By Antoinette Marie Johnson
As the world opens up, it’s likely your schedule is more packed than ever before. For me, social anxiety ensues as we climb out of pandemia, and each new request for a coffee catch-up, happy hour, or long weekend trip has me looking at my calendar cross-eyed. It's overwhelming to think about how to show up, what to wear, and what to say “yes” to. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a method that helps me combat social angst and bundle my commitments in a practical way: picnic gatherings.
Instead of going on six different coffee dates, I can pick a day and suggest that we meet for a curated outdoor experience—the perfect seasonal picnic. Not only are picnics one of the best ways to capture the joy of the season, but they provide a better environment for creating long-lasting memories. The versatility of an outdoor dining date that you create is limitless—whether you utilize them for date nights or a Sunday hang with friends, picnics invite the endless summer joy of nature sounds combined with the autumn crisp in the air and simple pleasures of chilled cocktails or apple cider concoctions. I like to use the opportunity to show off my dining al fresco ideas, and best quarantine food creation and presentation skills. However, the best thing about them is that they are a moment in time to exercise your ideal summer fashion statement—in both home goods and outfit selection. Here are some lesser-known tips for rocking it at that picnic you've been invited to or the one you’re planning to host.
Shop playful fabrics and accessories at antique stores.
Some of the best gingham tablecloths, floral napkins, and funky summer-colored blankets are super cheap and easily accessible in any city at your favorite antique store—and while you’re at it, grab some cute juice glasses or milk vases for foraged flowers. This guarantees that your picnic look can't be easily replicated. And if you are adventurous to forage—this also ensures you're at the peak of the season rather than buying flowers shipped from far away.
Invest in timeless linens.
This is where your silk or linen dresses, linen jumpers, and shorts come out to play! For the late summer/fall season, I took the plunge and bought a few pieces that I know I’ll be able to use for a long time. If you’re seeking permission to lean all the way into the outdoors this season, consider it granted. Linen translates for the entire picnic, too—use tablecloths as the blanket, linen napkins, and a cute straw hat to go with it all. Breathable fabrics that flow with the wind are perfect for this kind of occasion and can be layered with jackets or chunky sweaters.
Sustainable and mobile items make for a fun lifestyle.
Whether we’re talking about a perfect rattan tray, cute stools that double as side tables, or reusable silver Tupperware, these items will stay in style no matter the occasion—and on the plus side, you can use them to control your waste at a picnic. If you’ve been eyeing the nicer vintage pieces online, try to purchase them from a local boutique or thrift store instead. Because these items are so timeless, they can be good investment pieces and serve as inspiration for more regular outdoor gatherings. Your outdoor picnic is the perfect opportunity to weave in funky silverware, little juice vessels, pitchers, and fun style items you would normally only break out at a dinner party. I like to load these all up on a rattan tray for multiple uses or a woven basket to make for an easy trash can later.
Try your most photographable pandemic recipes and fruity cocktails.
Like Bon Appetite's 15 Easy Picnic Recipes or 22 Easy Elegant Recipes for the Perfect Picnic. One of my rules is to only use seasonal fruits and vegetables because I want my picnic to convey peak-of-season. In June, cherries, squash blossoms, and blueberries are in full bloom, so you could make clafoutis or toss them in a lemon vinaigrette for simplicity. In late July and August, beans, corn, and tomatoes abundant with flavor are plentiful, so grilling makes for an easy-prep picnic. Whatever you do, try to avoid prepackaged or packaged food if you can. Challenge yourself to cut back on waste and spend that extra fifteen minutes preparing the dishes yourself. Summer vegetables don’t require a lot of work, and you might surprise yourself with what you can make in a short amount of time.
No matter the occasion, curating an outdoor meal is the perfect way to make the summer feel endless. Savor those moments in nature and with friends as we all re-align with what’s important to us.