This month’s Feminist Fashion Bloggers post is a guest post, and Mrs Bossa of Mrs Bossa Does the Do and I are trading posts on holiday dressing, using this paper (which unfortunately needs a subscription to download) as a starting point. Be sure to check out the roundup of all the posts at the main FFB site, and without further ado, here’s Mrs Bossa!
Holiday Fashion: your ‘best of’ in a box?
Can your holiday wardrobe give you a new identity? I have to admit: I hate this time of year in fashion magazines. We seem to go straight from bobble hats to bikinis as though Spring doesn’t exist. When I thought more closely about this, I realised – I struggle to make a ‘holiday wardrobe’ fit with my sense of self; I shy away from buying summery clothes and end up being a similar version of my A/W self (albeit more overheated). I’ve noticed a few fashion bloggers talking about rotating their wardrobes, packing away their winter items and bringing their flimsier clothing out to play. But it was when I noticed my mum choosing the items she wanted to buy for a holiday in Nice that it struck me – she wasn’t simply stocking up on some essentials…she was planning her holiday identity.
Before you tell me to put down the piña colada, think about it: aren’t there clothes that you just wouldn’t wear on holiday? Clothes that you would only wear on holiday? Even I would be happy to brave a boob tube in the soaring temperatures of the Mediterranean. But it’s not just the heat – a holiday is a chance to experiment, free from people who judge you. I bought hotpants once, for god’s sake.
In their article ‘It’s Like Planet Holiday’, Maura Banim likens holiday wardrobes to a theatrical performance; tanning and waxing are part of the preparation for the role, buying clothes becomes similar to choosing costumes, and a few well-chosen props allow women to “have the confidence that their performance will be successfully executed.” Not that all this is a chore – she discovered that many women see all this not only as a means of enjoyable self-indulgence, but also as a key transitional phase between ‘real life’ and the holiday fantasy. Planning outfits is a key part of this.
From Day to Night:
Fashion magazines always talk about taking your holiday wardrobe ‘from day to night’ – somehow simple vests in multiple colours, the bikinis and the sarongs all form part of a carefree daytime identity (Banim likens this to being part of a ‘chorus line’ instead of being in the limelight). On the other hand, in the evening the ‘performances’ begin. The researchers suggested that holiday evenings gave women the chance to ‘launch’ the best versions of themselves, night after night – many women took a separate outfit for each evening, but they were always their ‘best’ clothes. Self-awareness increased; striking a balance between showing more of the body and looking sexually available was key. I was most intrigued by the idea of groups of women being ‘performance teams’: giving advice on outfits, monitoring any potential clothing mishaps throughout the night and relying on each other to style hair and put on makeup. Says Banim: “co-operation was important in allowing women to pull off a seemingly effortless performance.” I’m sure many of us can relate to that.
A Case for Naturism?
The idea of sunbathing being liberating is an interesting one: many women surveyed felt that body exposure en masse granted everyone some form of anonymity. Not only did it free them from self-consciousness, it also seemed to liberate them from the ‘sexual gaze’: although close to nudity, no-one seemed to feel they were being objectified as they would be in other contexts. At least not by men…
In summary: There are a lot of factors at play as we plan our holiday wardrobes: the transformative power of fashion, the fluidity of identity, the liberation from judgment, the interaction of women-only groups. It seems that packing a suitcase is more than just an arrangement of clothes – it’s our ‘best of’ in a box. And we don’t even have to go abroad: every time I visit my parents I plan my ‘look’ – I’ve been known to do my makeup on the train and quickly swap my flats for heels as I pull into the station. There are some that would argue that many women are constantly ‘performing’ with their bodies and wardrobes, but the style advice, colour choices and even types of fabric in holiday attire all speak of a tantalising kind of freedom.
What goes through your mind when you’re planning your holiday wardrobe?
Do you have a ‘best version’ of yourself?
Banim, Maura, Ali Guy, and Kate Gillen. ““It’s Like Planet Holiday”—Women’s Dressed Self-presentation on Holiday.” Fashion Theory 9.4 (2005): 425-43. Art Full Text. Web. 8 May 2011.
Millie’s Take on Modesty