Dinner on the Orient Express.
Many years ago, a friend of mine from Honolulu—a tall, strikingly handsome Hawaiian man in his 50s—was vacationing in London. At my urging, Abe had booked a first class compartment on arguably the world’s most famous luxury train, the Simplon Orient Express, which would take him from London overnight to Venice.
At breakfast in his London hotel, just two days prior to the start of his great rail adventure, Abe suddenly realized he was uncertain of the dress code for the evening meal on board the train. He came to the conclusion that the wardrobe he had brought from Honolulu for the occasion—slacks and a choice of two colorful floral print shirts—would probably be inadequate.
Impulsively, Abe decided to strike a blow for the sartorial reputation of Hawaiian society. He decided to—by God!—dress for dinner on the Orient Express!
An hour later, he was being fitted for a tuxedo in the Mens Department of Harrods, London’s venerable and justly famous department store.
Of course, along with the cost of the clothing and accessories came charges for the last-minute alterations . . . charges Abe would tactfully describe as “reasonably short of excessive”.
On the morning of departure, Harrods delivered to my friend’s hotel room a perfectly altered, neatly pressed tuxedo on a hanger; a crisp white dress shirt, also on a hanger; a black cummerbund and matching bow tie; and, of course, black patent leather shoes, freshly polished and buffed.
The train departed from Victoria Station precisely on time and eventually the dinner hour arrived. Splendidly dressed for his appearance in the opulent dining car—the attendant assigned to his sleeper had expertly dealt with the bow tie —Abe presented himself at the door of the dining car of the Simplon Orient Express.
And that was the moment he became aware that all the men were in tuxedos and all the women were wearing formal gowns . . . that, in fact, everyone had dressed for dinner that night on the Orient Express.
Back in Honolulu, when Abe related this story to me, he said for months after returning home he had had a recurring dream that he had entered the dining car that night wearing what would be acceptable dress-up in Honolulu society: a sport coat worn over a colorful Aloha shirt.
“But then I realized I could have saved the $400 the fancy clothes cost and spent my time at dinner getting to know the people who didn’t give a damn what I was wearing.”
And of course he was right.