Holiday Packing Hell

Holiday Packing Hell

Hands up who wishes that the maths they’d learned at school had had a more practical bent to it? Instead of solving quadratic equations, why couldn’t we have been taught handy life skills: algebraic formulae to deduce that if X plus Y equals a fortnight’s worth of holiday outfits, how much room in your suitcase does that leave for shopping? Or try, how many statement pairs of earrings are required to fool anyone that you’ve actually been wearing the same two outfits for the past seven days, or whether three pairs of leather sandals are sufficient shoe attire for a possible outcome of 18 mix ‘n’ match outfits.

Anyone smarting from the time they forked out on excess baggage at the airport on the way to their destination (er, yes, that’s me) knows only too well the importance of packing wisely. Which means not throwing in every single pair of sandals you’ve bought since 2010 or any “nice, vaguely summery” item you’ve bought this year.

Whether you’d like the contents of your suitcase to co-ordinate tonally or offer an all-out colour clash is entirely up to you although from past experience, I’d veer towards the former. Not only will you effectively have more outfits to play with once you get there, you’re also likely to pack less.

Another thing I’ve learnt to do is pack a few days before I go away, however haphazardly. The night before I fly, I reassess and halve the amount. Granted it’s a bit faffy, but it works and it has meant that I don’t over pack.

What I’ve also observed is that women whose style I admire and who wear stylish holiday clothes of the “what, this old thing?” variety think long-term and have built up a stylish holiday wardrobe over many, many years. Trends come and go but a beautiful summer dress is always a beautiful summer dress. The sales are an excellent place to find something you wouldn’t buy normally; a really good quality piece of broderie anglaise or something with intricate embellishment. If you treat yourself to one great piece a year, you’ll discover how before long, it quickly amounts to a holiday wardrobe with the wow factor. And it’s never to late to start. Here’s what ‘those who do it better’ never leave home without.


This is the basis of your holiday wardrobe and the one democratic item that will not require you to be tall/short/thin/fat or resemble Poppy Delevingne in a way that say, a tricky to pull off Fifties-cut swimsuit might. Get it right and you will be laughing from the pool, to the beach, out to Greek ruins, all through lunch and possibly even to dinner.

Pippa Holt kaftans are the ones that the fashion eds summer want this year. Hand made in Mexico on a back strap loom using weaving techniques passed down over generations, each piece is unique. However, they don’t come cheap. Other great quality alternatives are worth looking out for at LemLem, Mango, Whistles and Cos. Remember, this is not the summer to be sashaying around in a sarong.

Flat sandals

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that it is fashion suicide to be spied in anything other than a flat sandal this summer. Heck, even oligarch WAGs (with access to a fleet of limos) will be wearing them when couture hits Paris in a week’s time.

High heels and even wedge sandals look very wrong on holiday when it’s hot and you’re not supposed to be trying too hard. At least three pairs of flats for a week away is advisable. Ancient Greek sandals (or similar-style ones from Dune) are great for daytime sightseeing, while you can’t do better than Rochas or Bimba y Lola for bejewelled feet by night.

Deckchair stripes

There’s a reason that stripes work from Padstow to Panarea. Few patterns or prints are as perennially popular yet also stylish/classy/neutral/of the people/won’t scare the horses, while also flattering everyone from eight to eighty. This summer, however, the most modish version is wide, vertical, deckchair stripes although there are plenty of thinner pinstripe version to be had too. They will instantly bestow a summery yet “bang on the money” feel upon any outfit.

A low-maintenance dress

When I say low maintenance, I obviously don’t mean your dress needs to look low maintenance, but rather a crease-free fabric in a style to suit your body type. A maxi version and a knee-length style should suffice for a week. A block colour is preferable to help you accessorise it with any number of brightly coloured raffia items (see below), yet it should also be loose enough to stand up to the challenge of multiple layering opportunities. This will be the hardest-working item in your suitcase by a country mile.


Once upon a time, bits of raffia were what you picked up from the local market for a song. Not anymore. Raffia has become the jet set’s stealth-wealth fabric of choice. From neat brim sun hats to intricately woven baskets, beaded clutch bags and rope-style sandals, they have appeared on the Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Prada catwalks offering a de facto lesson in how to apply a touch of The Talented Mr Ripley jauntiness to your holiday outfits. Invest wisely (although Accesorise always do great clutches) and you will reap the benefits of stylish, under-the-radar accessories for many, many years to come.


Do not underestimate the usefulness of a piece of cotton (or better still, crumpled linen) to cover up burnt shoulders, provide warmth on your travels, add some zing to an outfit or double up as an arm sling. I’m joking about the last bit, but few other items are so flexible, conveying the rakishness of a well-travelled, sophisticated holiday-maker.

The one-piece versus the bikini debate

I hate to break it to you but all those style rules — the sort you read in the fashion glossies — about Fifties-shaped swimwear slimming down your thighs and obviating the point of a six-week pre-holiday diet are not true. In any case, even if they are supposed to be fashionable, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has embraced Bridget Jones-style pants on the beach. Sportier, neatly cut swimwear with proper support is far more flattering. Whether you opt for a bikini or a one-piece will depend greatly on your body shape, but it’s worth dedicating more than ten minutes to figuring it out, if only to give you a confidence boost. And buying the best quality you can afford so that your swimwear survives more than ten washes, because mostly you get what you pay for.

This summer’s most stylish swimwear comes from Lisa Marie Fernandez but J.Crew is always worth checking out. I ought really to mention now Anya Hindmarch’s Inflight kit, a nifty, pleasingly lairy neon yellow bag that will allow you to breeze through security without fiddling with multiple sandwich bags. It won’t carry two weeks’ worth of suncare protection but it guarantees a week’s worth of supplies if you take the time to decant your unguents into plastic bottles from Muji or Aveda. Let the smug-fest commence.


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