Neat and tidy: Sophie (right) helps Jane with her holiday wardrobe. Jane is pictured wearing her beach chic outfit
My name is Jane Fryer and I am a criminal over-packer. My pre-holiday mantra has always been: ‘Why take just one neat, streamlined Samsonite when I can wrestle with a bulging holdall, a sack of books, pillow, laptop and yoga mat slung over my shoulder?’
I struggle through airports festooned with luggage and, invariably, 15 paces behind my fuming husband, because we have never been away without The Big Packing Row. ‘Why have you got so much stuff?’ he tries to say calmly, but mostly yells. ‘We’re going for four days. You can’t possibly need all those clothes and you don’t need a bloody jigsaw puzzle!’
Of course, he’s right. I once took a bikini skiing, and red patent-leather high heels to the Suffolk coast, just in case.
I barely touch half the clothes I pack. A lot of it neither fits nor suits me. Which, of course, is why I’ve hardly worn it at home. But, for some reason, I am always convinced that this is the trip where it will come into its own.
In fact, only once, at a 40th in Miami when I lost my luggage and a stylish friend took me shopping for what she called an ’emergency capsule wardrobe’ from Barneys Co-op, have I even looked particularly good on holiday.
So, naturally, when I meet #MyVacationStylist — otherwise known as Sophie Caulcutt, the 27-year-old co-founder of the Voyager Club (a top-end holiday concierge company) and now professional holiday wardrobe sorter-outer — I didn’t know whether to hug her, run from her, or just pack her in the bag along with everything else. She is, after all, small, neat and likeable.
Instead, after chatting about my general ‘look’ and discussing my budget (the service starts at a few hundred pounds and can spiral into the high thousands), I fill in her questionnaire.
It covers everything from favourite colours (blue and orange) and designers (James Perse, Hartford), to size (everyone’s bottom half is a size bigger than their top) and which, if any, body bits you’d least like to flaunt (legs).
Next, Sophie wants to know where you’re going, what you’ll be doing — lolling on sunbeds, trekking through jungles, rolling cigars on your thighs in Cuba, swooshing down the Cote 2000 in Megeve, or digging dams in Llandudno.
(In my case, it was an unusually swanky trip to Sardinia for which I needed a comfy day dress, a travel outfit and a gown for a black-tie yacht party, with accessories.)
#MyVacationStylist then picks a personalised holiday wardrobe and delivers it to your home, hotel or villa. Simply pick what you want to buy and they return the rest.
‘Most people don’t know that in a place such as Harbour Island [this year’s hot destination in the Bahamas], you walk barefoot the entire time,’ she says. ‘People would look at you very weirdly if you wore heels.’
Jamaica is strictly flip-flops and sandals. Celebrity favourite Club 55 in the South of France is ‘a nice long kaftan with a bikini underneath’.
Sophie also picks out another two outfits for Jane – on for her to wear at a fancy dinner (left) and another for exploring town (right)
EXPERT TIPS ON PERFECT PACKING
- One excellent coat covers up endless packing mistakes.
- An ’18-hour dress’ will take you from morning to night.
- Perk up every outfit with stylish earrings and a belt.
- Always take a swimsuit — even if you’re skiing!
- Put all your unguents in a plastic bag.
- Never put expensive items in the hold.
- Pack pretty and matching underwear.
It’s comfy shoes in Capri, ‘or you’ll break your ankle on the cobbles.’ Milan is far sleeker and higher of heel. And never wear anything too floaty on a yacht in case it gets caught on a cleat. Sophie studied fashion before working for top designers Amanda Wakeley, Beulah and Marie-Chantal and got her travel bug from her Action Man father, John Caulcutt — a former stockbroker, balloonist, Olympic bobsleigher, rock ‘n’ roller, sailor and great pal of Sir Richard Branson.
Clothing is just the latest branch of her Voyager Club, which already offers exclusive £100,000-a-week villa and chalet rentals, helicopters to get you there, classic cars for you to play with and even transport for your beloved poodle in a canine limousine. Clients can be demanding: some are busy career women who have no time for shopping. One had worked herself into a terrible tiz about how to pack for trekking in the jungle followed by a smart wedding in Cuba.
Some have lost their luggage and need an entire new wardrobe shipped out to Portofino, Spain or Montenegro — in just 24 hours.
A lot are simply very rich or famous, though Sophie is, of course, far too discreet to name names. Soon, they will be embracing her new ‘straight to superyacht’ service. Just imagine (and that’s all most of us will ever do) a brand-new, handpicked, perfectly fitting and matching set of clothes, hanging pristine on padded hangers, with accessories lined up neatly to match — ready and waiting as your chopper thuds down on to the landing pad.
‘Some clients have lost confidence about what to wear,’ says Sophie. ‘Or how to pack.’ Here, again, she has sound advice, because everyone has packing peccadilloes — some roll, some fold, some pack everything still on hangers. A former boss of mine packed a different outfit every day for a 40-day cruise, right down to matching bras and undies, lovingly layering between the days with tissue paper.
In the Sixties, writer Joan Didion kept a packing list taped inside her wardrobe: ‘Two skirts; two jerseys or leotards; one pullover sweater.’
Sophie doesn’t need a list, because she has a photographic memory, never travels in Europe with more than hand luggage and has a bag of sample-sized beauty products all ready to go. She also has a summer and a winter wardrobe, and everything is ready-laundered and dry-cleaned, so there’s no scrabbling about in the laundry basket in a rage the night before.
While a holiday stylist may sound like something from someone else’s more glamorous life, don’t be downcast: Sophie insists she can adapt her budget according to her client’s bank balance. And she’s very good at it.
When I open my beautiful boxes of clothes and matching accessories from MatchesFashion.com, it feels like Christmas — but better. Because, for once, everything fits, goes well and actually looks good. I love every item she has sent and would buy the lot, particularly the blue-and-white £695 Odyssee dress, if I ever won a Premium Bonds prize. Better still, it all fits in one small suitcase . . . with room for a jigsaw puzzle.
- #MyVacationStylist, from £295, voyagerclub.co/vacation-stylist. The cost of Jane’s outfits: beach chic, £827; around town, £898, fine dining, £1,040 — all chosen from MatchesFashion.com