Island Casual

Life in the islands is not without its perks. One of the main ones, I’ve found, is the casual lack of primping standards we hold ourselves to down here. I generally make a modest effort to look presentable most of the time, but “presentable” in the islands is often a far cry from anything I’d try and get away with elsewhere. Here are some of my favorite real world fashion offenses and how we blatantly disregard them while rock-side:


coffee stain shirt

The tropics are hard on your clothes. Store things in a dark closet in this humidity and you’re almost guaranteed they will rapidly disintegrate due to mold. My favorite BCBG peep-toed pumps crumbled in my hands when I went to pack them last fall – I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I cried. On the flip side, should you decide to keep your garments out in the open, the obscene sunshine will fade them faster than you can say “this used to be neon”.

Between the mold, the bleaching sun, and the unrelenting year-round wear and tear, it is inevitable that your wardrobe eventually succumbs to a slow death of holes, stains, and missing accouterments. And because you can’t just run out to the mall and buy replacement outfits every time you discover a flaw, it’s sometimes hard to discard your favorite pieces due to one (okay, two or three…) little (sometimes medium-sized) hole(s).

The key to getting away with continuing to wear your now-defective duds is to perfect your shocked/embarrassed face. In the event that some well-intentioned person decides to inform you that the dress you’re wearing has A) a missing button on the back, B) a big hole near your crotch, and/or (likely and )  C) a grease stain on your boob, look at the blemish(es) as though you’re seeing it for the first time, aghast, and say the following: “Oh my gosh, how mortifying! I must throw this dress away when I get home! What a bummer!”

Do not throw your dress away – that was just crazy talk. Make a mental note of the person/situation and do your best not to wear it again in their presence. If you do by mistake (happens to the best of us), just add a tad more shame to your spiel and claim early onset Alzheimer’s.


wet hair

If you live in a city and head out into the world with wet hair, you may as well be wearing a nametag that reads – Hello, My Name Is: Ms. Lazy Pants. But when you’re on a rock, wet hair will more likely be interpreted as sporty, as though you’ve just hopped out of the ocean, fresh from a swim. Not to mention, electricity costs a small fortune so there is not a soul on this rock who will question your decision to be “eco” and forgo the hairdryer. Time saved: 30 minutes. Thank you, Island.


flip flop collection

I used to adore wearing high-heeled shoes. Between the boost to my meager height, the corresponding slimming effects, and the melodious clack clack clack sounds they made everywhere I walked, I never dreamed I’d abandon my obsession with the pump, the platform, and the wondrous wedge. But these days, my high heel to flip flop ratio has flipped heavily in the direction of the flop.

I could blame the fact that I have to take a boat everywhere I go and the overall slipperiness of this mode of transport. I could blame the fact that heels sink in the sand. I could even blame the wily docks that trap your stillettos between their planks unexpectedly, taking you down faster (and much less gracefully, I might add) than Bambi’s ill-fated mother. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t miss bending my feet everyday like a contortionist in the slightest of ways. Yes, there are plenty of instances where a flip flop is not the most stylish choice to accompany my outfit and a slight heel would definitely be more flattering to my Shorty McShorterson frame, but the beauty is, everyone’s wearing flip flops down here. Besides, only women in swimsuit catalogs wear heels on the beach. That’s why their faces look so pained in the pictures. Everyone knows that.


beach bag purse

I remember the years when I used to change my purse each day to match my pumps. Now just thinking about all the constant switching makes me exhausted. I still possess a few handbags and clutches to suit specific occasions but when it all comes down to it, I LOVE that it’s socially acceptable to tote around a beach bag in place of a purse. There’s nothing quite like the joy of knowing you have all the space in the world in your veritable picnic basket to bring whatever your fluttery heart desires along with you. There’s none of that absurd debating about what you “really need”. Prepare for every contingency! Pack  a racket, a jacket, even your green tea packets! Clothes for rain or shine, don’t forget that bottle of wine!


bikini top bra kardashian

So much of summertime clothing is small and strappy, which wins practicality points for keeping you cool(er) in the heat, but is a far cry from sensible when it comes to bras. When going about my everyday existence, I enjoy the support that a traditional bra with straps provides. But what to do when your itty-bitty crop top demands a strapless bra? Do you suffer all day and bark at people grouchily due to the frustrating lack of boob reinforcement you’re enduring? No, sweet girl, you are in the islands. Do a dance and celebrate because this is when it is a true boon to always be within minutes of the ocean. Simply toss on a bikini top and let the world see your straps. You could be on your way to/from the beach for all they know. I’ll even admit to sometimes wearing my swimsuits as bras for no other reason than they match my outfit and add a touch of whimsical flair. It’s OK, we’re in the Caribbean!


pedicure sand

Pretty pedis on an island are the ultimate Catch 22: you want to have cute toes for your beach blanket escapades but the actual sand on the beach ravages your polish. Nothing chips and dulls your shellac’s shine like digging your toes into a bed of sandpaper. This translates to an unnaturally shortened lifespan for your pedicures. You’d think that would mean you’d pay extra attention to your feet but it actually ends up being the opposite. There are no valid excuses for this; it’s just another example of life on a rock’s lowered standards of primping. The nice thing is that few notice, even fewer care. Just get to it when you get to it. There’s always tomorrow…

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Chrissann Nickel

About Chrissann Nickel

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands, against all logic, feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the Caribbean, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps, but these days, she’s a card-carrying member of the Barefoot Nation. She is utterly enchanted with vinyasa yoga, especially when practiced on somewhat precarious, deliciously Instagram-able surfaces (she's @WomanOnARock) such as paddleboards, boats, cliffs, or even the occasional willing friend’s body. She vehemently believes that toucans are the best animals ever (period.) and there is no convincing her otherwise (though imperious roadside goats come in as a close second).

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends a lot of her time working from home all by her lonesome writing, editing, and cultivating content designed to make her fellow islanders laugh. Besides her writerly pursuits, she moonlights as a yoga instructor, and attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people. If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous personal website,

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23 thoughts on “Island Casual

  1. After visiting my rock in the Abacos many times since 1995, I finally remembered that the only bra I need here is one (the one
    I came in with and the same one to wear back to the states). Great post. So many laughs!

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