I stood in the Bloomingdale’s dressing room, uneasily squinting at my reflection in the typically unflattering fluorescent light. Behind me hung a stack of long column dresses – some sequined, some chiffon, but all a far cry from my normal workaday wardrobe.
Few traditions in the cruising world produce as polarizing an opinion as formal nights. On the Cruise Critic message board, the topic unleashes many members’ inner Joan Rivers, with fast and furious pronouncements on what not to wear, complete with pictures. Who wants to end up on the wall of shame?
With all the hub-bub, it’s not surprising that many cruise lines have cut back on formal nights, in official and unofficial ways. I remember carting several cocktail dresses, most leftover from sorority events, with me on a family cruise on the Carnival Fascination in 1995; my father proudly packed his tux while my mother made salon appointments. These days, I doubt we’d make the effort; there are always Guy Fieri burgers or specialty restaurants to try instead.
The debate over dressing up spills out within our own household. My husband, who regularly puts on suits to visit clients, hates dressing up, especially on vacation. So I wasn’t surprised when he turned down the opportunity to come with me on my upcoming Cunard cruise on the notoriously formal Queen Mary 2. “That doesn’t sound fun to me,” he said when he begged off (he’s saving his time off for a barefoot sailing cruise in the Caribbean instead).
As for me, I still enjoy the chance to get a little girly. I’m not high-maintenance by nature, but something about formalwear makes me OCD. If I’m going to the effort to get glam, I want to go all the way: Jewelry, heels, evening bag, shawls. Some might say that’s a lot of effort to put into an event where you’ll never see anyone again, but for me, it’s as close to red-carpet ready as I’m going to get.
I ended up buying a long navy lace dress by Lauren that fit like a dream, with just enough sparkle and stretch to make me feel special. That night, I vamped around the house in it, preening and pretending that I was entering a ballroom instead of picking up piles of clothes in our bedroom. Formal wear isn’t part of my daily routine, and that’s exactly the point: Who doesn’t want a little escapism on their vacation?
Do you participate in formal night – or ignore the hype? Tell us in the comments.