Why is it when one visits a tropical paradise one feels a sudden urge to buy clothes that look like a hibiscus threw up on them?
Shops full of next year’s tropically patterned landfill are everywhere – seducing me with their colourful wares – coaxing me into parting with good money for what I would generally consider garish rayon rubbish. Is it the need to reinvent oneself whilst on holiday that drives one to buy garments that you wouldn’t ever consider wearing at home?
Buying clothes on holiday always carries risk. I have come back from grown-up sophisticated European holidays with what I believed at point of purchase to be grown-up sophisticated European clothes that I’d seen on the natives of the place, only to realise when trying them on at home, that what I’d actually bought made me look like a Neapolitan prostitute.
Walking down the main drag of Port Douglas one soon realises that style too has also taken a holiday here – that any clothes I might have considered cultural currency in the company of the Melbourne frock cognoscenti are completely redundant here. I simply don’t fit in with my post punk belts and my eighties referencing oh so on-trend ankle boots. And I’m hot – the kind of hot that makes one’s thighs chafe even just thinking about how hot you are. Then… it comes from a long way down – a primitive urge – from the ancient collective unconscious of every woman. I want… I want dress… I want a hibiscus print dress! I have to have one. Now!
Somewhere buried in my chromosomes is an age-old anthropological urge to belong: Look I have a large pink hibiscus emblazoned across my breasts – I am just like you – a native of the tropics – please like me and accept me. It’s illogical because you know that every other female tourist you pass in the street is fulfilling the same chromosomal urge – ‘quick, buy some brightly coloured crap so I really feel like I’m on holiday’.
You can tell the really rich women in this town because they are not the ones wearing the hibiscus vomit – they are the ones wearing the orchid vomit – the orchid vomit is sold in the posh shops here – no generic quasi Hawaiian hibiscus prints for them – they can afford orchids. But colourful floral vomit it is just the same. I saw a woman in Coles in an orchid vomit dress with Sergio Rossi sandals – the ones with the gladiatorial metal ankle calliper brace detail. Instantly a warm glow came over me – fashion has not completely forsaken this benighted place. The stygian style gloom of far north Queensland is illuminated for one precious second in a supermarket by a simple configuration of burnished metal and Italian leather. Time stands still. A chorus of seraphic cherubim float into view all pointing at her feet, singing a heavenly chorus to designer footwear, whilst she, oblivious to the moment, squeezes and prods the mangos. I want to run up and hug her, congratulate her on her exceptional taste. But I don’t. I merely stare in anonymous admiration as she glides up the deli aisle, cutting a stylish swathe through the hideous rayon hibiscus vomit.