There are several skills that one should master before calling oneself an adult; among them is the art of packing for tropical vacations. Keep in mind that when I refer to “tropical climates” I mean places where one can bask in the sun, have sun-downer cocktails, get dressed up and go out to dinner. I am not referring to packing for outdoor expeditions and Ironman exertions–in fact, I highly suggest you go elsewhere for that information as I neither own a backpack nor hiking shoes and would be the first to get swallowed up by an avalanche, tidal wave or other natural disaster. If however, you are seeking guidance on how to look terribly chic in a fabulous tropical destination, then please read on. The basic building blocks of a tropical wardrobe include:
You only need 3 pairs of pants for any trip: white jeans to wear in transit, for a casual breakfast, or day of shopping; billowy white linen pants which can be worn if you’re channelling relaxed elegance; and a more formal fitted white dress pant for evening. White pants look cool, crisp and elegant and photograph exceedingly well. Every picture I see with someone wearing jeans in the tropics makes me think of heat rash whereas every photo of a woman in a white pant looks breezy and cool. Needless to say, I firmly believe that a grown woman should never wear shorts unless she is going to play sport or undertake an outdoor activity. What if you want to show off your legs? Wear a bathing suit or a skirt. No shorts.
There is a reason everyone thinks Jackie Onasis is a style icon–she never wore shorts in public!
Brazilian Bottom Bathing Suit
Every Brazilian girl knows, the less fabric covering your bum the smaller it looks. Sounds counterintuitive right? It’s genius. I dare you all to take a photo of your bum in a classic American bottomed bathing suit and then check out Lenny Swimwear (make sure you select “brazilian bottom” because Lenny has since started making American bottoms to cater to the US market) and tell me which makes your bum look better. I discovered the brand in 2008 in Dubai and have never bought another brand ever since. How did Brazilian bating suits come to be popular in Dubai? Who knows!
Caftans are not limited to old ladies and Liz Taylor. Throw one on at the beach to go to lunch or dress one up for evening with some statement jewels–they are eye-catching and elegant regardless of your age. If you’re on the petite side, you can play with more interesting necklines like first photo below; curvy girls do better with a deep-V like the one shown in the second photo below. Legs for days girls can opt for a short version to show off those gams without resorting to shorts gasp! Caftans have been around for decades, they will never look dated so splurge on this item, you’ll have it forever provided you care for it well.
Roberto Cavalli silk caftan, available here.
Roberto Cavalli silk caftan, available here.
Colors & Fabrics
Plan your outfit around colors. White should make up the basics (t-shirt, jeans, tanks) and then build color around it. Always choose a color that suits your coloring but choose vibrant shades over city hues. For example: turquoise rather than sky blue; coral or a vivid orange-red rather than burgundy or a true red; fuchsia rather than petal pink; grass-green, not hunter green. Black and navy are permissible as part of your basics but try not to overdo it.
As for fabrics, natural is best. Concentrate on flowing silks, gauzy cottons and breathable linen. A satin dress might look great at a cocktail party in the city but on a beachy getaway it looks misplaced.
The tropics demand gaudy jewelry. You are competing with the vibrant colors of the scenery so don’t worry, it’s virtually impossible to over do it. Draw inspiration from your surroundings–go big and bright. As for color, same guidelines apply for jewelry as for clothing, choose tropical shades rather than urban hues. I generally bring more gold jewelry to warmer climates, it looks stunning against tanned skin whereas silver jewelry tends to wash out a tanned complexion.
Aurelie Bidermann, enamel coral choker necklace; available here.
Amethyst and turquoise necklace; available here.
Shourouk necklace; available here.
Mania Mania reversible necklace; available here.
Baublebar constellation ear clips; available here.
Turquoise, amethyst and citrine earrings; available here.
Miriam Salat earrings; available here.
Kenneth Jay Lane bangle; available here.
A little tip about which pieces to wear together. . .my jewelry tends scale up for warm climates so I will choose either a statement necklace or statement earrings so as not to look like a crazy gypsy lady. Two pieces of massive jewelry so close to your face tends to make the wrong statement so choose only one to highlight. There is however one exception: if I want to wear both a large colorful necklace and large earrings, I will do so only so long as they are not dangles. In this case, a pair of ear clips can be large in size as long as they do not fall past your jawbone. Women with long necks can get away with doing this but it’s generally ill-advised for women with shorter necks. The first pair below is an example of a large earrings that I would conceivably wear with a statement necklace.
Bangles, bracelets and rings are fair game, feel free to pile away. A good cocktail ring is key, see my post about how to choose a cocktail rings here. If you have small wrists and find it difficult to wear bangles, here are my tips for pulling off bracelets on small wrists. Finally, I always keep a scarf in my bag in case I need to tie a turban over my wind-swept hair–here is a turban tutorial.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,