Today, packing for a cruise means packing lightly – less luggage makes it easier to travel to and from the ship, and most staterooms have limited storage room for clothes. But in the early days of pleasure cruising – the early 1900s – passengers arrived at the docks with steamer trunks full of finery.
Back then, many people used ship travel to emigrate from one continent to another, but pleasure cruising was something only the wealthy could afford. It was an opportunity to see more of the world, but also to show off fashionable clothing and jewelry. During the day, women wore dresses of silk, satin or damask with long, flowing skirts and tailored jackets. Men wore three-piece suits and neckties. Every evening was black tie: women dined and danced in embellished ball gowns and precious gems, while men wore formal tail coats or early versions of the tuxedo.
Since then, cruise line dress codes have followed the gradual shift to more casual dress in workplaces and society in general. By the 1920s, on land and at sea, women began to throw away their corsets and raise their hemlines. Men’s fashion silhouettes became more relaxed, too, favoring blazers and loose trousers.
In the 1930s, Katherine Hepburn did something truly revolutionary for women at the time; she wore trousers, a big step in the move toward more casual, comfortable clothing for daily life and travel. In the decades that followed, both fashion and cruising became more affordable, and cruise wear continued to become less formal.
On most of today’s cruises, you won’t go wrong by packing some casual tops and bottoms you can mix and match. Daytime dress codes are increasingly determined by what you plan to do: shorts and t-shirts are appropriate for active shore excursions, while you might dress in a casual skirt and blouse, or slacks and a collared shirt, for a cultural tour. You should ask your professional travel advisor if you need any special clothing: for example, you might need water shoes for some active excursions, and some cultural sites require a head covering.
Anita, your professional travel advisor, can also provide details about the evening dress code for your next cruise; on some cruise lines, shorts, jeans and flip-flops may not be welcome at dinner.
And for those who love a little glamour, black tie evenings – an echo from the early days of cruising – are still scheduled once or twice on many cruise itineraries.
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