Travel Without Clothes!

Fashion and its victims.
Sept. 17 1998 3:30 AM

Travel Without Clothes!

A Homeric proposal.

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What contemporary travel needs to become truly convenient are updated versions of Homeric households. You get to a hotel room in your travel-stained sweater, shirt, and pants, and drop all these down a chute. You shower, slip on the robe provided (this part we already have), and then, in the cupboard, you find stacks of pants and shirts and sweaters, maybe a wrap-skirt or two and some jackets, all in many colors and all in your size, since you e-mailed the information ahead with your reservation. You dress afresh in your choice of these, have dinner, spend the night, dress anew in the morning if you like, and check out. On to the next hotel, same story. Eventually you get home, carrying no bags, wearing some clothes you can add to your own collection as souvenirs of your most recent stay--ready, of course, to offer them to your next houseguests in exchange for theirs.

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If somewhere on your travels you find you suddenly need a really good suit for the day, that would be arranged, like a rental car, or added as an extra hotel service. The hotel would deliver the desired ensemble to you (along with the indispensable needle-and-thread person and the right shoes) and would return it after you had checked out. At posh hotels with posh connections, supplies would be high-level and instantaneous. Nonposh ones would put you in touch with the nearest agency for a more modest range of products. You'd have to invoke your own gods for the requisite charm.

Underwear didn't exist in Homeric times, and women didn't travel, except for goddesses who flew through the air. For my scheme to work, certain questions, I admit, need more thought. But the thought of traveling without packing, except maybe for a tiny computer and a tiny camera, has a powerful charm of its own. Some might even take a sketchpad instead, or a paperback volume of Homer.

Anne Hollander is Slate's fashion columnist.

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