Reader Request: Defending Dressing

nina garcia quote

An anonymous commenter had this request:

I’d love to read your thoughts about the difference between self-love and vanity. I work at a university, and I know you do, too. Sometimes I feel that my colleagues look down on my love of fashion and style – “the life of the mind vs. the life of the mall.” (That’s not original, btw.) Now that so many people dress down, can you offer some support to those that like to dress up? Or, at least, put some thought into their clothes?

I explored this topic in my guest post over at The Coveted, but it’s definitely worth examining again. As you likely know by now, I believe that caring for your outward appearance is an essential component to overall self-care. People who say that fashion is frippery may be referring to haute couture, which is equal parts drama and design, and a WHOLLY different critter to everyday, normal-person style. But if they are not – if, in fact, they believe that learning to dress well and wearing clothing you love is a waste of time, money, and energy – well, that’s a toughie. Both to endure and to undo.

My coworkers tease me on Fridays because I often come to work looking just about the same as I do every other day of the week. As I’ve explained, my Casual Friday look has nothing to do with sweatshirts and Crocs; I merely add a casual element or two to an otherwise dressy outfit. I feel comfortable and chic …. but some of my fellow employees get rankled. Perhaps they think that I’m showing off. Perhaps they believe that I’m judging them. Perhaps they feel that I’m making them look like a pack of slobs by dressing up on a day reserved for dressing down.

But none of those things are true, and whenever one of my coworkers says, “Why are you all dressed up? It’s Friday!” I merely reply, “I’m sorry, have you met me? I LOVE CLOTHES.”

And they totally get it. My coworkers may get grumpy about things, but they’ve got the humor. When I remind them that I’m dressing up because I enjoy dressing up, they hear me. But I’ve got it easy, and I know that. I deal with the occasional ornery comment, easily diffused. Many women face a more insidious form of judgment from peers and coworkers, even friends, family members, and important others. Confusing style with vanity is a common error, and a difficult one to navigate. And while there is no easy solution – and certainly no one course of action that will work for everyone – here are a few of my ideas for combating this prevalent prejudice.

THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND

Every clothing decision reflects: Like it or not, first impressions are based on appearance. Ongoing impressions, too. And not just how tall or short, brown or pale, groomed or unkempt we are … clothing figures into the appearance equation. If you wear ill-fitting, stained, outdated, or inappropriately casual garb, it will affect how people perceive you. If you wear flattering, pressed, stylish, appropriately formal attire, it will ALSO affect how people perceive you. Pick your poison.

Looking good and feeling good are linked: No, really. And you deserve to feel good about yourself. Not just some days, EVERY DAY.

Style is a valid outlet for creativity: If you enjoy clothing and savor exploring personal style, you likely feel good when you’re assembling fun and funky outfits to wear. If you deprived yourself of that creative outlet in reaction to misguided peer pressure, do you think you’d feel better or worse? There is nothing shameful, shallow, or stupid about style.

THINGS TO ENACT

Defend yourself: To be clear, I am not recommending that you get defensive. Merely that you stand up for your right to be stylish. Don’t let anyone bully you into saying, all sheepish-like, “Oh, I know, fashion is shallow … but it’s just so fun!” NONONOnonono. No. Also no. Here are some phrases to keep in your back pocket in case anyone ever gives you shit about your enviable shoe collection or ability to assemble amazing ensembles. (Earnest delivery, not snippy, please.)

  • I feel more confident when I’ve put some thought into my outfit.
  • I find that a stylish, professional appearance garners more respect.
  • My style sets me apart. I like looking different!

Don’t rub it in: While I would never advocate masking your love of fashion, there’s no need to spout off to a hostile audience. Don’t spin long tales of shopping excursions or seek opinions on the latest trends from or in the presence of naysayers. No need to hide, but no need to fuel the fire either; Save style-focused chats for fellow fashionistas.

Encourage exploration in others: This can be awkward to orchestrate, but when it works, it WORKS. If you’ve got someone who seems to be teasing you out of envy instead of real distaste, try to draw them out a little. Use humor to defuse the situation, and then see if they’d be open to shopping together, a clothing swap, a closet purge, even a makeover. Sometimes all it takes is a little personal experience with the transformative powers of flattering clothes to convert a skeptic.

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  • Super Kawaii Mama

    Fantastic post! I am forever on the receiving end of this criticism and do get very tired of having to defend my position. It never ceases to amaze me that people feel free to have a go at you personally for dressing up, when I would never have a go at them as a person for not looking like me!

  • Meli22

    No-one in my personal life is aware that I have a blog- or follow other fashion blogs. I am afraid of the comments, and even more afraid of appearing shallow! The majority of the people I know would think it's a waste of time, it's showing off, so on and so on. This is my escape from them- they can see what I look like, but have no idea what goes on in my mind or the revolution I am going through personally via style.

    I shouldn't 'hide' I realize that. I just want to keep a low profile… and taking pictures of one's self every day and posting it on the net seems super attention-seeking and vain, unless you are one of this community and understand the reason behind the action. :/

  • Couture Cookie

    It always amazes me how people make comments about how you're "dressed up", or hint that you're dressing to impress men or whatnot. I feel sorry for them as they apparently don't love fashion and style the way I do, meaning they are missing out!

  • Anonymous

    "I'm sorry, have you met me? I LOVE CLOTHES." That's the phrase I needed – it won't belittle myself or others. I plan to employ it often. Thanks!

  • MP

    I don't count myself as terribly stylish, but I do like a well put together outfit that is well accessorized as much as the next person. I stay at home with my daughter and have noticed dirty looks from other moms on the playground when I show up with earrings, lipgloss and a heeled shoe. How dare I!?

    I completely 100% agree that how you dress/look affects your confidence/mood. After my daughter was born I told my husband that if I was every having a bad day to tell me to go put some mascara on. Crazy, I know. But hey, it works!

  • Mary Sailors

    Sally! This is SUCH a great post!! I love that you talk about the truth of how we feel and look being intertwined. I have caught some guff from people about dressing "up" on Friday's too, but always just say "this is how I dress!" For me, I have SO much that I want to use every day of the week to wear fun items! Good show Sal!

  • Belle de Ville

    Excellent post.
    I've always believed in "Dress Well, Test Well" and that performance is linked with appearance.
    And I want to know who started this whole Casual Friday thing?
    I believe that people are less productive on Fridays when they dress down.

  • LENORENEVERMORE

    I think dressing up & fashion is not brain surgery…just have fun & try our best to look presentable & cute!
    whatever that is… πŸ˜‰
    xo*

  • Cee

    My boyfriend loves fashion and getting dressed up, me; I love it from afar and never really thought of myself as stylish or put together. After a day of shopping together which left me feeling pretty down about myself he gave me a challenge: To dress up everyday for a week, no matter what I was doing. I'm starting to understand the looking good/feeling good philosophy and I really love it! So, to another "haters" out there, maybe it's just worth giving it a try!

  • Sheila

    Wonderful post, Sal! Thank you so much.

    I am lucky to work in an environment where I can pretty much dress as I like – but I dress far beyond most people that I work with. When I get teased, it's only with affection.

    I feel bad for women (and men!) who get criticism for merely wanting to look good/professional/stylish! I totally agree that it is NOT shallow to want to put your best foot forward.

    By the way, I hate that Casual Friday has come to mean "look like crap". Gah!

  • Courtney

    Thanks Sal! I find that the intellectual criticism is easier to deal with if I make it clear that fashion is an intellectual communication exercise just as much as it is a "body" thing. I analyze my wardrobe based on the rules of figure flattery and color combinations and pick my clothes as an act of communication and self-exploration. It's quite the brainiac hobby, really!

  • futurelint

    I'm so glad you revisited this! I've never had anyone criticize me for my clothing, I think because I make/alter/thrift most of my clothes and so it seems more acceptable to people who aren't into fashion… I know girls who are totally trendy and only shop at H&M/F21 etc, and they get a lot of flack because it's seen as "bad for the environment, cookie-cutter fast fashion." I don't know… it's a tricky thing… I'm glad everyone I know likes my little outfits and enjoys them rather than making me feel guilty, however none of them know about my fashion blog either… I'm not trying to hide it by any means but I also prefer that they don't know I'm THAT into fashion… not sure why…

  • fleur_delicious

    Though I sometimes worry about the way a wider scope of academia might perceive my love of dressing, I guess I've been lucky in that my home department and program is very supportive! (Of course, I AM in theatre; the costumers love me. LOVE.)

    However, even in a supportive environment, where classmates and professors alike have "favorite pieces" and even occasionally make requests/set challenges for me, I find that actually discussing what I am wearing and the choices I have made opens people's eyes to dressing as expression. I'm not talking about theory or trends here; just what I was thinking of when I paired this-with-that this morning (a ruffled blouse on a day when I have a seminar on the Baroque; a skirt I made to express the compromise between living in SoCal and missing Seattle; a phrase that inspired a certain colour today). It turns fashion into thoughtful expression – and without referencing trends or lines or other topics best reserved for other fashion-hounds, I think it makes the conversation very accessible.

  • LPC

    My sister, she of the Ph.D. AND J.D., says that academicians suspect the "shiny". In corporate life, it's the girly that is suspect. Every culture will have an opinion about how well we reflect the mores. It's up to us whether we care or not. That's what society does, right, support us and in return expects that we support the mainstream values. For better or worse. In some cultures, failing to dress would be suspect.

  • K.Line

    People laugh at my choices all the time: pretending to have epileptic seizures when I wear zebra stripes or looking amused at my fur vest. I don't take it personally. I think they're just trying to engage with my hobby and appreciate (allbeit strangely) my individuality πŸ™‚ I also get lots of compliments from these people so I know they like my look.

  • The Budget Babe

    Great post. On a related note, this week I called in to a show on NPR about the relevancy of blogs, and while I did get on the air (woohoo!!) I kinda felt that the host and his academic experts were all-too-quick to discount fashion blogs as being truly relevant to society as a whole. The one dude actually said "Well, i don't know much about fashion blogs…" before changing the topic back to political or tech blogs. I'm glad I got to speak out if even for 15 seconds. Next time I hope they'll devote more time to fashion!

  • burntphotograph

    i was always told "dress for the job you want" and so i do dress up for work, even though i could easily wear my sweats (and have coworkers who do) if i wanted. i've gotten teased but i just brush it off. i know i look nice and i figure they are just jealous. lately, some of my coworker have been asking me advice on dressing, which is nice. so they are coming around. πŸ˜‰

  • WendyB

    Here's extra ammunition for anyone who wants to use historical and feminist references while fending off the criticisms of unstylish peeps: http://wendybrandes.com/blog/2007/10/why-does-buyers-guilt-focus-on-fashion/

  • Anonymous

    I work at the University too and I am by far am the most dressed up for each event I organize. It is very important to me to be well put together as I believe it says something about my level of professionalism and attention to detail. Luckily, I have yet to defend myself when dressing up, although I do weird out my co-workers when I wear jeans.

    Love the post,
    KillerT

  • Sarah R

    I love this post too. I work from home, which makes it incredibly easy to be a slouch. But I try to be presentable in case I have to run up to the kids school or need to get a gallon of milk.
    However, when I do show up at my actual job site to get supplies or go to a meeting, I hear it: "Well, hello there Missy Fancy!" or "What's the occasion?" I'll usually wink back or say "I'm just happy to be out of my house!" I try not to take it personally. Most of the time, it's a reflection of the commenter, and not me.
    My brother in law Paul works in my department also, and where the other men are wearing jeans and a polo, he's wearing Italian suits and a tie. He gets comments as well. You just roll with it.

  • Michelle

    Oooh, I hate how people assume that if someone is interested in clothes, they must be an airheaded bimbo. I honestly think some of it stems from sexism (as Wendy B pointed out in her entry I'm just starting to read in another tab!). Fashion is "women's stuff" and therefore, not as important. People will spend $300 on a laptop that will crap out in 3 years without blinking and eye, but shudder at the thought of spending $300 on fantastic shoes that will probably last 5-10 years, at the minimum, and are comfortable to boot. You know which is the better buy usage-wise? The shoes!

    I don't get too many comments on it any more, although I used to get some people saying things like "You know, a girl as smart as you shouldn't be so concerned with clothes!" or people implying I was wasting my time caring/writing about fashion, etc. I just shrug it off – there's really not much else you can do.

  • Sal

    Sarah R: You've got me thinking! Husband Mike decided that he was going to wear suits to the office for a while. His coworkers wear crocs and crops and sweats every day of the week. I think I'll have to get him to whip up a guest post about his experience!

  • lisa

    "People who say that fashion is frippery may be referring to haute couture, which is equal parts drama and design, and a WHOLLY different critter to everyday, normal-person style." I ask these naysayers, why is haute couture–which demands intense craftsmanship, artistry, and thought–any more frivolous than other forms of art just because it's wearable? That's like saying photography, painting, and sculpture are frivolities with little cultural impact or significance because they're "not practical."

    I'm lucky in that I generally encounter support for my interest in fashion from colleagues and friends alike. However, I am sick of the reaction I get when I meet new people who aren't interested in fashion and find out that I'm a style blogger and freelance fashion writer on the side. More often than not, they'll invite me to analyze their outfit or try to provoke me into trashing other people's fashion faux pas. WTH?! I love fashion for the pure joy of it and the creative outlet it provides me with. I do not walk around passing judgement on random people–I have better things to do with my time. πŸ˜›

  • Sal

    Lisa: For the record, I wasn't trying to trash haute couture. I have come to appreciate it as a true art form, one that requires skill, forethought, artistry, and craftsmanship, just as you say. I say that it is equal parts drama and design because, to me, it is. Runway shows are all about drama. HC off the runway is all about design. Neither of these things are bad.

    I say that fashion naysayers may be THINKING of HC when they talk trash about style because HC is still generally regarded as frivolous by many, many people. I'm not saying that's right, I'm just stating it as an observation.

    Furthermore, I do believe there is a big difference between fashion and personal style. Fashion is tied to design and trends, style to each individual's look.

    All that said (whew!), I am really, REALLY sorry to hear that people are pooh-poohing your writing and work because it is linked to fashion. And I certainly don't blame you for being fed up with their infantile reactions. I've had the same experience, and you simply don't have the time to convince your confronter of … well, anything. They've got their ideas, and they're dumping those ideas on YOU. Blech.

  • Nadine

    What a fantastic post :).

  • Rosie Unknown

    Great post! I am so lucky to have only really been questioned a few times. I am also very lucky to have friends who, even if they aren't super into fashion, are very supportive of me, my interest in fashion, and my blog.

  • Annie

    I agree with every post here. I too am a closet shopper/fashion blog follower. I have loved clothing since I was a little girl and never had the means or support (I have two wonderful sisters who couldn't care less about such things, and my mom and dad were the same way) so I felt frivolous and superficial about wanting nice clothing. I also felt for a long time like I was falling prey to marketing and feeding into the system…Now I realize that our appearance and ability to express ourselves through what we wear is an extremely important to our culture – any culture for that matter. I see clothing and style as a form of visual communication and I'm finally starting to actually *wear* my nice things instead of collecting them and hiding them in my closet!!!

  • pretty face

    My favourite sentence of this post was I LOVE CLOTHES. That is, of course, the best reason to get dressed up. Right now I am just not enjoying planning daily casual outfits, hence the lack of dressing up. In the evenings, I have so much fun. But for the daytime, everything is so dictated by the weather forecast that it just doesn't feel fun and I am dressing like every day is casual Friday.

  • pretty face

    PS – forgot the most important of this comment – any tips or advice???

  • yolio

    It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you simply work at a university, then this advice may be fine. But if you are an academic, and particularly if you are a young, female academic, then I think the matter is much more complicated. Academia has a very definite sartorial culture that varies by field. If you want to be accepted as a "real" scholar who belongs, you probably need to make concessions to that sartorial culture.

    For example, academics dress down, but if you pay attention you'll find that there is a very particular way in which they dress down. My field in particular has a field science component, which means that dress down includes a lot what I call REI peacockery: brightly colored sports jackets and shoes that would be appropriate on a hike. These are casual, but not necessarily inexpensive clothing choices.

    Even though it isn't really my style, and I don't even do field work for my science, I have incorporated these elements into my work wardrobe. I think a work wardrobe is a negotiation between what you want and your social identity. If you are going to be accepted as a colleague, you probably need to give the dress-down crowd it's due.

    Ironically, this usually means that I dress up more on casual days and dress down for days when I expect to interact a lot with colleagues.

  • Lemondrop Marie

    I do feel a bit judged if I take a risk or dress a bit above the norm. And yes, this post does help because I do sometimes retreat into a mumbling excuse, but my new favorite will be "I feel more positive about my day when I've taken time with my clothes." Yea. I have a hip comeback.

  • Sarah R

    I think a guest post by HM would rawwwwk, Sal. My brother in law Paul, the snazzy dresser, is constantly accused of being gay just because he dresses nicely. He's not…clearly, he's been married to my kid sister for 12 years (unless they're hiding something from me, lol.) When they got their house, they fought over who got the main closet (He won. He had more shoes than my sister.)
    However, my husband is polar opposite. Jeans 24/7, either ripped or stained tees, and does not own a shoe other than a sneaker or a sandal that he can wear fishing. His idea of dressing up for church includes wearing a tee shirt without a beer or mustard stain on it.
    So you gotta think, if we ladies are harassed when we dress up, it's a lot worse for men. At least that's what I've seen.

  • dapper kid

    I absolutely agree with you! I can accept when some take fashion as frivolous, but to take clothing and style as such is to deny what makes us human. Self expression is something we all strive towards, in whichever area that may become.

    And I really do agree with you about clothing showing respect of self and self worth. A person who does not care to dress with respect will ultimately do themselves a disservice.

    My family usually make fun of me, because I am constantly talking about fashion, but they still thankfully take interest in what I have to say. My father is not the least bit interested in fashion, but he is obsessive with style. He always has to look smart, and although he may not have bought any real number of new clothes in decades, he laboriously cares for his suits and clothing. As long as one puts thought into their attire, it is something to appreciate.

    Really do hope you are having a wonderful day πŸ™‚

  • Anne

    Uh… yeah. I work in *natural sciences*. Absolutely no-one dresses up. Just me.

  • Hanako66

    this is a really great post sal…and a very thoughtful question. I have to agree with Meli22's comment…I am in the exact same boat as her.

  • Lauren

    Those are all excellent points, yolio, just excellent. I have noticed that too. In my academic dept (I'm faculty), I've noticed that the men get away with more casual looks more so than the women. I've even seen a male colleague in shorts and sneakers, for teaching! Although I will occasionally do jeans, a nice top & wedges for days I'm just working in the office (not teaching, meeting with anyone, etc), I would never feel comfortable in shorts in my dept!

    Also, as a young, female faculty member, I often feel that I *need* to dress up a little to avoid being mistaken for a student.

  • enc

    You know, I love style, and I love dressing up, but I rarely get the chance. When I do wear something unique, people almost always comment and are usually supportive.

    I try to be supportive of others when they take care with their appearance and show their style.

  • Annie

    @yolio – i do the same thing! the sartorial culture in my department has a just-got-back-from-a-canoe-trip vibe. if i want to be taken seriously at school or at the very least blend in, i actually feel the need to dress down, or at least dress inconspicuously. i save my dress-up days for times i'm not on campus. so far it has worked out pretty well.

  • Annie Spandex

    It's no different than art. I bet those colleagues wouldn't look down on her hanging fine art on her walls.

  • fashion herald

    So true, this post, and oh, am I familiar with that reaction! Once I was out with a group of girls, and one asked "why are you so dressed up?" I was kind of shocked, like why do you care? What keeps some of these women from the enjoyment of feeling good about their appearance, and having fun with clothes?

  • FashionAddict

    This is a huge problem for people working in the public interest sector. For one, you are helping low income clients for the most part. The fact is, however, that I don't spend a whole lot on my clothes…is it my fault I make them look more expensive? Should I feel bad about the great deals I get? This was great. I think I'm going to take the "I love clothes/shoes" line and leave it at that when my friends/family ask me in a rather accusatory tone why I'm "all gussied up."

  • Nadine

    This attitude APPALS me. Dressing up is life-affirming and fun! People who are rude (about ANYTHING) are the ones with the problem, not you. I hatehatehate the artificial mind/body division. Grrrr!

    May I recommend Linda Grant's book 'The Thoughtful Dresser'? It's about this issue, and it's really brilliant. She used to have a blog of the same name.

  • Denise

    I've come to a belief about fashion and style, hard won over many years: we are yearning for beauty. Human beings yearn and strive toward beauty, and the great thing is, beauty is available to all of us. There are myriad forms of it, and one of them is self-expression in dressing. We all deserve beauty and if we choose to find it in those shoes or that hat or our favorite dress, then so be it. I'm also struck by how many posters reported a kind of grudging praise along with the "Why are you so dressed up?" comments. I think this is because we all like to look at beautiful things and people.

  • Gourmet Girl

    OMG! I can't believe the coincidence! This is just the issue that I'm facing in my life right now. I LOVE to dress up and have more shoes and clothes than anyone I know in real life (in virtual life I know I couldn't compete with the likes of you Sal! Love your shoe collection!). I used to work at my kids' school occasionally and that was my excuse to dress up in the mornings. It was like I got a job so I could dress up and have somewhere to go to. I know many SAHM do it, but I just cannot do housework if I'm all done up. It just doesn't feel right.

    WE've recently moved to a much smaller town and I initially dressed to school just to keep my spirits high, but everyone is so casual (rarely see moms in anything other than jeans/sweatpants) that I wonder if I seem over-dressed. I really don't want to be unpopular and seem like I'm showing off (which I'm truly, truly not) – but I know some people take it that way. So I've decided to do the 'When in Rome…' thing. In fact, as we speak, I'm packing away some of my lovely stuff that I wouldn't think twice about wearing in the bigger town and out come my jeans, plimsoles and t-shirts. Cowardly?

  • lisa

    Ooh I guess I should clarify my comment by saying that I wasn't lumping you in with the haute couture-dismissing naysayers. πŸ™‚

  • a cat of impossible colour

    I get this criticism all the time, particularly as my writing comes under the heading of 'literary': I think people expect me to write chick-lit just because I love clothes and dressing up, and they don't take me seriously ('but you're so girly! I can't imagine you writing that kind of book'). Not that there's anything wrong with chick-lit at all, but I resent the assumption that, somehow, my love of clothing – which is a HOBBY – is my defining characteristic and should permeate every aspect of my life and work. You can be a serious, hardworking professional woman AND be interested in clothes … they're not mutually exclusive!

  • Eline

    Oh love your post, I prefer this over the Coveted guest post because in that one you mentioned "dresses your figure" and I'm a fervent opponent of that. I like big, awesome poofy skirts that make me look 5 kilos heavier because I find them pretty, fun to wear and I feel comfortable in it. I feel comfortable in all my clothes no matter how tight my skirt, how high my heels. I feel comfortable in them because I find it pretty.

    I'm also finding it pretty weird and surreal that people comment on your dressy appearance! I get commented on by clothes because I 'look like a clown', 'freak' whatever etc. Never when I'm wearing something relatively 'normal' and dressy. That's just baffling, fuck them for finding style inane. It's something that can make anyone feel good. If you think you look good, you FEEL good. It's really that simple.

  • Spandexpony

    You can really work those long skirts! Not only feminine, but also works with the avant-garde thing which can sneak into your wardrobe! More! More!

  • Corrine/Frock And Roll

    Hear, hear. I've been on the receiving end of a LOT of those sorts of comments, too. I have one particular friend who I adore, but every time we catch up together in a large group, she always scrutinizes my outfits and offers comments such as: ''is that a new dress? Why do you always have a new dress on every time I see you?'' (I usually try and lighten the subject by saying ''this old thing? No, it's just been in my laundry basket forever and I've FINALLY gotten around to washing it!'') or ''you always get so dressed up. Isn't that a lot of work? I really can't be bothered.'' It used to make me feel a tiny bit uncomfortable, but then I realized that at the end of the day, it was probably a little more her issue than it was mine.. wonderful post, Sal.

  • Audrey

    Yes, thank you for this article! (By the way, I'm here via Casey's Musings!) My workplace is very business casual, even lingering into the weekend jeans casual area, but as an HR administrator and coming from ten years in the military, I find it so hard not to present a crisp professional appearance. And I admit that sometimes I do feel some animosity from my female co-workers for it. But I love to dress up! I feel more confident in my abilities when I have on anything ranging from an awesome pair of pumps to a new crisp shirt.

  • catherine_sr.

    I've seen this topic discussed on other style blogs, too, and every time I wonder "why do people get upset when people 'dress up'?" Like other commenters, I feel like being polished shows that I not only respect myself, but the people I interact with.

    I think this issue is somewhat similar to the nonsense many vegetarians have to deal with. I'm not a vegetarian myself, but I know my friends who are often get crap about being "snotty" and "judgmental."

    Their detractors are merely projecting their own insecurities onto my veggie friends, most of whom really don't care what other people's dietary decisions. Likewise, I feel people who dress down people who dress up (yes, I know, awful pun!) take out their insecurities about their appearance, professionalism, etc. on whatever person happens to accidentally trigger those negative feelings. It's not OK to say things like "the fact that you have a book deal/graduate degree/straight A's/good job/sense of confidence makes me feel like crap about myself," but it's somehow more acceptable to say "Why are you all dressed up? You must be soooo vain!"
    The Renegade Bean

  • Felicia_Ceballos

    Very well written post. I agree with you 100%. Damn, I feel so empowered now.

    Im sorry to say that I get a lot of criticism from my sister and my mom but I still do what I do and whenever they have a comment I simply say

    "Hey, I do what I want" and smile

  • Peldyn

    I have always loved clothes and tried to dress up, even when I really know nothing about fashion and style! Someone once asked if I judged her because she was not 'fashionable". Hell no! For one, I do not judge other people on what they wear. I have no idea what went into their choices. The person who said that happens to be disabled and needs to wear long flowy skirts to hide her urine bag that is strapped to her leg. She is really self conscious about it and the skirts hide it. In fact I gave her two pretty skirts from my closet that I thought would fit. So I may be uber dressed up, but can appreciate that some people can not wear what I wear.

  • Melissa’s Cozy Tea Time Readings

    I remember, in the mid- '90's, working for an insurance company and every causal Friday they would have a sign at the receptionists desk telling visitors the employees were enjoying casual Friday. That is how scarce it was not too long ago. A few years ago, at a job I hated, I wore a matching lavender pajama set to work on casual Friday. No one noticed!
    I would love to dress up more, especially in vintage, feminine outfits. At 6' tall and a plus size, it is nearly impossible. I live in a city where shorts, sweat shirts and ball caps are the norm, even for women, and I hate it.
    I know a lady who was a temp and received a great deal of hostility from the regular employees for dressing up. They accused her of trying to out do them to get a job there. God forbid any of them would have dressed up instead of putting her down. Crabs in a bucket.
    Thanks for writing this post. I'm going to try and dress better.

  • Barb

    Tim Gunn wrote an essay a couple years ago in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the topic of academia's willful unfashionableness.
    Loved it.

    I tell people that being made up nicely is my game face for work.
    I've never been a size 2, so I'm going to what I can with what I've got. (And am quietly appalled when I see a coworker wearing an outfit suited only for yardwork.)

  • chic

    Great pst and thanks for he shout out! We're forever exploring this topic on our blog and in our personal conversations.

    On another note – on my recent flight to Europe on US Airways, I came across Husband Mike's artcle in the inflight magazine!! Eeeek! I was so excited! And it mentioned how h guest posts on Already Pretty and I felt such a surg of familiarity reading your blog's name, it was so nice!

    S.

  • Audi

    I also think that the way you dress reflects how you feel about other people to some degree. I respect my colleagues as I respect myself, and I show it in the effort I make in how I dress around them. And I certainly think that going out in public in sweatpants and Crocs is a good indication that you have zero respect for the people around you.

  • christina

    So true! I am just enjoying the freedom of dressing the way I like for a few years and have to say, there are less comments than I feared. On the one hand it may be my being older than most of my co-workers, so I like to think I rather inspire. And my friends are more open than I thought.
    On the other hand I really like the idea of uniforms for work. It is easier for the customer and for you. And there still is enough room to let your spirit shine through. And if you work like I have done in engineering, you just keep to the jeans, t-shirts and cardis and save the rest for the week-ends. I now just use these old chlothes for cleaning. But they worked to be part of the team.

  • poet

    I'm a graduate student, I am one of two women in my (humanities!) department who wear heels and do their hair not just for the purpose of having it out of the way, and I completely get what you're saying. Good points!

    Greetings,
    poet

  • gina

    Interesting topic and responses.

    Sally, your post and Andrea's got me thinking, and inspired what I posted on my blog today.

    http://clothesinteralia.blogspot.com/2009/09/fashion-as-art.html

  • Kalee

    I LOVE this post!!! As a housewife I get weird looks and awkward comments about how I put too much thought into outfits just for running errands. But I love clothes, and I love the way I feel in an outfit I've chosen carefully based on my mood and activities for the day. I don't judge people who choose to dress down everyday, and really wish they would quit getting upset because I look put together. How I dress should not have any affect on how they look….how they dress does. I like your responses to use.

  • Anya

    I hear you… dressing up makes me feel so much better. However, I don’t think other people really understand that feeling. For instance, I have a friend who once asked me why I wear tights! Sigh.

  • Love the post, can’t believe I haven’t read it before!
    There’s so many points to touch on, but this one stood out at this moment: “I find that a stylish, professional appearance garners more respect.”

    Tomorrow I’m going to a new hairdresser for the first time. An older woman, who has bouffant hair, well done makeup and nails, and of course looks very well put together. The moment I made my appointment I started thinking about what I am going to wear. Not because of the usual reason (because it’s fun), but because this woman is dressed so nice (not fancy, or eccentric, just nice), I feel it would be disrespectful to wear anything second rate in her presence.

    xoxo
    Solanah