Written by: Deb German
The wardrobe that vacations with you—a collection of garments otherwise known as resort wear—probably evokes some destination in your mind’s eye. For me it is always a particular East Coast getaway on a barrier island in the Deep South. But it could be a sun-kissed Mediterranean retreat in mid-winter, or a summertime camp in the Adirondacks, playground to Industrial Revolution-era magnates. Or maybe it’s not on terra firma at all, but aboard a small ship cruise destined for some exotic and delicious port of call (“cruise wear” goes with you on that one). It could be a sporting adventure or short weekend jaunt on the near horizon. Whatever your destination, resort wear is ready to go there with you.
Changing Itinerary: Unpacking Resort Wear
Only since the 1980s has “resort wear” been recognized as a clothing category unto itself. Before then it was the domain of the post-holidays traveler, particularly those who sought a reprieve from cold climes and found it on sunny shores. As such resort clothing was often nautically-themed (think stripes), lightweight, and packable— attributes that still describe much of it.
Recent history has seen two big developments in resort clothing for women: the emergence of entire travel-themed collections, but at the same time resort wear and its cousin, cruise wear, have jumped overboard, landing in the laps of even more travel-savvy consumers. And its “season” has expanded from just a few weeks in the fall and early winter to Memorial Day and beyond.
Evolved resort wear reflects changes in demographics and style preferences. It’s everywhere: places once considered “destinations” now boast year-round populations. It’s colorful: cheerful hues and designs you’ll find in resort wear collections bring a punch of fresh color to gray months. It’s portable: resort wear is far more likely to land in your suitcase than many of the outlandish items seen in fall and spring runway collections. Instead look for wearable, fresh, and classic fashion trends to describe modern resort clothing for women.
No Gender Bending Here: Resort Wear is for Women
It’s true: resort clothing is marketed almost exclusively to women. The fellas need polos and khakis, and they can get them any time. But women’s collections reach beyond those wardrobe staples to include sporty separates and cargo pants, cotton tees and twill shorts, all manner of linen clothing, snappy sundresses and huge, beachy cotton or straw totes and hats, and of course swimwear. The category as a whole can even include formal wear. And it’s available to the consumer when the snow is piled high on the ground outside.
Beyond traditional resort wear wardrobe pieces, you’ll also find travel clothing with modern sensibilities, performance clothing and rugged travel wear to take you beyond the beach or pool deck and into the woods or onto the river. Pocketed and quick-drying clothing nods towards a vacation a tad more adventuresome than a tee time followed by high tea. Companion items include women’s cargo pants, simple cotton knit tops, and hooded pullovers.
Leaving on a Jet Plane: What Resort Clothing Should I Pack?
It all depends on your destination, and your intentions when you get there. Most resorts will let you know the rules ahead of time; a phone call is all it takes. In general, you can count on casual wear during the day: polos or other groomed tops, paired with neatly pressed khakis or linen trousers or shorts. Dressy skirts or dresses are often expected in the evening, depending on the venue; choose crew or boat necklines, and wide straps for sundresses. Jeans don’t make the cut at some resorts; call ahead to avoid dress code debacles. If there is no dress code, pack lightweight and comfortable clothing made to travel well, and outerwear that makes sense for where you’re headed. When in doubt, err on the conservative side; this is particularly advised for hem lengths and necklines.
Alfresco brunch may be taken in Buenos Aires or in your own backyard; plan accordingly. The best resort clothing is both a fair weather friend and a perfect travel companion: it will follow you to the ends of the earth. (But it is just as willing to follow you home.)