With other more outdoorsy – therefore ‘country’ and, thus, not very chic – activities, comfort goes ahead of style for more practical reasons. More than ever, think about footwear: at any type of ‘do’ that is regularly dramatised in the – inadvertently – wonderful Midsomer Murders, it may be necessary to run from savage psychopath types. You’ll also have to be able to stand up on ‘soft to medium going’ type ground – as any tea party, barbeque or village fête will usually take place on grass or, more often, mud. You do not want to experience the ‘sink’ factor. It’s embarrassing to have to lift yourself out of a hole of your own making: physically and metaphorically. I strongly advise flats. However, if you choose to wear trousers, a platform wedge is absolutely essential: you don’t want to get muddy around the hem – especially if you’re sporting a paler colour – and, since we’d never bet on clean streets, we definitely can’t do the same when treading on actual dirt. Give your pants at least an inch of grace.
With clothes, I’d advise a very casual version of whatever you’d choose for the wedding and/or racing options. By that I mean looser versions or more stretchy fabrics. You can choose maxi-dresses, summer dresses, linens, smart-ish jeans, t-shirts etc etc etc. Do remember a cardie, though – or even a waterproof. Try a trench (in any length – mini trenches are cute as buttons) or a cheap and cheerful Primark-type floral print pac-a-mac. I never thought I’d write that but, hey ho. Luckily, you can opt for a bigger bag at these occasions – so you’ve got room just in case you do get lucky with the weather. Please note, I am not advising taking an umbrella (unless you absolutely feel the need – in which case take one of those tiny, weeny telescopic versions) as there are invariably fireworks or some sort of entertainment that will require neck-craning.
I hardly need say that bar-b-qs deserve a special kind of respect – mostly due to the filth factor. With men in charge (impossible to avoid since they seem to enjoy burning things so much) of a fire pit, you’re going to experience charcoal, flying ash, carbonised (and, thus, flaky) food and drunk people who blithely spill cocktails, fruit punch, beer and red wine. For God’s sake, take my advice and wear dark colours and/or washable fabrics. Flip-flops and ballet flats mean you can beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom or kitchen sink when your clothes get stained.
Similar rules apply for pick-your-own. Or safari parks. Or petting zoos. Or sports days – if they still exist. Or county fairs – they exist, really. Anything involving children, portable food or animals is cursed by possible disaster.
The message here is ‘show a little respect’. Your host will by providing (or trying to, anyway) some type of pleasant experience. Everyone who has ever done this will know that it requires effort, planning and – on occasion – significant financial outlay. The least you can do is make an attempt to look like you care.