Black is the new black
Holiday Wardrobe Anxiety Syndrome is a thing, if we are to believe a recent British newspaper. I am not convinced that indecision about, say, which pair of espadrilles to fling into your suitcase is actually a clinical condition, but the whole packing palaver can make anyone go into a flat spin, with or without the latest in wheelie bags.
I blame the travel brochures and aspirational ads with their images of perfect couples in pressed and pleated clothing with smiles so sparkling they are visible from Mars. There they are in, perhaps, the French Riviera looking glamorous and unlined and before I even get to Nice I know I will never be that smooth-skinned or carefree. I will be rumpled top to toe, including hair and complexion. I will have no wardrobe attendant or personal stylist and my favourite suitcase will not have transformed, en route, to a pop-up trunk show of fetching outfits for every occasion. I will never be featured in any kind of holiday promotion, because I can’t wear a pastel cashmere jumper slung around my shoulders and keep it in place, nor will my hair bob and bounce on command.
So, yes, holidays and how to compete with the posters, the scenery and, especially, fellow travellers, does create an anxiety of sorts. What to do, for instance, if you are convinced orange is the new black but when you get to the glorious beaches of the south of France, you find that black is black and it isn’t even that it’s back, because it never left. Show me a woman on the golden sands of St Tropez in an orange swimsuit and cover-up and I’ll show you an Englishwoman (or Australian, to be fair ... and make that me). Packing for that well-earned vacation (sorry, vacay) means putting faith in weather reports (unreliable), listening to advice from better-dressed friends (dangerous) and being full of sunny optimism that everyone at the resort will just wear their togs all day and all you’ll need for dinner is a sarong (delusional).
The flipside is packing everything, which brings me to cruises and the expectation that everyone on board will look like that tanned old silver fox in all the brochures (think George Clooney meets Mark Harmon) with his sleek, younger wife in savagely ironed sleeveless linen. She is just dying to give us all a mocking smile and whisper, “Right to bare arms.” Well, maybe not, honey, after a circumnavigation of the known universe on an all-inclusive ship. There are just so many parades of the promenade deck you can do before throwing willpower overboard and watching your wrists and ankles fatten.
Anyway, people on cruise ships mostly don’t look like that at all. Even the ones who’ve boarded with fantastically big suitcases seem to end up in the same outfits, dressed for comfort, not showing off. Those glitzy, formal nights are now old chapeau and after-five wear seems to mean anything at all. Last cruise, I wore the same black linen dress most nights, mixing it up with wraps and jewellery, and believe it or not I was complimented on my “evening wardrobe” by tanned old silver foxes as off we waltzed, packing in as much fun as we could.