The Monthly Mantra
A Clothes Call … A Clothes Call … A Clothes Call …
I confess. I was once turned away from a cruise ship dining room for not adhering to its dress code. It happened in Oslo in 2004 and at the time I was looking fabulous in pristine, dark blue AG boot-cut jeans, a black Max Mara shirt, a black Armani fitted blazer, and a $100 Nicole Miller black & white polka dot silk scarf (that I picked up on eBay for half the price, but still). Full make up, hair artfully tousled, and stiletto heels that could have given me a nosebleed. It was the perfect outfit for later that evening when I’d be hitting the Oslo hotspots with two local friends.
But, hey, I can play by the rules! I contritely returned to my cabin, slipped into a pair of ill-fitting wrinkled black pants that I’d picked up at Ann Taylor Loft and wore on the trans-Atlantic flight over and was warmly welcomed into the dining room.
It’s astonishing how fashion has changed over the years, not just at sea, but ashore as well. In my corporate life, my wardrobe has gone from tailored suits and dresses (someone once told me I’d never have to buy something to wear to a job interview because I always dressed like I was headed to one) to jeans nearly every day. The change in my cruise wardrobe is even more dramatic. Heck, if I was to put on the cocktail dresses and sequin stuff I used to wear, my shipmates would probably think I was part of the production show. And if a gentleman were to don a tuxedo … well, I’d bet anything that other guests would try to place wine orders with him.
Cruise Fashion, Explained
Call me old fashioned, but sometimes I miss those days of formal nights and dressing for dinner — and it’s not only because I really have no clue what “country club casual,” “resort casual,” and “elegantly casual” mean. There was something simply magical about formal evenings aboard ship: a glimpse through the windows at starlight sparkling on the ocean while we were all assembled, looking our best, with the whir of the blender whipping up cocktails, crystal glistening, and the tinkle of a piano providing a soothing backdrop. And, let’s not forget that those formal nights also gave women somewhere to wear those bridesmaid gowns that had been collecting dust in the back of the closet for years.
Sure, we can still dress up whenever we like during our cruise, but if we do, there’s a good chance that the guy at the next table will be sporting a tank top, shorts, flip flops, and a baseball cap, which is an instant formal-night buzz kill.
These days cruising is all about comfort, something that I totally get, particularly after a 12-hour shore excursion in Florence or cycling 23 miles through Brittany during your call at Belle-Ile-en Mer. But even in casual mode, I still believe the best cruise wardrobes should remind us that we’re on vacation, not going to mow the lawn.
When it comes to fun and fabulous cruise wear, the following brands are the ones that really float my boat:
– Loudmouth (men and women): Designed for golfers, the vivid and whimsical patterns of these shorts, skirts and pants are perfect for sultry days around the ship’s pool or strolling the streets of sundrenched ports. With three percent spandex in most styles, they’re cute and comfy, too. (Note: I’ve received more compliments on my guitar-print Loudmouth shorts than I have on anything I ever wore or a formal night.) us.loudmouthgolf.com
– Jams World (men and women): Hawaii-based Jams World screams Caribbean to me, probably because my first purchase was a cruise ship–print shirt I picked up over 20 years ago in St. Thomas! Since then, the line has expanded to include cool and sassy sundresses, jumpsuits, shorts, and more, with new prints added each season. Made of 100 percent spun crushed rayon, they wash and dry beautifully … and last for decades. jamsworld.com
– Dmitry Ties (men): Don’t let the name fool you. Dmitry Ties may offer a wide selection of neckties, but it’s their boldly-patterned socks, Italian-made shirts, and swim trunks that dazzle me each time I pass their tiny shop in my Queens, NY, neighborhood. Fortunately, they have a website: dmitryties.com
Photos: Judi Cuervo