Month: June 2010


One of the best parts about planning a wedding — and there aren’t many in my view — is the honeymoon. With 4 weeks to go, the inevitable question is starting to rear its head: what to pack?

Of all vacation prep, packing is the most difficult. For years, I was a terrible over-packer. I’m the kind of person who always likes to be prepared for everything — however implausible — that life might throw my way. For a weekend trip, I could easily pack half my closet — just in case. You never know when that fifth extra pair of shoes will come in handy, right?

Things began to change once I started to grow up, style-wise. I stopped buying trendy, disposable things and started investing in (fewer) higher quality clothes. I also stopped buying a lot of “unique” pieces and learned the value of classic “staples” that can be endlessly re-worked. Slowly, my closet began to morph into a leaner yet infinitely more versatile creature. To start with, this makes any packing a lot easier — there is less to choose from. Second, I now have a lot of pieces that can be mixed and matched, which means I can pack less but still feel prepared for any and all battles (so to speak).

Of course, packing is vacation-specific. There is no magic formula because people’s style, when it comes to clothes as well as vacations, is infinitely variable. However, through the trial and error of the past couple of years, I have come up with a few general tips that have helped me to get ready for my various jaunts, none of which I might add have involved backpacking of any sort. Take that as your caveat.

1) Pack versatile clothes. Colour-wise, this doesn’t mean that you have to restrict yourself to an all-black vacation wardrobe. Instead, pick pieces in complementary colours that can be easily re-worked. A couple of posts ago, I talked about some colour combinations. Unless you’re going on an extended vacation, you’re probably safe picking 2 or 3 key colours that work together and supplementing with black and/or white pieces as necessary. In terms of key pieces, I’m a big fan of cardigans, both for cover-up and to dress up outfits. They work with dresses, skirts and pants (including jeans) and are a lot less bulky to pack than jackets. As an alternative to black, a grey or cream cardigan can be very versatile; other colours may work just as well, but it’s better to keep them in the neutral range — for a pop of colour, look for a cute lightweight camisole or tank top. That way, you can lose the cover-up and still keep the dash of colour in your outfit.

2) Pick the right fabrics. Your choices should be guided by your destination, but I generally look for fabrics that don’t easily wrinkle and don’t require any ironing. Then again, I am ironing-averse at the best of times, and vacations bring out my inner sloth. Wrap dresses, particularly in silk jersey or similar fabrics, are great for that — no fuss, no muss. Jeans, of course, are staples. Roll them up to minimize the space they take up in your suitcase and eliminate any unsightly creases. I tend to stay away from fabrics like silk and linen because they require more work than I’m willing to commit to. Cotton, on the other hand, works in most climates, and careful packing can minimize the wrinkle factor.

3) Let your jewelry make a statement. Jewelry doesn’t take up a lot of room, but it can make a really big impact. So pile it on. Unless you’re carting around the British Crown jewels, you’ll never be in danger of over-packing when it comes to jewelry.

4) Edit your shoe collection. While difficult, this is a real space-saver. The key is to pare down to the bare minimum, as painful as that may be. A good pair of flats, preferably one in which you can walk for as long your plans require, is a must. Substitute a flat- or low-heeled boot if your destination is on the cool side. For warm weather vacations, a pair of flip flops is pretty much a given; depending on how much you like to dress up for evening, a high-heeled sandal might be useful too. I’d go with a metallic (silver or gold) pair because it’s the p.m. version of a “neutral” — it’s guaranteed to go with everything. If you’re city-bound, a good alternative for evening would be a kitten-heel black pump; you can wear it with everything from jeans to the proverbial little black dress. I like pointy-toe versions best, but I also don’t mind torturing my feet. Finally, if you plan on being “sporty”, you’ll probably need a pair of runners of some sort. I never do, so I can’t offer any enlightening suggestions on that score.

Of course, almost as important as the clothes you pack are the books. Choosing your vacation reading list is an art unto itself.  It fulfills two equally important purposes. First, if your vacation involves air travel, a good book can save you untold hours of boredom and provide distraction from the inevitably cramped, uncomfortable and often downright unbearable surroundings in which you are likely to find yourself. Second, your vacation is likely one of the few occasions when you can, with a clear conscience, dedicate entire chunks of any given day to doing something as unproductive as, well, reading. 
The challenge is also two-fold. First, you must pick the right quantity. This will depend on a variety of factors, including your reading speed, vacation destination and luggage allowance. Generally, I find that 3 200-400 page books (judiciously supplemented by magazines) is the perfect number for a week-long beach vacation. I sit around a lot.
Second, you must pick the right material. Of course, this is, in large part, a matter of preference. I like to take a nice mix of things with me, so that I always have options. Although I’m an equal opportunity reader, I find that the 2:1 fiction to non-fiction ratio works best for me. I don’t subscribe to the notion that vacations are the time to catch up on laborious reading; to wit, I do not attempt to finish Remembrance of Things Past on a beach in the Caribbean. A vacation is not the time to be virtuous, be it in regards to your diet or your reading list.
On my last vacation (a week in Kauai), I took 3 books with me and finished 2 3/4. My picks were the collected Sherlock Holmes stories (inspiration: Robert Downey Jr., natch),a biography of Coco Chanel (inspiration: Coco Avant Chanel, and my love of all things Coco), and Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde’s latest novel (inspiration: my love of all things Fforde). Shades of Grey, in particular, was very rewarding. 
I haven’t quite yet finalized my honeymoon reading list, but one book I am taking for sure is Let the Right One In. I’ve heard great things about the movie, and I expect that (by the rule of movie adaptations) the book will be even better. For one of the other two spots on my list, I am vacillating between a mystery novel or the 3rd Stieg Larson book. I haven’t even finished the 2nd (The Girl Who Played with Fire) — finding myself less engrossed by it than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — so Larson’s not a shoo-in. I haven’t come across any intriguing non-fiction books in a while, so I’m at a loss in that department too.
So I guess it’s your turn to give me some suggestions … 

The jewelry box

One of my proudest accomplishments as a ‘stylista’ was getting my mom interested in fashion. It was no easy task; she had the “mom guilt complex” to overcome — the idea that spending money (and time) on herself was ok. I knew her transformation was complete when, recently, she proudly showed off her newest acquisition: a Michael Kors classic trench coat she bought at Winners. This wasn’t simply proof of her refined sartorial instincts; it also meant the long-overdue farewell to her last trench, a hideous-looking thing she must have picked up years ago at some charity shop. I was so proud.

But although I have succeeded in getting my mom to start investing in her wardrobe, she remains only marginally interested in jewelry. We’re talking about a woman who never pierced her ears, and whose sole piece of day-to-day jewelry is her wedding band. Me, I’m a magpie — show me anything shiny, and I will covet it. I think I must have got my bling-loving genes from my grandmother, who left behind a collection of beautiful cocktail rings and vintage costumer jewelry pieces. Someday, I would like to do the same for my (future) child(ren). Of course, Murphy’s Law dictates that they will be completely uninterested in that sort of thing.

One of my favourite places to shop for costume jewelry is Winners. Winners is in many ways my shopping Mothership, but lately its jewelry department has been particularly irresistible. I like the fact that I can find reasonably-priced sterling silver pieces that are unique; you won’t find two of the same in any Winners store, much less anywhere else. Silver is a great investment; it’s very versatile and it wears well over time. A lot of gold-plated pieces don’t, which is why I’m now thinking twice when buying costume jewelry at places like Club Monaco, BCBG and Banana Republic. Winners also has beautiful semi-precious stone jewelry and pearls at very affordable prices … especially when they’re on clearance. 

I came across my most recent find at the Winners on Robson Street in Vancouver. The ring reminds me a little bit of a evil eye charm, which is supposed to be lucky. I didn’t need much persuading to get it.