Zoe Foster Blake packs for a European holiday!
To me, dressing up on holidays makes PERFECT sense. I put it in the same category as ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ except that it’s more, ‘dress for the place you’re in, not the one you came from.’
I cop a fair bit of stick about it from my mates, of course. It’s so much effort, my mates say. Who cares how you look on holidays, they say. Take off that velvet cape, they say.
But it’s not an effort for me. I love it. I adopt a new personality overseas, a much more flamboyant, fruity one than the jeans and trainers girl back home.
To me, the holiday experience is about playing along. About immersing into the city or country you’re in. So, if you’re in Sicily, you eat pasta alla norma, cannolli and caponata, you drink Zibbibo and you swim where the locals tell you to. And for me, you dress in bright colours and with as many pom-poms as legal.
I’m embarrassingly osmotic when I travel. If I see a cool woman wearing a slip dress with a flamboyant head wrap in Portofino, I want in. If I see a minimalist woman wearing bejeweled slippers with a white pantsuit in Rome, I want in. And if I see a babe in a white shirt tucked into a colourful ankle-length skirt with a neckerchief in Florence, I want in. To me travel is Real Life Instagram; I see things that inspire and delight, and in that moment, in that piazza, in that sunshine, I want to play along. Even if it’s just with a new ZARA top and belt, and a bucket of holiday confidence; I’m in.
I knew I’d shop over there, so I packed light: a tight edit of shoes and a few dresses and tops from last summer, half of which I was ready to farewell if space got tight. This, I’ve learned, is smarter than flying with nothing, assuming you will fill your suitcase with cute new stuff the second you arrive, only to arrive and discover they are already doing autumn-winter fashion, and it’s 30 degrees, and you’re screwed.
Since we left a Melbourne winter for an Italian summer, there was nada in-store in terms of sandals and frocks, (especially for my toddler – would someone please start an online kids store that caters to all seasons? Australians travel! A lot!) so I went online and grabbed some summer stuff from ASOS and Reformation. My edit needed to be stylish, versatile, be easy in terms of ironing and grime, and cover everything from long travel days, dinners, beach, and sightseeing in the heat. Oh, and tiny, because I share my suitcase with my son. (I generally pack the suitcase a week out, then each day remove a thing or two I can live without… you’d be amazed at what you thought you needed on first pack.) (‘Five swimsuits’.)
My basics were:
- Soft jeans and sweater on plane
- 2-3 singlets and tees
- Denim shorts and tailored shorts
Off-shoulder top, and dressy cami
- Two cotton day dresses (polished-but-casual)
- Two polyester (‘teeny when folded’) floral dresses, pantsuit and a LBD
- Throw-over dress for pool or beach
- Browny-tan sandals, slides, white tennis sneakers, and a pair of mules.
More vital than clothes, though, were the accessories. Because like my husband at check-in, they do all the heavy lifting.
Most vitally: pack an excellent hat. (Tip: Invest in a great hat. I bought cheap hats each summer that fell apart; now I have one I love. It cost a lot, but Aussie brands like Lack of Colour do good styles cheaply. I wore my hat every day in Italy, and always felt polished and ‘me’ in it).
Also: big sunglasses, and some fantastic earrings to jazz up everything from a plain white tee to a black dress (I like Christie Nicolaides). And a scarf. Oh, and an energetic red lipstick. If, once dressed, you add nothing else but sunglasses and tinted moisturiser, that red (or pink, or orange) lipstick will make you look a million Euro. I use a long-last matte crayon formula because glossy or creamy red lips can be a P in the A on holidays, and also non-holidays. (Tip: I have lash extensions put on before holidays so I can wear sunscreen, BB cream and go. They are miracle workers.)
But it’s not just about packing.
It’s FEELING it while you’re there. Letting the holiday take over you, and then playing up to it a bit, doing stuff you might not in the Real World. It’s taking a few extra moments before setting off for the day to think: “What can I wear today that will make me feel great? What can I do right now, quickly, in the bathroom with my son figure-eighting between my legs, squawking for breakfast, that will make me feel good when I look back on a million holiday photos? My ‘good dress?’ Earrings? What? How can I tweak my basics to bring out … Holiday Me?”
For me it’s usually popping on my hat and some lipstick, with a beautiful, simple dress and some sandals. I know, groundbreaking! But, I feel put together, and not underdressed if we stay out all day and finish off with a nice early dinner, or run into Mariah Carey and she wants to invite us onto her boat.
I’m not suggesting for a second I have nailed vacation chic, or that I look like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday when I travel (I WISH OH GOD HOW I WISH), this is just me endorsing little ‘boosts’ that make you feel jubilant and swishy on holidays because it’s fun, and personally makes me feel like I’m in some kind of wonderful holiday movie, except instead of acting I drink Aperol and take naps.
In holidays past I have dressed as if I was on a holiday from style, too, and later regretted it. Why do I dress beautifully to sit in an office, or attend a work event, but like a slob on holidays, when I am happiest, and in magnificently scenic locations, that I may never return to, with people I love, when life is golden?
Look, I realise this might all make me sound a bit silly and superficial, but that’s only because I am. Whatever. Holiday glamour forever, unflattering shorts never!
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