Prior to having a baby I thought quite seriously about my holiday wardrobe. You see, you only need to find your minimalist-leaning self seriously contemplating a flowing kaftan in fuschia to feel you are truly on holidays.
Holiday packing and dressing is an art, and maybe even a form of self-care. It's definitely a joy. A suitcase full of bikinis? Yes please. All linen everything? Sign us up. Yes, the jangling shell anklet and boho skirt you bought that one time you went to Byron Bay may seem out of place in your wardrobe of crisp white shirts and tailored trousers, but the beauty of your "OOO" self is that you have permission to experiment. If you really get into the swing of it, you can figure out a way to bring an element of your holiday style/self into your everyday life.
However, a recent trip to Europe with my then 16-month old baby (about as un-relaxing as it sounds: aperitif hour and lolling about on a sunlounger it was not) has changed my view on holiday dressing. What do you wear when you're out of the office and off playground duties (well, sort-of)?
Because just as "dressing like a mum" in non-holiday life can be an adjustment, so too can attempting to be your most relaxed, on-holiday self – perhaps you're wearing a jolly boater? – while also dressing for the vagaries and practicalities of parenthood.
It's tempting to dress exceptionally parent-like when on a family holiday. For it's nothing if not a potent reminder that you are now the grown-up; the responsible one who is making sure everybody has their boarding passes, and wearing sunblock, while also worrying whether you packed the right kind of knit for when it cools down at night. You're the one finishing dripping icecream cones and substituting as a napkin for sticky fingers.
For example, on our way to the airport to fly back home the baby vomited all over me and I felt like such a mum walking through the airport covered in sick, with a baby loudly declaring she felt "better" on my hip and a steely resolve and distinct lack of caring about what other people thought.
But you still want to dress like yourself.
Sure, despite what it looks like on Instagram, carefree holidays with children are a thing of the past. You need practical, "can chase a runaway babe at any moment" outfits, but ones that feel a little celebratory, too. You need washable cotton, easy shapes and a pair of flats that can take you from the beach to the 5pm "kids eat free" dinner. But style is still achievable.
Georgie Abay, mother of two and founder of The Grace Tales, an online website and digital magazine aimed at the style-conscious parent, says her style changed "completely" after having children.
"For starters, my body was different. I think for all women, the changes we experience in our bodies can be quite confronting. I went through a stage of feeling like I should be wearing one-pieces, instead of bikinis," she says.
"I am more conservative now on holidays – I wear sarongs over short denim shorts. I guess my holiday look is more grown-up. I also need pieces that I can wrangle children in, so short dresses don’t really cut it anymore (my days of wearing short are over, anyway). On the flipside, I don’t want to look mumsy. I still want to look chic! I love a big sunhat, great sunglasses, fabulous beach baskets (I actually use those year-round) and some fun sandals. I love layering jewellery. [Danish jewellery designer] Anni Lu is my favourite brand. For me, it’s more about the accessories now I’m a mum."
Abay, who likes Mango for linen separates and J.Crew for swimmers when going on holidays, advises against packing too much. She also uses packing cubes (you can get them at places like Muji and speciality travel shops) for separating everybody in the family's clothes, and always packs outfits rather than items.
"This makes it easy to really work out how much you need. If I’m going for a week I pack a maximum of four to five outfits."
Fashion designer and mother of two Rebecca Vallance, who just launched a holiday-ready resort line with all chic relaxed linen, agrees that holiday packing and dressing is about being strategic, and always on-guard.
"I have two little boys under four years of age so I’m always on the move. I go for relaxed easy dressing when on holidays with my boys as you never really know what the day will bring," she says.
"Write a list of all the things you need to pack. Then when the children are either asleep or not around pack when you can concentrate. There are many times I’ve arrived in New York for work with only one of my shoes as my 2-year-old has had ‘helpful hands’ and taken things out of my suitcase whilst I’ve looked away and not realised until I arrived."