Alexa Chung is tweeting the countdown to her holiday and I’m sure, like the rest of us, she is struggling the night before she leaves as to know what to pack. I don’t doubt that Alexa, like me, is drunk on two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc ironing children’s clothes dry and weighing up whether to take 1) an outfit a day for each child or 2) less children’s clothes but a nasty little tube of travel wash thus ensuring the whole bloody time on holiday is spent washing and pegging out clothes. I’m sure, like me, Alexa has also spent this week wearing the same pair of leggings and well worn Zara loose print blouse every day so as to “save” clean clothes for the holiday.
Fashion magazines are awash with their recommendations for a solid foundation of key items to get you started on your perfect holiday wardrobe. They talk about statement shorts, fringed kimonos and tie-die cover ups that will take you from sun lounger to cocktail bar. They say this will avoid that last minute panic of over packing as well as ensuring you have a practical, stylish wardrobe that will “work hard for you”. Given Easyjet only permit a 20kg baggage allowance between all four of us, I’m all for this slimmed down capsule wardrobe. My key pieces are as follows
• Mum shorts – these are elasticated, slightly nasty powder blue from somewhere convenient rather than cool (Oliver Bonas) and have pockets. The pockets not only serve as the ideal place to keep disintegrating flapjacks and dried up wipes, but they also serve to emphasise the mum saddlebags. A must.
• Summer slacks – these come in two broad camps; very wide legged and black OR narrow at ankle, PJ style, slightly dubious boho pattern. Very 2004. They seem ambitious and fashionable but scream “middle aged mum on holiday”. Resistance is futile though as you will find yourself wearing them every evening as you tipsily get your cork wedges caught in the hemline.
• Stripey top – this is not a stripey top. This is a Breton top. Breton is the Celtic language spoken in Brittany and is also, apparently, the name for probably the most fashionable piece of clothing you unwittingly own. Pack it and wear with confidence and pride.
• Good quality bikini x 2 – for a week’s holiday, two bikinis may seem excessive but the fashion journalists are insistent. They suggests wearing a more “solid” bikini in the day, switching to a more flamboyant bejewelled one in the evening coupled with a see-through kaftan. Despite the fact you will be doing bath and bedtime when the sundowner drinks are being served, taking two bikinis is still a good idea; in your haste to pack children’s vests, socks and pyjamas, you will forget to pack underwear for yourself and therefore only have the black bra and big pants you wore on the plane. You can then rotate bikinis each day in lieu of underwear, giving each one a quick rinse in the bathroom sink at night.
Once you have these basics aced, you can then move into the exciting realm of accessories.
The magazines suggest a wide range of oversized jewellery, encrusted collars, arm filling bangles and statement chokers. They talk about mirror portfolio clutches and tiny birdcage handbags. They’re all lovely but you really only need one accessory while on holiday and that is your old friend, the large scarf. This works as a coat, cardigan, muslin cloth, face wiper and peek-a-boo device. You can use it to disguise sick on your shoulder on the way to dinner and as a blanket over the baby’s knees on the way back. It’s already a staple piece in your mum uniform at home, so what’s to stop you taking it away with you in holiday? Every single British mother you see will be wearing one and you don’t want to feel left out at the local taverna as you all nervously arrange and rearrange your scarf over the shoulders of your Breton top.
Then, seemingly, all you need is a cheeky playsuit or two (ideally with Hawaiian tropical print) a sporty skirt, a must have trilby and a slightly slutty maxi dress. It all sounds so simple.
But what fashion journalists haven’t considered is where their readers will put all the nappies, Aptamil and Calpol and still keep within the 20kg weight limit. They haven’t thought about bedtime books or toys or the Peppa Pig armbands. They haven’t suggested you slip into the case seconds before the taxi arrives a pair of maternity cargo pants as the only lightweight trousers that still fit, should you actually get to leave the toddler pool for five minutes and wander around the local town. No one mentions that you should take washing up liquid and washing powder decanted into very small pots to use in the villa once you get there to save a few quid.
I’m pretty sure Alexa hasn’t packed three boxes of breadsticks and a family bag of Wotsits. I also doubt that she is sitting on the suitcase to close it and then regretting it hearing the snap of every single breadstick under her weight. But I guess Alexa isn’t drunk on that third glass of wine either.
Once you’ve packed for the baby, the toddler and your own clothes, once you’ve packed Mr rabbit and a black out blind and rice cakes and just STUFF you realise, as you stand awkwardly on the bathroom scales weighing the holiday suitcase that, despite your best efforts to keep things capsule, you’ve already exceeded the weight allowance and, here’s the real problem; you are going to have to break it to your husband that he needs to wear his entire holiday wardrobe on the plane.