With cruising on the crest of a wave, Stephanie Smith looks at the history of cruise style and asks stylish experts what the fashionable voyager will be wearing this year.
There is something undeniably glamorous about cruising, setting sail aboard a floating paradise promising easy days, glittering nights and the chance to dress up as never before.
The origins of leisure cruising began in the early to mid 19th century, but the holiday cruise as we know it today really set sail in style in the 1920s, with smaller ships able to access Mediterranean harbours coinciding with a trend for the wealthy to visit newly glamorous destinations including the Côte d’Azur.
Offering fine dining and opulent first class cabins and state rooms, these first floating palaces were for the rich elite. “The entire journey would be spent as self-promotion by the ladies and gents, from the carefully chosen outfit to embark and disembark, to make that significant first and last impression,” says Sarah White, of Leyburn-based Tennants Auctioneers, which regularly values and auctions clothes, accessories and luggage from those early glory days of cruising.
“During the day they would wear their sports dresses or day dresses, and numerous activities could be taken – clay pigeon shooting, tennis, swimming. For the evening, a grand entrance was usually made by the couple from the grand staircase, and the lady would be wearing the latest fashionable dress by a top designer.
Cruise luggage was a status symbol back then, as it is today. Sarah says: “Louis Vuitton cleverly designed his first travelling trunk with a flat top, rather than the domed tops we had previously seen, so they could be stacked.”
The arrival of passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s saw cruising decline but, in recent years, a growth in specialist voyages (gourmet, Disney, river journeys), sees the cruise vacation on the crest of a wave once more. In 2018 passenger numbers rose to 28.5 million, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, with the UK and Irish taking more than two million voyages.
So, what is the fashionable cruise traveller wearing this year? Sharon Berrington, personal at Harvey Nichols Leeds, has years of experience advising customers setting sail for destinations such as St Lucia, Barbados, Mauritius and Monte Carlo.
Sharon tries to combine style with practicality. “Consider a silk scarf as a stylish accessory that can be worn to protect from blistering sun, with super-sleek options from Givenchy, Gucci and Burberry,” she says. “A midi-length dress is a versatile option, with flattering and feminine designs in-store from Zimmerman and Rixo. Style as a more casual look with a flat sandal like the Gucci Marmont for city exploring or add a pair of heels and some jewellery for an evening look.”
The Tumi Extended Trip Expandable Packing Case is a favourite, she says, providing ample space for a 14-night cruise, while a cross-body bag in a stylish, compact design is another essential – consider the Elisa bag by Christian Louboutin or Gucci’s Soho bag.
There is a dressy formality to cruising quite unlike most holidays. Natalie Jackson, of Helen Sykes Fashions in Leeds, says: “We have found recently that many of our clients wear normal resortwear during the day for cruising but still pack quite formal wear for evenings. For the normal dinner nights, the etiquette is casual elegance, so perhaps a nice summer dress or a blouse with smart trousers.”
On most luxury cruise lines you will be turned away from dinner wearing denim or shorts, she points out. “The dress code for the formal evenings is still quite strict – a beautiful cocktail dress or stunning long dress is suitable, and now an elegant evening pantsuit is also acceptable. We are finding that a cruise is one of the rare opportunities that one can really dress up, and most ladies do make the most of it,” she says, adding that the Marc Cain jungle print dress will be a key look for SS20.
“Choose dresses to wear during the day and, with clever accessorising, you will also look glamorous in the evening,” says Gini Palm, over at Julie Fitzmaurice in Harrogate. “Our top tip is to make sure all your outfits are versatile so they mix and match to create an easy to wear capsule wardrobe, completely interchangeable, maximising your luggage allowance.”
Amy Hall, at Snooty Frox in Harrogate, says: “This season is all about injecting some print and colour into your wardrobe. Having enough smart casual pieces is a must on a cruise trip.”
And all our experts agree that, although the days of ballgowns and white tie are gone, some cruises are more formal than others, so always check the specific dress code. Think style, but also comfort and versatility for a bon voyage.
The Costume, Accessories & Textiles Sale at Tennants in Leyburn is on Saturday, February 8, starting 10.30am.
Harvey Nichols Personal Shopping is on 0113 204 8803, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new 2020 cruise collections are now available in-store at: Julie Fitzmaurice, Parliament Street, Harrogate, 01423 562932, Julie Fitzmaurice.com; at Snooty Frox, Hookstone Road, Harrogate, 01423 815320, www.snootyfrox.co.uk; and at Helen Sykes Fashions, Stanningley Road, Leeds, 0113 231 0610, HelenSykes.co.uk.