Whatever Happened To...Getting Dressed Up? (Even Just A Little)

Sunday, August 15, 2010
We truly have become a nation of slobs. 

I thought about that this morning after reading a little opinion piece in my local paper about the loss of manners. Written by an older woman of a certain generation, she lamented about the way some people dress today when they go to church or out to eat. I then noticed it first-hand when I attended mass this morning. Many of my fellow parishioners look like they should have been going to the beach. Of course, this has been nothing new for many years now, but today I decided to notice how many people could make my inner fashion cop cringe. My mother remembers a time when every woman would wear gloves and a dress to Sunday mass. Needless to say, we both feel that nobody should have to go to that extreme today, but how about kicking it up a notch just a bit? 

I saw a few teenage girls wearing jeans accompanied by skimpy fitting tank tops that exposed their bra straps. I actually could give people a pass on wearing denim if it's not ripped or hanging precariously off your hips and rear end, but c'mon on the tanks! My mother never would have let my sisters or me leave the door looking that way to go to church. I also always see lots of flip-flops, crocs (ugh!) and shorts. I've seen children skate down the aisle in those sneakers with retractable wheels that convert into roller skates.

When I was younger I used to enjoy getting a bit dressed up to go to church or if my dad took us out to eat at our favorite restaurant, which was called the Kernwood. The Kernwood was a pretty nice place, certainly not an Olive Garden (no offense to anyone who likes to eat at Olive Garden), and so tees and shorts wouldn't have flown there. In fact I think they had a dress code sign in the lobby that stated men had to wear a jacket, and they might have kept spares up front for the diner who "forgot" his. Remember when this was a normal requirement? No one batted an eye. Today some jerk would probably complain and leave in a huff and threaten to sue for discrimination. 

I didn't have to wear a skirt when going to certain places with my parents - but I was not allowed to wear jeans to church, and had to wear something better than a t-shirt for a top. 

I hate to sound so horty torty, and I realize it's just become a socially accepted way of life now, but it's disappointing sometimes how casual dress we've all become. There should be places where dressing professionally still remains a requirement. As a matter of fact, HR at my company has to send out a reminder about the dress code out to the company at the start of each summer season, lest some people think we've installed a swimming pool inside one of the conference rooms. Shorts and skirts that end above the knees are not allowed, as is any top that exposes cleavage. Hooded sweatshirts are also banned year-round. Quite often we have clients, partners and board members visiting our office, so I totally thinks it makes sense to look professional.

It's no surprise that one of the reasons why people love Mad Men so much is because of the way people used to dress back in the sixties. Men in suits and ties, and ladies in dresses. Even when Don Draper is at home on the weekends (pre-divorce, anyway) he manages to look good in a polo shirt and shorts. Well, I guess Jon Hamm would look good in just about anything or nothing at all, so maybe he's an unfair example. I love seeing a man in a suit and tie, but a (nice) casual sportscoat over an open shirt works wonders, too. Ladies love it when guys dress up - if you don't believe me, check out the comments on the blog Coolness is Timeless sometime!

I have nothing against shorts, tees, and tank tops, by the way. I just don't think they belong in a place of worship or a fancy restaurant. I wish more folks would put a little bit more into their appearances when it comes to certain events and places. At least when I attended a friend's wedding last weekend, every guest was dressed nicely. I certainly hope the casual dress trend never infiltrates a wedding.

The one good thing about so many people dressing so casually in certain places is it helps the people who do make an effort to look nice (me!) stand out. As Coco Chanel famously said, "Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman." I'll extend that saying to include men and teens as well.


  1. my grandmother would have been proud of this post. :)

  2. I love the way people used to dress properly. It was such a different time. It always refreshes me to see pictures of old, when everyone dressed up.

  3. I agree with this post whole-heartedly. When I had a job, I made it a point to dress nicely and appropriately. I remember when my old co-worker and good friend commented on all the cleavage going on at our job and we had a nice discussion on how Kate Jackson was just as hot in a turtleneck as she was in a swimsuit. You dress for the occassion.

    When I went to my parent's memorial a few years ago, I was just one of a few who wore a dress. I was sort of taken aback by my family and my parent's friends in flip-flops and sweatshirts. Granted my parents were old hippies, but personally, I found it distasteful, although I appreciated everyone who came, but I think it's just not cool to not dress up when honoring someone.

    I could go on and on. Now that I'm a full time student, I'm a lot more casual, so maybe I have no place to remark now, but trust me, when I am hanging out with my fiance's parents or going out to dinner, the pretty clothes come out!

    Btw, when are we going to bring back driving gloves. Those were hawt!

  4. Love this post and agree 100%. I don't always dress up, but I really dislike the casualness of our society. It is an attitude that breeds disrespect sort of. Manners, respect, dressing well, all seem to be lost for the time being. I am doing my best to bring back the old days. Going to put on some gloves.

  5. Such great comments, ladies! BTW, I owe some of your blog visits and I plan to remedy that this week...

    Amanda, absolutely flabberghasted that some people attended your parents' memorial dressed like that!

    In work, it definitely seems like the younger employees have a different definition of dress than the older employees do - way more casual. You definitely notice the generational difference. The good news I'm reading more and more that in this tough economy, if you want to wow them in the interview, you definitely should dress the part.

  6. You may or may not be surprised to hear that I've been criticized for my dressing up (even just a little) or even scoffed at on occasion...

    Example 1.)
    I once wore a suit for a job interview for the city in which I live (a city job), and the interview panel actually told me they weren't sure if I was the right person for the job. They said I looked "too nice", and probably didn't like to work.

    Example 2.)
    A few years ago, I got made fun of at work because one day I wore wait for it.... a pair of jeans and a button up camp shirt. It was in a start up meeting and a girl pointed to me and said.. "What are you all dressed up for?" She then mentioned something about how I must've thought I was better than everyone else.. something about being well to do.. and that she wished she had the money to dress like this but she is a single mother. (Think she has issues?) With the whole crew looking at me, I simply responded by saying.. "You think THIS is dressed up? Geez.. you must be REAL easy to impress!"

    Example #3.)
    Another time I wore Dockers and a nice long sleeve shirt to work and people were asking me the next day why I was wearing a suit!

    Mind you.. I do live in Colorado, where people wear jeans to weddings, mass, graduations, and five star restaurants. (I kid you not). I could go on and on, but I'd better stop and give your other readers a chance to chime in.

  7. I agree with Darrin; I worked for old-line companies with very long histories where shirt, tie, and accoutrements were expected every day. It was well understood that the dress represented your commitment to the company, your customers and profession, and your status. I have to agree that it positively influenced my performance and behavior. I later worked for the Government and an engineering firm where I was routinely chastised for wearing decent clothing to work; simply pressed slacks and a dress shirt. While I was never directly promoted for them, I found that having manners (Thanks Mom!), dressing nicely, and being aware of protocol was the gateway to being offered more opportunity. I am no longer in the workforce so I do now have too many Hawaiian shirts and shorts according to my children (I do live on the water), but I still value and know when and how to dress up on those occasion, and pine for those days as well.

  8. Wow...Darrin...pardon my French (and lack of manners) but that is seriously f***** up! Okaaaay....so now the job interviewers out of work out there will be more confused than ever as to how to dress for an interview. Not sure what kind of logic leads one to conclude that wearing a suit means someone doesn't want to work. To me, it would make me think the opposite because the person took the time to dress nicely for the interview.

    What a sad, sick society we live in. And uh, yeah, that single mom had issues up the wazoo!

    @stay-at-home-dad, well, I'm glad your companies recognized professional attire as such and that you had better experiences.

  9. I don't have to tell you this, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. We are a bunch of slobs, lol. One of the reasons I fell in love with my now husband (although, at the time I didn't know I liked him) but I distinctly remember that he dressed in kahkis and went to mass every Sunday in college. That was my first impression of him.

    I always enjoy reading your posts...keep up the good work :)

  10. Frankly, whenever I see some kids wearing pants down to their knees with their boxers showing, I die a little inside.

  11. I agree 100%! I look back at the old photographs and marvel at how well dressed so many were. It mattered back then how you looked. These days not so much anymore and it's kind of sad.

  12. I am SO with you on this one. I look at photos from the retro and vintage days and sometimes I wish we still dressed like that; hats, gloves, nice suits. Women dress like hookers nowadays and men don't look dapper at all.

  13. I so TOTALLY 100% agree with your post! I was just telling hubby this the other day. It appalls me what people will wear OUT IN PUBLIC period!

    I mean, come on.....do we really need to see young women dressed in PAJAMA bottoms out in the stores?! Oh, and those sweat pants? Unless they're the nice ones meant to be worn out - save them for sweating in at the gym or in the privacy of your own home. I refuse to wear sweats out unless it is a dressy-ish track suit meant to be a "casual" outfit (and not full of holes, stains, rips, etc.)

    I CRINGED.....absolutely CRINGED when I saw what some people wore to their U.S. Citizenship Oath ceremony when my daughter became a citizen earlier this year. It was UNBELIEVABLE. Come on, people - show some respect!

  14. Loving these comments, guys...thanks for all the positive feedback. I really was afraid I might offend some people! Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes. The "Pants on the Ground Guy" was dead on...

  15. I used to love going to the theater in Boston and enjoyed getting "all dressed up." The casual dress of people around me diminishes the specialness (yes as strange as it looks, that is a word) of the theater, fine restaurants, events.... A few years ago at "The Nutcracker" people and their children were dressed in sneakers and clothes that I wouldn't even call as good as casual! When I was a kid, getting dressed up for "The Nutcracker" was half the fun...and my children dressed for it, too. And...personally...I'd so love to see hats make a comeback! ...Jude

  16. I completely agree with you and everyone else. I remember liking getting dressed up for mass and special occasions when I was a kid. Mom made some of my dresses when I was a little girl. They were my favourite.
    I was just thinking about the nice fashions of Mad Men recently because there was a section in the TV Guide about it. I don't watch it but love the dresses and suits of that time.
    I wish that people would start getting dressed up again. I see some of the stuff that they wear in certain places and think how inappropriate.It's good when work places have a dress code. The really short skirts and low cut tops and casual attire shouldn't be allowed there.

  17. It's so true! I'm also horrified when people wear jeans to Broadway shows. People used to wear FURS to go to the theatre.

  18. Your last quote takes the cake! Thanks!


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