For a person who cares very little about conforming to the median of workplace dressing, I care quite a bit about fitting in when visiting foreign locales.
In February, I went to Miami for a board meeting. A friend arrived a day before me; while packing my bag, I pestered her for descriptions of what “the Floridians” were wearing.
She told me that she had packed badly — a suitcase of black clothes — but that when I arrived I would see that nothing mattered.
Part of my challenge was seasonal dissonance: the disorienting effect of warm weather during the winter months.
But I did my best to put myself in the head of a Floridian.
It just didn’t seem right to be wearing sleeveless dresses in February, so I packed lightweight but long-sleeved dresses for my meetings.
The proprieties must be observed.
Did I fit in? Non. As I walked the crowded sidewalks, I heard Henry Higgins in my head, singing “You think they’d never seen a lady before.”*
I would have fit in if I had been wearing a bathing suit with a crocheted cover-up and heels — even in the lobby at the Loews Hotel.
To be fair, I was in Miami Beach and the people I was seeing may not have been actual Floridians.
Here is what I packed to wear while high-stepping around Miami Beach with my friend.
Note the hibuscus pattern on my top. So Florida!
Alas! This ensemble — light colors, tropical floral, white shoes — did not fit in, either.
Consider as well that whenever I am at the beach, my pale skin stands out. I almost glow in the sunlight. I imagine that some of the people who saw me thought, “That poor albino woman. How can she enjoy the beach in those orthopedic shoes?”
Despite not fitting in, I feel that my efforts were respectful and that I represented The Directory well.
But what about you? Have you ever packed for a trip and realized after you arrived that you had no idea about where you were going?
As you know, my strict travel-packing rules prohibit the packing of handbags (with the exception of an evening clutch for an important, fancy evening event). This bag has been added to my re-created Florida outfit for demonstration purposes only.
See how nice it would have looked?
If I had taken my little straw bag to Miami Beach, what would it have held? Sunblock 50, lifeguard’s whistle, mouse’s beach umbrella and mouse cooler filled with cheese.
Have a great weekend!
Top: Marni; Pants: Ann Taylor; Shoes: Dr. Martens; Red dress: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi; White dress: INSPR x Natalie Off Duty
* I love this song. I love the whole book of My Fair Lady. For those who haven’t seen the film in a while, you may enjoy this 2006 review by Roger Ebert.
6 thoughts on “When In Florida”
Hahaha! I have been the albino woman at the beach my whole life. I grew up at the beach, so I am inured to the freewheeling comments on my lack of color—thank you high school! Even a pair of deeply tanned Italian dowagers at the Palio in Siena many years ago saw fit to comment. The one seated by me picked up my wrist and displayed my pale skin to her companion, while they exclaimed over the Inglese’s lamentable lack of color. I guess they figured only the English could be so pale.
Your high stepping around around Miami Beach outfit is charming, shoes included.
Yep! I went to my first academic conference in San Diego in November. I had never travelled South and my Canadian brain couldn’t imagine being anything but cold. I was braced for late fall weather- wool, turtle necks and warm coat. Luckily the conference centre was air conditioned, but the walks back to the hotel were … quite toasty.
If someone is paying you to be someplace there isn’t any shame in looking like you’re going to work, despite the attire of other Hotel goers.
The covered-up shoes and the trousery pants were how why you didn’t fit in on the pleasure trip to Miami Beach? The outfit does look a little warm for what I recall to be a hot and humid location.
Your hibiscus tops is lovely and the kind of thing I would wear in FL as well.
On the subject of not knowing where one is going: I packed for a millennial’s wedding in a hip district of Montreal. For the morning ceremony I wore a fairly conservative navy dress. For the evening cocktail reception with dancing, I assumed all the young, big city women would glam it up in a Montreal kind of way, so arrived in a sequined J.Crew dress and 3” heels. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Many women were dressed *down*, despite the glamorous, Instagram-worthy reception hall. But there was nothing to be done but own it, towering over everyone on the dance floor like the bedazzled glamazon 50-yr old aunt of the bride that I was. YOLO!
Basket/Bag is beautiful! (But yes… hard to justify for travel)
When I was younger I often wondered about the choice of an “orthopedic” shoe (or an Eileen Fisher sack or “interesting” jewelry); why?
Here I am in “orthopedic” shoes and linen tunics nodding my head in agreement with your choices; why not!?