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Ready To Wear: The one thing a woman should avoid on safari is safari


My friend is going on safari which, naturally, begs the question: what to pack?

"I've bought a ridiculous gingham dress," she says.

Given that she is dedicated to following fashion to the point where the height of her heels necessitate clinging to the arm of an equally committed colleague (or preternaturally glamorous carer, perhaps?), her observations are worth taking seriously. Or not, depending upon which side of the fence you sit, obviously.

Whatever, the one thing the style-conscious woman on safari must never consider wearing is, of course, safari. And that is as irritating a predicament as the biting insects that may go hand in hand with an exotic holiday experience. There's a reason, after all, why this look evolved. Fashion-wise, it was most famously adopted by Yves Saint Laurent way back when who proposed it as a warm weather, no-frills alternative to clothing more obviously feminine by nature. The colour palette is discreet, so as not to disturb the environment and its natural inhabitants. The materials tend to be cool and natural, allowing skin to breathe. Finally, it's a covered aesthetic which, given bug mania and/or sun damage, can only ever be a good thing. Bad, though, is the fine line between effortless chic and appearing to be channelling Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly in Mogambo. Or indeed any cast member one might care to mention from Daktari.

Given that access to fashions past and present is today unprecedented, any so literal a reference is likely to be laughed out of the lodge. And so, safari may be perfect for a stroll down Bond Street, say, but, in much the same way that, on a fishing trip, a Breton stripe sweater is best left at home, context is of prime importance.

If my friend was going off to a ranch in the American Midwest gingham would be off limits, too (two words: Calamity Jane). In Kenya, however, and in a lightweight cotton, she might be on to something. It's worth noting, though, that a red and white check is inadvisable. "You shouldn't wear red on safari," she says, fully pragmatic for now. "It scares the animals. The Masai wear red and carry big knives."

It's a jungle out there.