Should I dress for the holidays like a travel influencer?
I love to travel and am mesmerized by Instagram travel influencers in their colorful dresses, variety of hats and cute accessories against the backdrop of beautiful cities and landscapes. But I couldn’t walk to the top of the mountain in a long puffy white dress, or explore Paris in anything but sensible sneakers, could I? What is it and how are ordinary people supposed to balance convenience and fashion? —Olenka, Chicago
There’s so much to unpack in this question: how social media has skewed our self-perception, the effect of influencer marketing, and what to wear when you see the world. Where to start?
Perhaps with the question: what are you really looking for when you travel? And what exactly do you “share” when you post?
If the answer is “a great photo to show all my friends to showcase the glamor and excitement of my life and make them jealous” (which, to be fair, is what a lot of Instagram is about), then you might be looking in the wrong place. It’s not so much about learning first-hand about other cultures and landscapes via travel, but more about social status and one-upmanship.
For travel influencers, like all online influencers, of course, it’s also a career. The person in the photo is pushing an image of their fabulous life to make you want to be them, and to suggest that it really can happen if you buy the hotel/spa package they’re theoretically enjoying. And they often get paid for it. The more tempting influencers are, and the more followers they win over, the more money they can potentially earn.
But if you are traveling to experience another part of the world, to see it, smell it and taste it for yourself, then the photo is just a reminder. The way it’s directed by art for others is the least of the problems.
Indeed, when I posed the question to Eva Chen, Instagram’s vice president for fashion and shopping partnerships, she replied by e-mail: “I travel a lot and I follow nearly 1,500 accounts on Instagram. And I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t feel like you have to travel like these influencers or live up to any standard of travel fashion other than your own.
Once you start thinking like this, the most important consideration is not how fashionable or fabulous an item of clothing is, or how good it will look in a photo, but how much it makes your experience easier. . What you wear should make your life easier, not harder. Clothes that require dry cleaning and ironing to look presentable are probably not a good idea. Ditto anything that might break your ankle.
According to Ms. Chen, “My personal tips for traveling are: find a comfortable and utilitarian pair of sneakers (my favorite styles are the Nike Cortez or the dad-worthy New Balance). A simple shift dress in black or charcoal cotton hides multiple pleats and can be dressed up or down. And big sunglasses (think Audrey) have a similar effect.
Also, she says, you can always make a virtue of your refusal to be a lemming travel influencer by sharing, “your version of what a travel influencer’s wardrobe can be in the places you frequent. In other words, change the rules!
After all, in the end, what makes the best photo is the joy of discovery. It reads through any lens.
Answers to your style questions
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.