Dressing Down America

I am anything but a fashion-plate. As one of my daughters will attest, I don’t keep up on the latest fashions and am very comfortable wearing the same blazers I wore in college and jeans that are so old I can’t even remember when I bought them. However, she is kind in her criticism and helps me out now and then by sending something new to perk up the dusty old closet.

That said, I am not sloppy about how I appear in public. Those long ago lessons ingrained in me by my mother to “dress decently” when going somewhere still hang around. I can hear her voice nudging me when I am tempted to run into town in the sweats and t-shirt I wear around the house.

I thought about that when I read a recent column by Froma Harrop. She bemoaned the fact that American culture today seems bent on promoting what she called “the Slob-Down of America.” She described a few of the sloppy outfits she saw on folks at Chicago’s O’Hare airport that included dirty shirts with vulgar messages, women wearing scanty tops that had cleavage threatening to overflow, tattered jeans, and stained sweat pants.

Froma wondered what George Washington would think if he lived today and saw this unholy mess. He promoted a text that was called “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” One of the edicts in the text had to do with cleanliness. “Wear not your Cloths, foul… or Dusty, but see they be Brush’d once every day.”

We’ve fallen far short of that edict today. I don’t necessarily hold to the old standards that had a lady never leave the house without gloves and a hat, but I do agree with old George. We should respect ourselves and others by not going along with the “anything goes” grunge look.

It used to be that a person had dress-up clothes for weddings and funerals and other special occasions. Then there was Sunday-best that made us presentable for church, if one went to church. Children had school clothes and play clothes, and never the twain should meet.

Even though dress codes have been relaxed in recent years, I still hold to some of those fashion standards – although I do like the Texas-casual style that lets folks wear blue jeans to a lot of places where they weren’t accepted in the past. But I even have a special pair of jeans for those occasions. They are my dress-up jeans. Not the ones with frayed cuffs that I wear 90 percent of my normal days.

My husband thinks all those codes are silly. He also thinks it is silly that I change into my go-to-town clothes when I leave the house. I think it is common courtesy.

What about you? Do you think we are too sloppy in America? Do you think that has contributed to the decline in civility we see all around us? That is one of the points Froma made and I could see a correlation because it is all about respect.

5 thoughts on “Dressing Down America”

  1. First of all, let me congratulate you on being able to wear clothes you wore in college! I could only hope! And yes, we are all so sloppy it’s disgusting. Do you remember when people dressed up to fly? Designer clothes, suits and ties, heels? Now it’s pj’s. When did this all start? With casual Fridays in the work place?

  2. I admit to being a fan of the casual. Perhaps because I’m a teacher I don’t judge people on their appearance for the most part. On the other side though I believe sometimes the way people dress demonstrates a lack of self esteem(Hate those words) or a lack of respect for the people around them. Casual to me means comfortable and I don’t believe anyone with their baggy jeans hanging below their butt cheeks or with their breasts nearly half exposed are truly comfortable.

  3. I’m a real slob at home…and I often choose to stay home because I’m too lazy to clean up to go out. It’s backlash from all those years of working at a job where I needed to dress up every day.

  4. Thanks for the compliment, Karen, but you will note that I only said I wear the blazers I had in college. Not the jeans or skirts. And I no longer button the blazers.

    Appreciate all the comments.

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