Bairbre Power: The packing blues
Why do we pack loads but end up wearing only a handful of items?
I'm slowing turning into my mother! Anne Power would have laughed if she saw me last weekend, emptying the contents of my holiday suitcase into the washing machine but pausing first, to make a note of the items that worked best and saw most service during 10 sunny days in the south of France.
The concept of a 'holiday notebook' was something Anne perfected over the years and she noted, at the end of each trip, what worked well and what she had forgotten to pack. And so, on the eve of every holiday, the notebook would be whipped out and it provided a handy prompt list of the really useful pieces that worked effortlessly together on vacations from city breaks and beach holidays to long-haul destinations.
Now I'm a great woman for lists - it goes with my mania for notebooks and fountain pens - and, on reflection, distilled lists of holiday performers go a long way to ironing out wardrobe malfunctions on holidays. I think half the reason we fall into a panic on the first few days of a sun holiday - and repeatedly change outfits - is because we are perplexed switching from a uniform at home to stripping down to light, bodycon clothes. Phobias about milkbottle white legs and dodgy spray tans feed our anxious moments.
Packing is quite an art form and this month, despite a surgical edit to fit everything into my Parfois carry-on case, I still ended up wearing only a third of the clothes I dragged to the Cote d'Azur.
Why is it that we want to pack for every eventuality when, in reality, a small selection of trophy pieces will kit us out? My holiday report card on the pieces that really worked a treat included Ghost dresses made from that crinkly fabric that never needs the lick of an iron. Ditto the super light cotton layers that allow you to morph looks from day into night with the simple addition of a few scarves and pieces of jewellery.
The Marks & Spencer Autograph black maxi proved a godsend but why did I think I would need to bring two others?
And then there was the handy, 24/7, white linen shirtwaister, which also served as a kind of barometer of how well my tan was progressing. This year, I bought Lierac Bronzage Capsules while at the Cannes Film Festival in May and I started taking the supplements (containing natural oils, such as olive oil and borage oil) a week before I went, and during my holidays, in order to help protect the skin and hydrate the skin from within. They contain soy extract and tomato oleoresin, rich in antioxidants. I got sun-kissed without burning and came home with a healthy colour.
Over the years, I've fallen victim to what I call sunstroke shopping - where, completely smitten by the local style of dress, you buy into the holiday vibe of strappy white dresses and sequinned baskets, which look almost tragic when you roll them out for the supermarket run back home.
For the first time in years, I avoided buying into the French obsession with whites, so a big, wide smile crept across my face when I arrived home and discovered a lovely new Irish brand, With Love by Debbie, (see panel, right) which offers layering in soothing whites and soft, complementary shades.
Layers to love
Dynamic Debbie Deegan, founder and CEO of the charity To Russia With Love, opened the With Love boutique at 2 Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3, revealing a treasure-trove of unused or pre-loved vintage and designer items.
Irish celebrities were quick to lend their support, with donations from Mary Kennedy and Miriam O'Callaghan. Now Debbie has launched a clothing range made from soft and flattering 100pc jersey. I know lots of women who love this easy style of layered dressing which is transeasonal and builds up beautifully.
There are 10 items in the range in white, light grey, dark grey, petrol, orchid, shell, light blue, black and stone. The items are manufactured in England and sizing goes from 1-4.
The piece that immediately caught my eye was the €68 top with the cut-outs on the shoulders and there is also a long skirt (€68), edge-to-edge cardigan (€68), long-sleeved top (€75), floor-length dress (€65), string vest top (€55), tank vest top (€35) and yoga pants (€65). Scarves cost €15-€22 and, while these are not designed by Debbie, she stocks them and leggings (€15), to complement the range. torussiawithlove.ie
With Love by Debbie clothing range is available to buy at With Love boutique, 2 Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3. Telephone: (01) 441 0093