Black is the new black

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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.

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