Once again, tourist season is at our throats. Over the next few months, tourists will swarm Washington, D.C. and other scenic destinations worldwide. From a fashion perspective, this is a dreaded season. You know what I’m talking about. Athletic sneakers, man-sandals, flip-flops, shorts, baseball caps, enormous, ill-fitting t-shirts – all the proverbial fanny packs of style. Tourists often fail to consider the advantages of dressing well for their epic vacations and getaways. The locals will appreciate the effort (or at least not be appalled). And Facebook friends will be ever the more envious. Most importantly, the moment may be fleeting, but pictures last forever. So you might as well aim for a more considerate and glamorous vacation wardrobe. Dress the set with style.
Color. While it is important to feel comfortable for a long day of sightseeing and family-herding, some thought should be given as to where one will be posing for pictures. If it’s Disney, camp and garish is fine. Otherwise, try to wear colors, prints, and styles that blend with or complement the surroundings. Is there ever a need to wear Hawaiian shirts to … South Dakota? I remember once visiting the Great Salt Lake in the winter, with its peaceful hues of taupe, sand, browns, and grays. As I recall, I wore a jewel-toned sweater and pant combo that featured a black, forest green, and burgundy print. I remember thinking how I was blighting the landscape with cacophony. Lesson: don’t do that.
History and culture. But getting the color palette right isn’t sufficient, because the setting has a style and history (or else you wouldn’t be there, right?). Whyyyyy visit an ancient Thai temple while wearing shorts and t-shirts? Why bring the tacky or the mundane to the Eiffel Tower, ancient Egypt, majestic Sedona, Arizona, or the Taj Mahal? You love the beautiful setting, you want to photobomb the object of your admiration with an image of yourself, so why should the setting be the only attractive object in the final image? Instead, buy something festive locally, or else shop ahead. (I see that Net-a-Porter has a category devoted to vacation dresses.) I’ve always liked the idea of wearing a cotton Salwar Kameez, like this yellow one, for exotic vacations. Then again, this reddish print “bohemian” dress from Modcloth would be nice, too.
For men who don’t want to do even a hint of festive wear, it must be said: you can’t go wrong with classic style. See: at the lake, classic sporty casual wear, LL Bean Newportbury woven shirt with t-shirt worn underneath, LL Bean business casual, and the quintessential “Don Draper in California” look.
Comfort. Personally, I like cotton sundresses for warm weather summertime destinations, since they are both comfortable and attractive. Modcloth features quite a few vacation-perfect dresses. Cotton or rayon jersey dresses can be lovely and easiest to pack-and-wear. Steer clear of polyester and nylon, which feel horrible in heat and humidity. Cotton slips and undergarments for unlined dresses can be found at the Vermont Country Store. Needless to say, shoes are also critical to successful vacation wear. They can mar a vacation with ugliness or pain. Unless one is crossing a rocky riverbed, there is never a reason to wear tevas. Fortunately, Zappos and other shoe stores offer an array of comfortable shoes that don’t pain the eyes.
And there’s no need to sacrifice comfort in hat wear, either. Instead of baseball caps, look for straw fedoras or pork pie hats. Ladies can substitute a parasol for a hat.
See my Pinterest board on resort wear for ideas on how not to ruin vacation photos with the fanny packs of fashion.
A bunch of years ago, someone introduced me to a handy little 1980s guide called “Color Me Beautiful” by Carole Jackson. It’s a guide to colors that flatter people of different skin tones, instructive for anyone who has hesitated over a purchase or wondered which shirt or tie to wear to a job interview or on a date, wondering if that color dress/top/tie/make up would be fetching or else look a bit frightful.The guide starts by grouping people according to two basic skin undertones: warm or cool. You may have the same surface tone (such as light, medium, dark) but a different undertone (such as olive versus pink). Warm tones will have a golden, yellow, or olive hue to their complexion. Cool tones will have pink, red, or bluish-red hues.
The guide then further divides warm tones into four color palettes: “spring” or “autumn” and cool tones into “summer” or “winter.” The spring and summer palettes tend to be lighter colors (such as pastels). I tend to think of Nicole Kidman as a classic spring and her pal Naomi Watts as a classic summer. The autumn and winter palettes tend to be darker or more vibrant colors. Cindy Crawford seems a classic autumn to me, with her amber-hued eyes and hair. Elizabeth Taylor and Alek Wek (two very disparate beauties and eras) seem to be classic winters.
Notwithstanding the cheesiness of the original video advertisement with its cringe-inducing 1980s styling, I’ve found the guide helpful over the years in styling myself and offering advice to others.
For example, if forced to choose, do you look best in white, navy blue, pink, and violet? Or gold, peach, pumpkin, or olive green? If the former colors tend to look best or bring the most compliments, you are probably a summer or winter. If it’s the latter, you are probably a spring or autumn. If you are unsure, get a few fabric swatches and view them against your face in a well-lit room with a mirror. Or, ask a friend, especially if you are terrible at judging colors or have some color blindness. (Take a little quiz at xritephoto.com).
Since I am a winter, I tend to choose colors such as black, violet, and deep blue red to wear on or near my face. But personal preference also matters. I could also choose pinks and fuchsias or other jewel tones; I just happen not to like them as well.
Sometimes, though, I choose to wear the “wrong” colors, such as mustard yellow (which is a ghastly color on me). Women can overcome an unflattering hue by heaping on make up in more appropriate colors. So, I may off-set that mustard yellow top with eye make up, blush, and lipstick in plum, which is a flattering color for me. Or, contrast the off-color top with a color-appropriate scarf that is nearer the face.
Color Me Beautiful is hardly a brand new concept; it’s merely a helpful grouping of color families and methodology. For example, I’ve since discovered an amusing make up guide from 1932, “Make Up” by Virginia Vincent, which assigns color palettes to women based on hair color. “Cosmetics for the golden blonde” advises a rose-colored rouge for naturally creamy skin or an orange-hued rouge for skin that is more white than cream.
Whatever colors you choose to wear, it’s best to put some thought into it to look your best for every occasion and have a cohesive color palette that’s easy to mix and match.
Theme parties and events offer an entertaining twist on the ordinary get-together. But they present a daunting challenge of “what to wear.” I have several specific theme events on my calendar for the next few months, including Mad Men Hawaiian and James Bond. (I’m going to envy those of you who have upcoming Downton Abby parties.) In any case, it’s always most fun and respectful of the host to at least makes an effort to achieve a look in keeping with the theme.For the ladies, I would offer the following advice and admonitions. (For the gentlemen, apologies to omit you in this round.)
Get a dress that has the right shape and colors of the suggested period or look by paying attention to details such as neck line, sleeve type, waist, length, types of fabrics used, and other important design and print details. It can really detract from a period look to get an important detail wrong. I can’t tell you how many “1920s flappers” I’ve seen over the years in fringed, form-fitting mini-dresses, feathered headbands, long flowing hair, and pointed-toe shoes.
But I’ll use the Mad Men party to illustrate my points. This season’s Mad Men picks up in 1969, I hear. So, I am on the look out for a shirt-dress or simple A-line mini-dress evoking that time period (and appropriate for a Hawaiian cocktail event), perhaps in vibrant rainbow hues or prints, like citron, orange, bubblegum pink, or sky blue. Those aren’t the only options, but it’s helpful to have a few ideas in mind before you shop. (Hmm, what would “Megan Draper” wear?!)
As you can see from this page McCall’s 1969 pattern book, such a dress might be sleeveless, but the shoulder edge looks nearly flush with the actual shoulder and the armscye is fitted. I’m also paying attention to the length of the dress – mid-calf – and the modest v-neck (or perhaps a boat or slightly scooped shape would work, too). The style also covers the entire back and seems to have a high scoop neck. Unlike shirt-waist dresses and other available styles available during this era, the aforementioned McCall’s dress de-emphasizes the natural waist, which is subsumed in the over-all A-line, or triangle shape. The material, woven or knit, should have some weight and body to maintain that stiff A-shape and should not be at all flimsy or drapy.
Finding a dress to approximate the late 1960s and that evokes a Hawaiian party will be a challenge, I expect. In addition to vintage clothing shops, such as Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods in Del Ray, Alexandria, I will also look for mod-inspired looks in stores like Target and Mod Cloth. Online shops on Etsy and elsewhere are an excellent option, if one pays careful attention to garment measurements. Sewing a dress for the occasion has its merits, too.
Viewing the rest of the 1969 look, I notice the long, straight or slightly waved hair smoothed over a hair bump (whether over back-combed hair or over a Bump-It or other object). For shorter hair, I would recommend forming the bump, about which there are many YouTube tutorials, and then pulling it all back in a false ponytail, which can be found easily at beauty supply shops or on Amazon. Other sorts of hair falls or wigs could work well.
As for make up, it looks like bright or chalky lips in pink or orange were de rigueur in 1969, along with false eyelashes. Make up artist Lisa Eldridge did a splendid, simple 1960s eye tutorial recently. I would choose a blush and nail varnish to match my lipstick color, or may consider altering pale pink and orange. For jewelry, I would have chunky, geometric earrings, bracelets and rings in mind to complement the dress. For shoes, I would look for low, chunky-heeled shoes, perhaps with a round or squarish toe. Or maybe sandals.
Other themes may be more difficult or even prohibitive to achieve. But many 20th Century looks can be done with a bit of effort on a small budget in exchange for a big effect.
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