Cruising 101 and My “Formal Nights”

So some of you already know that I went – somewhat reluctantly, on my first cruise, ever. My reluctance will be shared in a future blog, but right now I want to focus on cruising’s “Formal Nights”.

First of all, because of my obstinate nature, I don’t like to be told when and how I should dress formal. Moreover, there was no official holiday or a birthday celebration to justify it. Out of the blue, someone decides for you that you should wear very fancy clothes! And, equally infuriating, is that I truly hate wearing formal outfits!

It began when I had children.

Before Children (BC), I didn’t mind wearing nice or fancy clothes. But, After Children (AC), it really was like clockwork – and all you mothers will identify with me: Here I am, ready for work in a clean outfit … looking reasonably professional … and out of nowhere, someone would barf on my shoulder. Now that’ll quickly cure you of wanting to wear your very best. It definitely cured me.

Then came all my years as a working professional, with endless consideration of what’s proper enough. Not too fancy, not too simple, not too tight, no cleavage, not too short and not too, too anything..

So finally I had an appropriate wardrobe that I would circulate through. And when my kids were still young, I would put my professional clothes on a second before I had to leave the house, and run like hell before they needed something.

And then there’s Los Angeles, the city which I maligned on another blog, but I actually love as well. One of the reasons I love LA is that informality is the norm, and the fact is that Jeans are fine almost anywhere and anytime. Jeans and t-shirts make me feel comfortable and un-constricted. Do I look best in them? Probably not! But, I’m used to coming home from work and immediately changing my work clothes, the ones referred to in the paragraph above.

And then there’s age. I think that with age there’s less of a need to impress, and more emphasis on comfort, and maybe feeling like you’ve already paid your dues. At least I feel that way! I’ve done the tight skirts, the high heels, the matching purse and shoes, all the makeup and the hairspray. And between you and me: It’s too much work. Been there, done that!

Bottom Line: I feel that I’m honoring my profession by dressing with care when I go to my office. I feel that I care for myself, by changing these clothes when I’m not there.

So obviously, when I was on my first cruise that was supposed to be my vacation, only to realize (a) we have formal nights and (b) there was an expectation that I will wear my finest … well, I had a fit. Well, maybe not a fit, but it sent me into a grouchy mood. Not a vacation mood.

To add insult to injury, we had THREE formal nights and I felt disenchanted after the first one, which made me tired only from wearing pantyhose and putting on eyeliner – and it’s not that the eyeliner is the issue, it’s remembering to take it off when you’re tired!

So, I decided to improvise and to stick to all-black and scarfs.

Speaking of fashion, in my opinion the caliber of clothing (with some notable exceptions) was pretty pathetic. There was a plethora of ridiculous combinations, and fashion-felonies at every turn. But one feels one must try to keep up, so it was still an imposition.

But hey, this was my first cruise and I’ve survived the learning curve! Next time it’ll be one formal night for me, my friends; and I’ll be the one in all black, and a nice scarf.

What, you may ask, about the other Formal Nights?

Buffet, or maybe room service, thank you very much.


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Cruise, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Cruising 101 and My “Formal Nights”

  1. Sue Cox says:

    Black anything and a pretty scarf and/or big jewelry goes such a long way. My uniform, day and night, casual or formal. And, if it doesn’t feel like I’m wearing pajamas I don’t wear it. 🙂

  2. rachel bar says:

    Sue, you’re a girl after my heart!

  3. Susan says:

    There’s an oxymoron for you: vacation/formal wear. This goes against my personal rules for life. I’m glad you came up with a tolerable solution. I’m sure you looked fabulous. I guess this is the price one must pay for a cruise. Haven’t been on one and never will…my hubby wouldn’t be able to stay on the boat longer than 24 hours….he’d be too restless and I’d have to worry about him jumping over the side or something 🙂 I am looking forward to reading your thoughts about cruising!

  4. rachel bar says:

    I too struggled with the concept of being confined, except that there’s so much to do on the boat. In addition, we only had two days at sea and the rest of them were excursion days. However, I still have very mixed feelings about cruising, which I will share later. And… how right you are about the oxymoron!

  5. Dale Joyner says:

    We should have talked MORE before you left. I think “your” style – all black – works perfectly for a formal night (and don’t you dare do the buffet or in your room choice!). As you mentioned the awful combinations and in my option, ill fitting, your “classic” look will always win out. I think we put a nostalgic aspect on what is “formal”. Classic and simplicity would suit the vast majority of cruisers (think of the extra luggage that the formal wear uses). So, we’ll talk soon about your next voyage and the choices to make on the clothes inclusions.

    • rachel bar says:

      Yes, Dale. One of the “notable exceptions” was a woman sitting at a table close to us, and she was stunningly dressed. Jewlery and all, and it was beautiful. But then I started counting the dresses, shoes and necklaces, and I concluded that we are talking about one extra piece of luggage, and a large one at that. No siree!

  6. Martha Carr says:

    Love it Rachel! My mother always has a stretchy black pair of pants and a shell with a couple of long colorful scarfy floaties that she can put over it. Add a necklace or earrings and VOILA! Formal or festive!

  7. Barbara Cooper says:

    Oh Rachel, could you and I be more different? From the time I was a little girl I loved playing dress up! I’d watch my mother apply her make up and dream of the day that I, too, could apply all of those magical things to my face. I’d clomp around in her high heels and make evening gowns out of her floatie nightgowns. It was so much fun! And now, all these years later, I still love to play dress up! While I enjoy the casualness of L.A., I detest going to a lovely restaurant or to the theatre and being seated next to people (especially men) who think shorts and a T shirt are appropriate attire. I think people should dress nicely to be out in public for the evening. It shows respect for the establishment and a certain amount of class too.
    Last holiday season I was bemoaning to some friends how all the stores show beautiful dressy clothes for the holidays yet no one seems to wear them. We all decided to really dress for the holidays, so my holiday dinner for these friends was declared a formal occasion. We all dressed to the nines- including the men who looked divine in their tuxedos. We had such a wonderful evening that we did it all again on New Year’s eve when we went to Ruth’s Chris. And it was fun! Being dressed up does not have to equal being uncomfortable. Before your next cruise allow me to be your stylist and I’ll show you how to do it!

  8. rachel bar says:

    I guess that’s the reason we have the expression “different strokes for different folks”! I think that you are beautiful with your style and carefully applied makeup, but I get tired just thinking about the time I would spend choosing the clothes and applying the makeup. For me, not wearing the most comfortable clothes is associated work, and not that I have negative feeling about work, but I definitely wear professional clothes not for me, but to honor my profession. The evening you so eloquently described, which you enjoyed so much, sounds to me, and the emphasis is on “me”, like a dress up rehearsal for a play. I forgot to mention that growing up I was a tomboy, and you obviously were not:)

  9. Barbara Cooper says:

    No, I was definitely Not a tomboy- in fact the complete antithesis! In fact “I Enjoy Being A Girl” could have been my theme song!

  10. ShimonZ says:

    If I were in your place, I would have worn what I wear to the office, and if anyone had asked me, I would say that that was my formal attire… and if they didn’t like it, I would have relinquished the privilege of taking part in the affair. And I I didn’t enjoy the first formal evening, I certainly wouldn’t have gone to another. But everyone has to find his own way of dealing with his peers… even on a cruise.

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