This year, I packed the ideal holiday wardrobe: the kind of versatile five-piece beach-to-club capsule collection that fashionistas coo over and has taken me years to perfect. Yet, within 24 hours of landing in Ibiza, I’ve already bought two traditional Spanish cheesecloth dresses, a vintage polka-dot swimsuit and a giant wicker bag covered in pompoms, none of which, once I get home, I will look at again.
Something about the combination of sun, sea, cheap sangria and the promise of sunburnt sex makes me lose my sartorial mind on holiday. Next thing I know, I’m squashing my boobs into a broderie-anglaise bustier, bulk-buying woven friendship bands and fake turquoise rings, and eyeing up gold-threaded kaftans like I’m Liz Taylor planning to remake Cleopatra on the beach.
What is it about holidays that acts like a fashion lobotomy and makes our sense of style melt in the sun? That makes even the chicest of us suddenly start lusting after Jamaican-style T-shirts with tassels at the bottom and trying on gold-sequined espadrilles? Even men, usually free from the worst sins of spontaneous shopping, start panic-buying Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts in the heat.
Only yesterday, I stood in an Ibiza boutique and watched as my usually tasteful friend spent €80 on a red macramé dress covered in tassels that made her look less dancing emoji woman, more Spanish prostitute. And, reader, I encouraged her to buy it.
If you assembled a wardrobe from items I have bought on holiday, you would find the makings of a hippie schizophrenic with a penchant for traditional dress. A medley of crochet bikinis, Spanish ra-ra skirts, Moroccan maxis, an oversize poncho bought in Chile, an entire suitcaseful of tie-dye from Thailand and a dishdasha from Egypt. Not to mention piles of tasteless jewellery, which includes a gold-plated Tutankhamun necklace and a Maori tribal piece.
And I never learn. None of us do. Clothes that seem a good idea on holiday never translate to real life. Those vintage kaftans that really express your free summer spirit in Ibiza will never work at Sainsbury’s on the weekly shop. Those tie-dye parachute pants might be must-haves in Koh Samui, but they’re never going to fly in the office.
So why do we buy awful clothes on holiday? In part, maybe because we look so hot with a tan — and after a few mojitos, we kid ourselves we can pull it off. Or maybe we’re getting into the local spirit. Mainly, I think we buy clothes on holiday that don’t suit us precisely because we are trying to become someone else. Putting on the outfits of those people that holidays inspire us to become. Buying wardrobes that belong to other lives.