What ever happened to dressing? Not just putting on whatever is least rumpled at the foot of the bed, but actually dressing. That is, going to the closet to choose a few freshly pressed and well-fitting garments, picking out a great pair of shoes and a handbag, as well as lovely jewellery, gloves and perhaps a hat, to finish an outfit.
When did it become okay to toss on a ratty, ill-fitting T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans (or, heaven help us, a pair of pajama pants) and a pair of day-glo Crocs to be seen in public? Even more distressing, when did it become acceptable to venture out in public showing a distracting amount of skin? I have seen more butt, belly and breast than is necessary for one lifetime. I wish I could say that all these atrocities are only being committed by tweens and teenagers, but, alas, I have seen women of all ages in this type of garb.
Remember the good old days when being a woman meant looking like a lady? Back when no respectable woman would leave the house without checking herself in the mirror to ensure that her outfit, accessories, hair and makeup were as flattering as possible? When dressing down meant putting on a simple shirtwaist dress or a casual unstructured tweed suit. When female role models were elegant and intelligent, well-mannered and poised. I look to the middle of last century, when women like Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Eva Gabor, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Catherine Deneuve, Ingrid Bergman and Ava Gardner were idolized by regular women the world over. It seems that with the death or retirement of these women, there followed a loss of elegance. Nowadays, it is much more difficult to create a comparable list of attractive, accomplished women - the only ones I can think of are Cate Blanchett and Reese Witherspoon.
Now, before I go on, let me clarify. I do not expect the modern woman to clean house in a dress and pearls, a la June Cleaver. Nor do I expect every woman to always have the perfect accessories, with every hair in place. I get it, life is hectic - between jobs, family and domestic duties, a woman's work is never done. However, that does not mean that you need to look like fashion victim. In my opinion, there is no excuse for regularly looking sloppy and/or letting your general appearance go to the dogs. We all have a million things to do in a day, but you can slip on a clean, well kept outfit as easily as an old pair of sweats.
I know, I've been there - during grad school and the early part of my career, my dress code was less than impressive. In the last seven years I have upped the ante and started dressing and grooming better. And, you know what, not only do I look better, I feel better and I'm treated better. Yeah, yeah, I know, we shouldn't judge a person by their appearance, but as human beings that's exactly what we do. If you're now thinking of leaving me a comment telling me that you never judge a book by its cover, save your time - I won't believe you. I'll be the first to admit that the more enlightened individual is capable of putting aside initial impressions and over time develop a better appreciation of the whole person, regardless of the dress code (I try my darnedest to do this every semester when I get a new crop of students). However, most day to day situations do not allow for the slow discovery of all the subtle nuances that make each person special. In most cases, we are in contact with a new person for a matter of minutes and in those minutes, your dress, appearance and general carriage speak volumes. That is why well dressed people are treated better in most situations - they get the best table at the restaurant, the pleasant salesperson, the door is usually held open for them and they tend to be smiled at more often. Like it or not, most people peg you into a category within seconds of meeting you - fair or not. So, why not try just a little bit harder?
Lately, several people have told me that I "dress up" a lot. The comments have come from people of all ages. My students have told me that they like the way I dress - I even had one young lady tell that I was her role model because I was smart and I was always well put together. A friend, who is a bit older than me, told me that she admires my style and although she can't wear the same type of clothing as I do, she would love to start dressing better. Yet, another woman, a sewing friend and mentor, mentioned that she thought it was nice that I wear more skirts than pants. She spoke fondly of an elderly lady in her neighbourhood, who is always dressed neatly, in a nice skirt, blouse/jacket and stockings, whether going for a walk or running errands. She also lamented that we seem to have lost something in our casual lifestyle. I agree.