable, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful time.


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