Moments In Africa

a personal quest

Instant Safari Chic (Or, What to Wear on Safari)

Felicia McRee1 Comment

Ah, the art of roughing it with a sense of style.  A man cuts a masculine pose in his multi-pocketed field vest, Tilley hat, safari shirt, and zip-off cargo pants, but we can’t say the safari clichéd big-game-hunter look is as flattering for a woman.  With a little effort, you can flaunt your own sense of safari chic, and still be appropriately dressed.  For safari chic, consider these guidelines:

  • RULE #1  Bring clothes that YOU like and are comfortable, sensible and appropriate for being outdoors.  You will not need “safari clothes”.
  •  RULE #2  Leave the pith helmet, bling-bling and your valuable jewelry at home!  And, don’t go overboard with animal print accessories.

 When it comes to safari, khaki reigns because it hides dirt and dust well.  But, you don’t have to look drab, shapeless, or like a stereotype that stepped out of a 20th century expedition.  Wearing a total “safari look” can be more of a fashion farce than a fashion statement.  Today's safari look is stylish, yet relaxed.  It’s not what you'll find at your local Tilley Endurables or Magellan’s Travel store – such as matchy-matchy, synthetic safari uniforms comprised of zip-off cargo pants, photographer’s vest and military style shirts.  Instead, strive for a casual, effortless and natural country look by mixing muted earth-toned cotton separates. 

 Start with practical pieces in shades of sand, stone, khaki or olive green that you might already have in your closet.  Select tailored, body skimming crisp lines for your jacket (not bulging multi-pocketed field jackets or photographer’s vests.  Dress in functional layers that can accommodate cool nights as well as hot days.  Choose loose fitting trousers with a relaxed waistband that let you enjoy an all-day game drive without developing sore spots.  Avoid clothing that is too tight and materials that don’t breathe.

 Blouses and tops should be soft, relaxed or draped.  African-hued colors such as sand, taupe, beige, stone gray, coffee brown and chocolate are good choices.  Egyptian cotton or seersucker is preferred over synthetics.  Take tops with collars that can flip up, and long sleeves that offer protection from the brutal equatorial sun and biting insects.  Sleeves can always be rolled up when desired.

 An easy way to look more feminine is to add a stylish accessory such as a hat, shoes, scarf, gloves, day bag or belt.  Be a fashion minimalist.  Use only one fashion statement per outfit please!   Accessories can pay subtle homage to the people, landscapes, wildlife and flora of Africa.  For daytime hunt down classics like small, dark muted cheetah or leopard prints, faux crocodile, romantic paisley prints or ostrich, dark brown or tan leather.  Consider these ideas:

  •  A pashmina or a black turtleneck sweater is always appropriate and very stylish for evening attire at the lodge, sitting around a campfire, or the first class lounge during your international layover.
  • Take an attractive wide-brimmed (the brim should range from 2.5 inches to 4 inches wide) tie-on hat to protect your face from the harsh African sun.  What, you found that perfect hat, but it doesn’t have a chin-strap?  Consult a shoe repair shop about adding grommets and a string tie with a sliding toggle.  (See HOW TO CHOOSE A WOMAN'S SAFARI HAT)
  • A couple of soft cotton bandanas are a welcome accessory and are also very functional on safari.  (See 101 USES FOR A BANDANA).
  • Pack a good support bra from a material that wicks moisture away from the body.  Select underwear that does not ride up or down and dries quickly.
  • Daytime jewelry should NOT be shiny, flashy, dangly or clanky!   Break this rule and your safari-mates, or guide, are likely to revolt – be forewarned.  A better choice would be natural pieces made of leather, bone, wood, beads or pewter.
  • If your itinerary calls for a private dinner party during the trip, you could even travel with an optional wrap-dress and it can double as a pool-side cover-up and bathrobe.
  • Your footwear should be comfortable.  Take closed-toed walking shoes that protect against insects, thorns and cuts.  A simple loafer with a low heel and thick sole works.  If you prefer tennis shoes, there are many styles to choose from in an array of colors.  Avoid white or very dark colored shoes because they show the dirt and dust immediately.  If you are going on a serious bush walk, consider a pair of walking boots with good ankle support.  Pack a pair of flip-flops for the shower or poolside lounging is essential.  Read the article, PROPER FOOTWEAR FOR SAFARI, for other vital information.

No time for makeup?  No problem - add dark sunglasses and you’re ready to go (read HOW TO LOOK NATURALLY FASHIONABLE IN THE BUSH).  Note:  Inexpensive fashion sunglasses will not properly protect your eyes from the harsh African sun.  Purchase optical grade eyewear.   If you require reading glasses, bring prescription sunglasses.  That way, you can write in your journal, or change the settings of your camera without having to switch glasses! 

 Lastly, be culturally sensitive and dress conservatively!  Avoid see-through clothing, mini skirts, tank tops (unless you plan to wear it with a cover-up) and skimpy swimwear.  Realize that gaudy colors, lots of bling, over the top fashion accessories, or the safari big-hunter uniforms will make you look foolish and call undue attention to you.

 When you return home, you’ll be sharing memories and safari photographs with everyone you know.  You’ll be pleased you took the time to look natural, timeless, and stylish for your African adventure.