Dressing Up

This is not a post about cosplay or costuming.

I’ve been thinking about how we dress lately. It occurred to me, after taking my wife to dinner for her birthday on a Friday night, that I was the only person in the restaurant wearing a necktie, or for that matter, a more formal shirt and slacks. I don’t often wear ties, but for special occasions I like to look sharp. I grew up with the notion that when you dressed up, you were showing the person of honor — at a wedding, birthday party, funeral, or other formal occasion — that you were making a better than usual effort in their honor.

It seems like Americans don’t dress up much any more. Perhaps this is an outdated notion, but I am charmed by the thought that someone would get dressed up in a nice shirt, slacks, and not everyday shoes — with or without necktie — to show someone that this person is important in their lives, and you want to make an effort to impress them.

I think this is far more true for men than women. Men seem to not care as much about their appearance — probably because men are judged less on their appearance than are women — but the fact that most men seem to have moved away from having a nice set of clothes makes me sad. Having a set of dressier clothes changes things up, gives everyone something new to look at, and, again, it conveys the impression that we’re doing this to honor someone else.

I don’t think dressing up is super-important: being at an event to show your support is far more important that what you’re wearing, I think. In times such as we live in now, many people don’t have the spare scratch lying around to buy a set of clothes they will only wear once in a while, and that’s an important point, too. Dressing up is a middle- and upper-class affectation as far as I can tell, and with the disappearance of the middle-class in the United States, behaviors likes these become increasingly more rare. Perhaps it will be fashionable again one day; in the mean time, I need to replace the suit I’ve “grown out of” so I’m ready for the next wedding that’s on the near horizon.

2 thoughts on “Dressing Up

  1. I fully agree with you on both counts. The art and practice of dressing up is not a as common today as it once was, especially among men. We have become a much more casual society. But like you, I enjoy dressing up to show respect and honor.

    As the weather is cooling again, I am back to wearing shirts and ties to work and church. On Sundays, I enjoy coordinating my dressing up with my wife…finding a shirt and tie at least that coordinate in color and partner with her outfit, and sometimes adding a vest or jacket as well. At work, I find dressing up puts me in a more professional and respectful mindset.

    Thank you for speaking out about this topic and putting into better words than I this change in attire culture.

  2. Hmm… This makes me think. At work, we’ve gone from business suits to business casual (smart dress trousers and blouses or sweaters) to just plain old casual. Some of my staff wear baggy shorts, t-shirts and flip flops in the summer. At first, after years of skirt suits and panty hose, this seemed like a dream. Now I find myself dressing at least business casual 3-4 days a week, just because it makes me feel more professional. I am also old enough to remember the days when I had to dress up for holiday dinners (even at home, when it was just me and my mom and pop). My parents would always wear evening dress when they went out to dinner or to a cocktail party. And for Sunday services, I wore a dress with tights, hat and gloves. It was called your Sunday Best for a reason. I really do miss dressing up for special occasions. Even at the theater (play, not movie) these days, people are in jeans and I always feel a bit overdressed. I buy your reasons for this, but I also think that as a culture we have become (dare I say it?) a little lazy. No one wants to make time to make an effort anymore – everything is fast food, drive thru, least amount of energy expended. Yes, we’re all squeezed for time these days, but so were my parents, who worked hard. It was just the way things were done back then. I don’t know. .. maybe I’ve just become old. 🙂 Have fun suit shopping. And remember, ‘every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man’. 🙂

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