Haute Historian: Last Resort

It’s that time of year again. No, not the holiday season, where people are frantically searching for the ultimate gift for everyone on their list, in between attending one holiday party after another, all the while stuffing ones face with an endless array of tasty treats and festive alcoholic beverages. Instead, I mean the time of year that immediately follows the holidays, the resort season. It’s the time when folks, if they’re lucky, get to escape the frigid air and slushy ice encrusted streets for something a bit more tropical and a lot less hectic. Most of us will not be so lucky, but the select few who will be able to take this mid-winter jaunt will feel even more exceptional as they’ll get to wear the latest from this season’s resort fashion collections, these ready-to-wear lines that were designed for just this sort of trip.

Resort wear is definitely a modern idea once reserved for the upper echelon of society (think Vanderbilts, Goodyears, Carnegies, Rockefellers, etc). Those wealthy enough to take a holiday break the weeks immediately following Christmas were going to want to wear something that was more than just the average warm weather gear, i.e. t-shirts and shorts. Instead they needed something that was lightweight, traveled with ease and looked effortlessly fashionable once slipped on. There are many characteristics for resort collections that are incorporated year after year; the materials used are more often than not cotton, poplin, denim and straw (for straw hats and handbags). Resort pieces are also designed to be versatile so an article can be worn to and from the ocean or pool and can also be worn dining out on a yacht. Early trends for such wear followed the nautical theme. White cotton wide-leg pants and sleeveless tops mimicked sailors’ looks and often other items would have looks similar to that of early American sportswear garments. While the traits can still be found in today’s resort collections, lately the styles are changing to follow the trends of the previous or post fashion seasons.

But the times have changed. Travel, even to exotic tropical locations, is much more accessible and so too are the accompanying resort collections. Originally, only high-end department stores catered to this line of clothing. Now, however, many designers create ready-to-wear resort collections and even  popular brands such as Banana Republic and J. Crew include resort lines for their customers. Some, like Tommy Bahama, have made their whole career out of producing resort collections year-round. And why wouldn’t resort wear transition to be something on demand year-round? Tropical vacations, though probably most desirable mid-winter are a great vacations year-round as well. Fuji, anyone?

1. Alice Marble in tennis garb in the French resorts, 1937
2. Grace Kelly in Resort Wear in ‘To Catch a Thief,”1954
3. Chanel Resort 2007
4. Oscar de la Renta Resort 2009
5. Celine Resort 2012

—Bonnie J Brown

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