In the islands that string from the tip of Florida to the top of South America—the Bahamas, the Virgins, Jamaica and a hundred more of the West Indian chain—three things are everywhere: sun, water and the American vacationer. From December until June he comes to find hideaways as remote as Tobago was for Robinson Crusoe, or such hangouts of international society (the Duke of Sutherland, Claudette Colbert) as Montego Bay's new Round Hill. The Caribbean traveler finds 9,000-foot mountains (in Haiti) and pirate-fortress hotels (Bluebeard's Castle, St. Thomas). The West Indies are establishing a fashion authority of their own. Handwoven India madras is as Caribbean as the Bikini is French. The islanders of America's Riviera originate such life-in-the-sun clothes, based on native fabrics and designs, as a voodoo shirt and handcrafted straws and batiks. Last month SI went island hopping and found such beauties as Sheila Walden (opposite), photographed on the after-dinner-coffee deck of Higgins Gate, one of St. Thomas' most popular guesthouses. Sheila's skirt was designed by Helen Cobb of the Carib Shop for this year's carnival season.
At Nassau home of Charles Freeman, Jim White wears Nassau straw, Italian shirt, madras swim trunks—typical Caribbean dress. Above: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
The tropic-sun colors of madras blaze all over the Caribbean. Here Sheila Walden wears madras kiltie skirt over one-piece playsuit. The Carib Shop, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, $12.95.
Charles Laughton and Dr. André Kling of New York wear madras at Round Hill, Montego Bay, Jamaica. In such free ports, madras is less than half U.S. price.
Vera Patterson designs and sells madras jackets, ties, shirts, shorts and dresses at her Nassau shop, wears it head to hem.
Margaret Dunbar, hostess at Nassau's Royal Victoria Hotel, wears sheath dress of striped Indian madras from Vera's shop.
International flavor of fashion and vacationists at Round Hill is typified by Betty di Bugnano of New York and Rome, whose paisley-print bathing suit came from Paris.
Dorothy Hyatt, photographed at house overlooking St. Thomas, wears printed and pleated beach shirt from Elverhoj, local shop, $16.95.
Fanny Harris of Dallas found pleated and pocketed copy of Haitian voodoo shirt at Martha Sleeper's shop, San Juan, P.R., $12.95.
At Nassau's British Colonial Hotel beach, Nadine Stern wears red beach shirt she brought with her from her Paris home. Straw bag is island-made.