I was looking through a favorite local fashion publication the other day, and there was an article about “chic, easy staples” that could be considered “basics” for traveling.
Not that I’m going anywhere, or anything…. but I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of trying to pack a bag efficiently. I fantasize about jetting off to Europe on a whim, and I like planning how to get the largest selection of cute, appropriate outfits into the smallest possible bag. So I sat right down and settled in for a good read.
The article listed ten practical items to pack. In addition to the more predictable items — classic pants and skirt, button-down shirt, scarf for a pop of color — there were also some slightly less conventional choices. These were, and I quote, “the perfect white shirt,” a “white, pique corset,” and “one crisp, blue duster.”
As I read this, the first coherent thought that surfaced was, “What the hell is a duster?” (According to Dictionary.com, it’s “a summer-weight coat for women that is loosely fitting and often unlined.” Well, alrighty, then. Point taken).
Once I figured that out, my brain was so perplexed by “corset” that it delayed worrying about the word “pique.” I mean, I did sort of know that “pique” is a textured fabric. But I could only think of the other meaning — a feeling of irritation or resentment, as in “a fit of pique,” which is damned sure what I’d feel if I ever tried to wear a corset as a fashion basic while traveling!
Mostly, though, I just had to shake my head at that “perfect white shirt.” Sure, white is a basic; I get it. But when I go on vacation, if I’m not subsisting on chocolate mousse, cappuccino, and red wine, I’m clearly doing something wrong. Unless I want to spend the midnight hours removing stains with a toothbrush and a teeny bottle of hotel shampoo, I’m leaving all white clothes at home. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I actually own any white clothes, for this very reason).
Now, I don’t mean any disrespect, either to the (unnamed) publication or its (also unnamed) author. So, if you’re reading this post, in the unlikely event that your Google Alert feature finds it via the search terms “duster” or “pique corset,” please, no hate mail. I like your publication, and I think I get what you’re trying to do here. We’ve all read a million “what to pack” articles, with the predictable references to wrinkle-resistant fabrics, simple & efficient color palates, and the desirability of packing around the minimum number of shoes you can possibly get away with. This article is trying to do something a little different, a little more stylish, and I do respect that.
But this doesn’t change the fact that I do not live in a world of blue dusters and pique corsets. I live in a world of wrinkle-resistant fabrics and boring fashion advice. So of course, when I’m packing for a trip, the first decision to make is: which pair of shoes will allow me to walk half a million miles every day without looking completely frumpy when I finally end up — as you know I will — in a cute bar full of fashionable people? In summer, it will likely be a pair of sandals; in winter, my faithful brown ankle boots with a mid-height heel.
Whichever shoes it’s going to be, those are the ones that I will wear while traveling to my destination. So the second decision is: what other shoes — and how many pairs — will actually fit in my suitcase? For a beach vacation, I might want flip-flops, perhaps one casual pair and one “dressy” one. For the city, I might want dressier shoes with a heel, even though I almost never get around to wearing them because I’m always walking too damn far. (But I want to see everything! It’s just a few more blocks!)
Occasionally, the specter of athletic footwear rears its ugly head, and I do mean ugly. If I’m in one of those phases where I’m taking exercise seriously — don’t laugh, it happens — I don’t want to be derailed from my fitness routine. Into the suitcase go those horrid, clunky shoes — taking up way more than their share of space, I might add.
I know what you’re thinking: why don’t I just wear those shoes on my travel days, rather than packing them? It’s not gonna happen, so don’t even talk to me about it. I know that nobody cares, and I’m not in the public eye. The paparazzi aren’t going to snap unflattering, ugly-shoe-wearing photos of me at the airport, or in one of those crappy rest stops on the turnpike (headline: “Dunkin Donuts Don’t!“). Just accept it: I will not wear athletic footwear for anything other than athletic activity. No.
Of course, this also means I will not wear those athletic shoes while walking mile after mile exploring my vacation destination. Among all the usual reasons for not wearing them, I refuse because, in my opinion, they are tantamount to wearing a flashing neon sign that says, “I am a tourist! An unfashionable outsider! From some far less sophisticated place than this one!”
This particular hangup also causes me to shun all kinds of things that might actually be useful while on vacation. Maps, for example. Guide books. Serviceable rain gear. A fanny pack. A camera that is strapped to my body in any way, shape or form.
Of course, everybody still knows I’m a tourist because I’m walking in circles. I’m stopping and starting unpredictably, or looking up, wide-eyed, pointing at things.
But you see, I can still pretend that I’m not a tourist. Freed from the baggage of my job, my home, and my predictable daily routine, I can be anybody I want to be. Carefree. Irresponsible. Uncommitted. Flitting freely from beautiful place to beautiful place, pausing only for the occasional cocktail. Worldly and sophisticated, that’s me!
Hmmmm….. on second thought, maybe I do need a pique corset, after all!