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The Goddess Speaks
Carol Chun

Travel dress not
what it used to be

I'm sitting here at Honolulu Airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco. As I watch my fellow travelers arriving and departing, it occurs to me that it no longer looks as though we're serious about our travelwear.

Twenty years ago, it was common to see a guy in shorts and a T-shirt wearing rubber slippers traveling to Maui for the weekend. For a trip to the mainland, that same guy would have worn slacks, a button-down shirt and "real" shoes. Today, the slacks and shirt are packed as "just in case" clothes.

Fifty years ago, I remember my Pop leaving for a trip to Columbus, Ohio. He wore a business suit, a long overcoat and a hat. I also remember he had a scarf around his neck. Presumably it was snowing in this place called Ohio.

On his way home, he stopped in San Francisco to visit my brother and, at the last minute, called Mama to join him in San Francisco. I can still see her at Sears Roebuck and Co. buying a hat, and the saleswoman cautioning her about the need for a hatpin for protection. She bought a hat with a veil and the hatpin, too. She was ready for those barbarians in California.

Growing up, Mama would always casually look at what I was wearing as I walked out the door. If my dress was wrinkled, so was her nose. On more than one occasion, I would hear, "They let you wear that to work?" And this was when I was a banker.

To this day, I iron my linen dresses and most often my shorts and T-shirts, too. Never mind if the labels say "permanent press."

I digress. Travel is cheaper now than when my parents made their first trip 50 years ago. It is definitely a lot more casual.

We no longer fold our clothes as we pack. The travel experts have us rolling our shirts up. Martha says it's a good thing to use tissue paper as we roll up our sweaters. And don't forget to stuff your shoes with your socks. We're encouraged to mix and match our wrinkle-resistant outfits. No more linen suits.

Women can arrive at their destination, throw on a scarf and go to dinner. Guys can add a casual jacket to their jeans/T-shirt ensemble, then walk into any restaurant.

I think our attitude toward a lot of things has resulted in our dressing down. Of course, retailers have us convinced that shabby chic is in. Thrift-store clothing is the new look. Flip-flops are acceptable footwear -- and getting through security in rubber slippers is easier than in lace-up shoes. Drawstring pants are preferred to having your belt buckle set off an alarm.

So, roll up those sweats, stuff your socks into your extra pair of running shoes and throw it all in your black roll-away suitcase with your Hawaiian luggage tag -- the yarn ball/red ribbon/Hawaiian print fabric strip. I'm leaving on that jet plane comfortably dressed in my leggings and sweatshirt.

Carol Chun works at Punahou School.

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