Sartorial Slippery Slopes

NOTE: In light of several distressed comments, it seems that some clarification is needed. Within the context of this post, I mention depression and chronic illness as possible reasons for wearing pajamas in public. I did so specifically to point out that there may be underlying reasons invisible to the observer, and that blanket judgment is unwise. Always unwise. I have written previously on this topic, but perhaps wasn’t clear enough here. I had no intention of attacking or reprimanding anyone suffering in any way. The purpose of this post was to generate discussion around theoretical ideas of what current dressing choices might become in the future, not to scold those living in the present. As I have said numerous times, what we wear may give  some information to observers, but it is never the whole story. Please see the comments on this post for additional discussion and input from those battling chronic depression and pain.

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As stylists and style experts go, I consider myself to be pretty open-minded. I don’t parrot rigid figure-flattery rules, I don’t insist that every woman dress to look as tall and thin as possible, and I don’t reprimand anyone who dresses outside the narrowly-defined version of “stylish” that populates fashion mags. It’s a big, diverse world, and there’s room for all of us in it.

BUT I do believe in dressing as a social act, and as such believe that we should dress not solely for ourselves but for our circumstances and environments. Unless you put on clothing and stay inside your house without interacting with any other humans, how you dress will impact other people. I don’t think we need to dress to please those around us, but I do think we need to dress appropriately for our activities and peers. That will mean different things to different people, of course, but here are a few extreme examples:

  • Don’t wear a bikini to the office. It isn’t appropriate to your task, and is likely to make those around you uncomfortable and distracted.
  • Don’t wear overalls to a funeral. It’s a solemn, emotional affair and deserves attire that will reflect respect.
  • Don’t wear a suit to go hiking. You’ll be uncomfortable, ill-equipped to complete your task, and likely to ruin what you’re wearing.

Those examples are all obvious, and I doubt most people would even consider such stylistic choices. But there are a few more common dressing choices that I’ve observed over the years, and I’ve been interested to see them discussed with tremendous interest, emotion, and anger across blogs and magazines over the years. I think of them as “sartorial slippery slopes.”

Pajamas and slippers as street wear: In my neighborhood, I regularly see people wearing printed pajamas and novelty slippers to walk around, do errands, etc. Many of us have seen PJ pants make appearances at the grocery store, on college campuses, and elsewhere and their appropriateness is the subject of hot debate. The argument that I see most often defending PJs as street clothing is that people who are ill or depressed or both often can’t do much more than head to Walgreens in their bedroom clothes, then head home. In all honesty, I believe that hauling on a pair of jeans, yoga pants, or clean sweats instead of kitty-printed pink PJ pants and bunny slippers is something that the majority of folks can manage. But naturally, there are significant exceptions. Nevertheless, I see no real need to transform bedroom-specific garments into acceptable street wear for all. There are about a million different garments that feel just as comfortable as pajamas and cost about the same amount of money, but don’t evoke sleeping and bedroom activities. When asked, “Why shouldn’t I be able to wear my PJs in public?” my question in response is, “Why is it important to do so?”

Exposed bra straps: Occasionally my straps peek out of a tank top during the dog days of summer, and I couldn’t give a hoot. Fancy affairs are different and I’ll change out my lingerie for those, but if I’m just headed to the movies or out for a bike ride, I’m not fussed about showing straps. However the discussions surrounding exposed bra straps trouble me. Most of what I’ve read in fashion mags tells me that if my bra straps are going to show, they need to be colorful, interesting, and sexy. And while that could merely be interpreted to mean, “If they’re gonna show, at least make it look intentional” it could also be interpreted to mean, “If they’re gonna show, why not take the opportunity to make yourself an alluring sexual object?” That doesn’t sit well with me. Any more than purposely showing the back side of a thong or top two inches of a pair of boxers does. In my opinion, underwear should remain under other clothing.

Extreme casual attire at traditionally dressy affairs: I’ve been to the opera a handful of times, and recently attended my first Broadway show. Each time I’ve shown up at these traditionally fancy affairs in my relatively fancy garb, I’ve seen men in cargo shorts and women in flip flops. And while I’ve said before that I don’t consider the rapid casualization of our dressing society to be a sign of the pending apocalypse, I do consider it to be a shame. While I see the benefits of relaxing dress codes on some fronts, I fail to see why they must be relaxed on all fronts. Leaving a few places and occasions off-limits for jeans-and-tees-level attire helps us to remember that life has pockets of formality, some events deserve our best duds, and that we may feel more connected to an experience if we dress in a way that makes us feel more attentive and attuned.

I consider all three of these dressing choices to be potential “sartorial slippery slopes.” They may seem harmless enough on their own, but they represent trends that might lead to even more unusual choice patterns. Taken to theoretical extremes:

Pajamas are meant to be worn while sleeping, or at the very least, within the confines of one’s own house and bedroom. Worn as street wear, they set a precedent for wearing traditionally contextual clothing out of context, breaking social agreements about appropriateness. Eventually, we COULD be wearing bikinis to the office if we condone the “everything, everywhere” mentality that PJs in the wild represents.

Exposing a bra strap may seem harmless enough, and on its own I suppose it is. But wearing a dark or colorful bra beneath a sheer top has become fairly widely accepted, and I’ve seen countless fashion magazines show actual bras worn with blazers and skirts as sanctioned shirt-substitutes. Slip dresses were all the rage in the 90s and bustier-style tops have been worn for ages, but the recent spate of actual underwear as streetwear that I’ve seen in celeb photos and glossy mags makes me wonder if the current choices may lead us to abandoning clothing altogether. (Or, at least, lead to women abandoning clothing altogether.) Another case of specific-use clothing – lingerie – being dragged out of context.

And casual-as-formal may be the most compelling example since it has been encroaching on more and more locations and occasions. It seems that personal comfort has become the most important consideration in all circumstances, regardless of social factors, tradition, and decorum.  If we’re wearing flip flops to the opera today, will we be wearing sweatsuits to our own weddings in 50 years?

Of course I’m sensationalizing and taking my examples to wild extremes, but I’m doing so to make a point and generate discussion. Slippery slopes exist everywhere, even in fashion, and I’m curious to hear if you think any of these three might lead to even more extreme stylistic circumstances. If not these, do you see other sartorial slippery slopes around you? Where might they lead?

REMINDER: Please be respectful and measured in your comments. I realize that this is a hot-button topic, but it CAN be discussed without devolving into harsh statements of judgment. You are absolutely entitled to your opinions and emotions, and we’d all love to hear them, but be as tolerant and kind as possible when expressing them.

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  • Rebecca

    A friend of mine told me that “sweatpants are a message to the world that you’ve given up.” After that, I wear them ONLY to work out and very, very occasionally for a trip to the corner store a few blocks away. It’s a nice reminder to at least put a pair of jeans on–again, that slippery slope thing.

    • Valentina

      Jerry tells George the same thing on an episode of “Seinfeld,” and it still rings true today!

  • I’ve had to be off campus and downtown a couple of times on workdays lately and so I’m going to say — I think sexualization of women’s workwear is kind of a slippery slope. This isn’t really happening in academia, because we’re out of the mainstream like that, but certainly what the 20-somethings think is appropriate for downtown work (banks and the like) has changed. Why do people wear pole-dancer heels to the office? You see them kind of staggering around on their lunchbreaks. What’s the point? There are nice, pretty low-heeled shoes out there. Wearing a mini-skirt suit MIGHT be seen as a sign that women have achieved equality and can wear anything anywhere thankyouverymuch, but we know that’s not actually true — so what is that mini-skirt or that bodycon suit really buying you in the office environment?

    • LK

      My last office all wore 6 inch heels. I thought it was weird. Glad I’m not the only one!

    • diane

      I’m with Cynthia. I struggle to not be judge-y about what my co-workers wear. I hate that women are the toughest on each other. That being said, I see SO many women dressed inappropriately in a professional environment. I have no problem with women feeling sexy and empowered, I’m all for it. But there’s a tipping point when their clothes are too suggestive. It hurts their credibility because they led with the sexy card, when their intelligence and expertise could have earned them more respect. I’m not suggesting anyone shun the things that make us pretty, feminine and sexy, but dial it down a notch at work.

    • I’m on the same page as Cynthia. As I read this article and came over to comment, the towering, “sexy” heels were the very first thing that came to mind. The “slow, staggering walk” thing is no joke. There’s not really an equivalent for men’s shoes that provides them a more challenging walking experience while showcasing their legs (unless they choose to dress in drag with heels, in which the intent is to look more female). In my observation, the very point of high heels, at the core, is sexualization of female legs (NOT in itself an bad thing), rather than to help our mobility and allow us to walk comfortably (or let us plant our feet or run, if we are unexpectedly threatened, as females often are). And over time, acknowledged or not, high heels can be extremely damaging to foot, leg, ankle and back health (to be fair, so can other shoes).

      I’ve experienced serious foot health issues at a young age (not necessarily caused by heels) which have allowed me to see what a privilege it is to walk, run, and even stand comfortably. And what life is like without that level of mobility. Perhaps that kind of perspective makes me extra sensitive to the subject, but it’s hard to see women donning shoes that can (and do) actually impair their walking ability. I believe they do so primarily because our society has created the idea (and the market) that these kinds of shoes will help them feel/be desirable, powerful, sexy, attractive, taller, etc (insert empowerment adjective here). And it’s been taken to such an extreme these days, way past say, the reasonable low-heeled pump for the office. Even women who walk well in heels are generally more careful and deliberate about their steps. Consider if, for the rest of your life, you only had the mobility level that a pair of towering, “sexy” heels allow. Does that really make us sexy or powerful in our everyday life? Again, high sexy heels are NOT inherently bad. There’s just another angle under the surface to think about, and I think many women don’t consider this perspective.

      I actually see the “undergarments used as layers” as less insidious on this front, especially when those undergarments look and act like functional layers of clothes. I mean, there’s no lasting health ramifications that I can think of, and if you have to run from danger, it’s only going to be a help to have the girls corralled and your vulnerable bits covered to your liking and comfort. I don’t necessarily mean a hot pink lacy cut-out bra under a sheer white top; but I have intentionally bought certain bras because their cut and cup/strap fabrication make them look like a cami under certain shirts without adding bulk or making me hot. Or, a pretty slip peeking out from under a short skirt or dress to add length. I guess I have a less rigid view on what category “box” a garments falls into (ie, “underwear” or “real clothes”) and am more interested in how something looks to me, how well it functions for me, and if it is appropriate for my lifestyle. Especially give the vast, seemingly infinite amount of garment variety out there.

      A final thought: as someone who has experienced severe crippling depression, changing out of pajamas to go out can feel difficult, but can also be one of those tiny, attainable steps available to make one feel a teeny tiny bit better. And those tiny steps contain self-worth and self-care that can lead down a path to getting real help to deal with an overwhelming situation or illness. On the other hand, as a once-broke college student dealing with high academic pressure and self-discovery, I’m also willing to give the younger set a bit of a break on that one 🙂

      Wow! That’s a lot. I guess that shoe thing causes me a lot of internal angst! Thanks for the outlet. Now that I think back, there was a time when I felt broken and like something had been taken away because I could no longer wear heels. My perspective has changed so dramatically that now a leg in a very high heel mainly looks awkward and uncomfortable. Weird how the mind works!

      • Genevieve

        As a person who struggles with depression and arthritis in my toes I couldn’t agree with you more!

    • Gabriela

      I see where you girls are coming from, but I love my heels! I don’t go as high as six inches but i definitely wear higher-than-normal shoes. I don’t go for the mini skirt or body con suits at work, but I love my heels no matter what!

      • Diane

        I’m a shoe girl too. I suppose it’s the overall combo that sets off the alarm. I’m Totally for a kick ass sexy shoe, except when its with a miniskirt plus a tube top and a leather jacket. It’s like the make up idea: smokey eye or bold lip, but not both. Edit it down and find the places you can really push the limits and feel good, without making people feel uncomfortable or second guess your intention. Btw, it kills me to change my beat for other people, but the bottom line is that not everyone tunes in to your style right off the bat. Ive worked with a woman who I adore, and by some kind of magic, she rocks the stilettos with beautiful outfits that are polished, confident, and completely work appropriate, but have an edge. She’s my fashion yoda. One day…

        • I see where you guys are coming from too. After all, it did take chronic pain and immobility to alter my perspective, hehe! I agree about balance and I love the make-up analogy. I do think heels under a pair of slacks or jeans look quite smart!

  • Carbon Girl

    About the people who are too depressed to not wear PJ’s. I can’t help but thinking that getting dressed, if just in yoga pants, would help even the tiniest bit. I am reminded of Kate (of Eat tha Damn Cake’s) latest post on her red lipstick.

    • I love Kate and ETDC!!! I read that red lipstick post and I totally agree 🙂

    • Katie

      Interesting thought Carbon Girl. I’ve noticed that the times I’m feeling the worst about myself are the times when I make an extra effort to dress up. I went through a rough time a couple of years ago when I was trying to finish my college thesis and had recently gone through a break-up. During that time, it was like the worse I felt the better I dressed. I made the effort to wear heels, skirts, and lipstick every day and wore some pretty great vintage clothes. I think it helped to take my mind off some of the stress and made me feel attractive, but I’ve noticed that now that I’m done with school and am in a happy relationship I don’t feel a need to dress up in the same way that I did. I still enjoy dressing up, but I don’t do it compulsively.

    • I’ll remember that, the next time I’m struck with debilitating depression.

      The problem with your statement is that when you are in the midst of depression, even when you KNOW that certain things will help you, it just doesn’t seem to matter, or you don’t have the energy.

      So yeah, while putting on nice clothes may help you feel a little better when you have a cold, I’ve noticed that it really doesn’t help much with depression.

      • Mag

        Totally agree with April

  • MM

    Interesting post. As far as the formal attire at certain events goes, I have to add one thought. As a professional classical musician, I see our audiences dwindling constantly. When discussing this phenomenon, I’ve heard the argument that people find classical music stuffy, outdated, or inaccessible BECAUSE of the perceived “necessity” for formal behavior and attire. Although I personally enjoy dressing for the opera or symphony, I certainly wouldn’t expect others to. Also, many of our audiences consist of college students who possibly cannot afford formal clothing and generationally have come of age in a very casual society. If comfortable and casual clothing is what it takes for people to attend these events, bring on the flip flops. I’m sure the mind and heart can be touched by fine music without reference to sartorial choice.

    • Sal

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing this perspective.

      • Miss T

        Many years ago, when my then boy friend and I were in our 20’s and were had very little money, we managed to get tickets to the symphony. My clothing was not a problem, but my boy friend (being 24 at the time and a poor college student) had NOTHING. But, we managed to put together a dashing outfit for him from what he already had. I suggested he dress all in black (black jeans, black t-shirt) and he happened to have a sort of reddish leather jacket that he thrifted from Salvation Army. Let me tell you: we were the best dressed couple there, basically for the “price” of a little forethought and care. And I think our attire showed that even though we were young, we had respect for the musicians and understood the importance of dressing appropriately for the occasion.

        • Eleanorjane

          Yeah, us too – when my husband and were poor students, we still put him in an op shop suit jacket and formal shoes to go to the Opera. It’s easier for girls go go formal cheaply, I think. But it’s not that hard for anyone and it adds to the sense of occasion and enjoyment.

    • MM, I came over here to say exactly the same thing–I’m a professional classical singer, and I think “come as you are” is pretty critical to continuing to attract audiences–or to attracting younger audiences, anyway. I think MN Opera did a big promo with Traviata last year to that effect, and many of the people sitting around me that night had never been to an opera before. I actually find it weirder when people don full-on formalwear to go to a non-premiere performance in a regional opera house, but hey! whatever gets people in the seats.

      • Isis

        In support of those of us who are wont to dress to the nines even for occasions that don’t necessarily demand it (such as non-opening nights, as you say), there are darn few opportunities out there! Since formalwear is never ‘expected’ any more, I’ve just had to make my peace with looking a little out of place in order to get to wear my fancy stuff.

        Another factor might be that clothing has gotten a lot cheaper over the course of the last century or so, and thus us non-wealthy folks can actually own nice formal clothes. In the past, those who owned the clothing could also afford the tickets (and time) to go to the opening night of the opera, and vice versa. Now, it’s a little weirder; I can’t afford to buy tickets to the ballet all the time, and so I’ve got a closet of spiffy formal duds and nowhere to go. Thus, I have to manufacture my own dress-up opportunities.

        Admittedly, even if I do splurge and go to a high-class show, there are still people in jeans and T-shirts, as was originally pointed out. It’s kind of lose-lose for a young person with a penchant for formality.

    • Trudy Blue

      I’ve spent years on the box office side of performing arts and this is a flaming-hot topic, with many arts people convinced that potential audiences are put off by the idea that they need to dress up. Lots of orchestras and operas advertise that they don’t have a dress code and some have even started casual nights aimed at 20-somethings.

      But what I have observed is that the younger attendees (say, high school through mid-thirties) are the most likely to dress well—and to look happy about it. Miss T gives a great example in her comment.

      I think a lot of us enjoy having a reason to wear nice clothes—whatever form those might take—and to look like we’ve grown up, or at least stepped out of our grungy routine for a night. And dressing well is how we each add to the cumulative feeling of glamor or excitement at a social event, or the feeling of reverence in church, or celebration at a nightclub. So the people who wear sweatshirts and flip-flops everywhere aren’t wrong, per se, but they do look like party poopers.

      • Linnet

        Yes, that’s exactly what we’ve noticed too. To the point where I think the younger people especially are actually desperately looking for an excuse to dress up, make a special event out of the night.

    • I’m in my 20s, and I don’t make much money, but I love to dress up. I also like people-watching when others are dressed up. Every time I go to a play or some similar event I’m always kind of disappointed in how casual everyone else is. It’s not like I’m decked out in fine designer clothes either, but I’m certainly not in jeans and flip flops. I don’t think anyone is asking people to show up in some gown a celebrity wore to the Oscars; they just want to see a little more effort than your finest jeggings. You can get a little black dress from TJ Maxx for under $30, and even cheaper at the thrift store. Looking decent and showing a modicum of respect for the performance doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, and it doesn’t have to be boring or stuffy either… I wear my $15 LBD with inexpensive accessories like bright tights and hairpieces.

    • Rachel

      I was coming here to post about the same thing. I feel that there’s been quite a deliberate attempt to make classical music feel less exclusive by lowering the barriers of dress, and for the most part I think it’s actually working. You won’t enjoy the music any less in you’re wearing jeans, and some people would be turned off if they felt they had to dress up, or worse, if they didn’t know what they were “supposed” to wear or felt they didn’t have the right clothes. When I go to the opera, I see people in clothes ranging from very casual to very formal, and I think that’s great. The important thing is that they’re there, they’re supporting the arts, and (hopefully) they’re enjoying themselves.

  • Yes! Thanks! I saw a woman out in her pj bottoms and slippers the other day day and was appalled by it. Life may be a little more casual now, but not that casual!

  • MM

    I also meant to add that asking those who are unused to formal dress to wear it may make them more “attentive and attuned” to their pantyhose riding up or unaccustomed shoes pinching than to the performance they are attending.;)

  • Valerie

    I don’t think that comfort and decorum are opposite ends of the spectrum. Clothes and shoes that fit well and are appropriate to task, can be found in across the range of casual to dressy. It’s like etiquette. According to Emily Post, while the degree of formality might vary, the level of courtesy is constant.

    • Rebecca

      Well-fitting clothes & shoes CAN be found, but how many college students or otherwise poor people have the time, inclination, or money to find them? When I was in college, I owned one dress and one pair of non-sneakers. I bought them at the thrift store on campus and wore them unhappily whenever I felt like the occasion demanded dressy clothes. The dress was unflattering and the shoes made blisters on my heels, but they were all I had. And yes, I was distracted from the content of the fancy occasions by my discomfort. If I had been allowed at the opera in my jeans I would have gotten so much more out of it!

      • Gabriela

        I’m a college student and have a well tuned wardrobe full of dressy, professional, and casual options. I don’t think I’ve paid more than $50 for any one item (many of them are investment pieces that I’ve searched for and found great deals on, all of which I’ve purchased out of my own pocket) and while I have put a little more effort into forming and maintaining a great wardrobe(if I do say so myself) I can tell you it is so worth it in the long run! I love to dress myself and feel far more out of place and uncomfortable if I feel I’m not dressed well, or dressed to the occasion.

  • I’ll play devil’s advocate on your last example: as a professional theatre manager, while it does dishearten me to see people in torn jeans and flip flops at the theater, high arts like theatre, opera, and the symphony are seen as unattainable. I’d rather have patrons walk through the door and experience a live performance (and do so repeatedly), than worry that the arts weren’t for them because they couldn’t dress for them.

    • PollyD

      As someone who also has been involved in the performing arts, I think it’s the ridiculous price of tickets, especially for professional performances, that make the fine arts seem unattainable, especially for younger people (also the fact that you have to buy very far in advance to see some shows, or buy a subscription series). I attend a lot of community theater events, which are much cheaper, and those have pretty full audiences. There’s a wide range between ball gowns and flip flops. A nice jersey dress from Target and a nice pair of sandals is comfortable and won’t break the bank. Likewise for guys, khakis, a buttondown, and a nice pair of loafers. All can be bought at price points suitable for most people. I know – I was a grad student and then a postdoc, living in a rather expensive part of the country and it never would have occurred to me to wear ratty shorts or flip flops to a show (as I said, the bigger problem was the ticket prices).

      I get and sympathize with the desire to expose the widest number of people to the arts, but I really don’t think fear of a dress code is a major factor in this. I could list some of the outrageous outfits last time I was at the Kennedy Center, but it would take way too.

  • Cat

    I think there are enough people who are concerned about their appearance that wearing PJ’s to the store won’t become the norm. I’m more concerned about how easy it is to get on a personal slippery slope. When I worked in a call center it was easy to think “No one sees me anyway” and I quit wearing makeup, put my hair in a pony tail daily. Did I think about my co-workers and family who saw me? What about the effect it had on my own mood and confidence? In the past I wore whatever I could “get by with” and I think that’s what most people are doing with the loosened clothing standards. But I think you and others like you encourage us not to be satisfied with that.

    • Katharine

      Hee. You aren’t in a university town, I see. There are two universities where I live, and pyjamas in the store are the norm for most of the female students (either that or sweatpants with pink logos on the butt), worn with Uggs and hoodies — and perfectly done hair and a full face of makeup.

      The pyjamas trend may be BECOMING a sign of slipping standards as it gets adopted across a wider swathe of people, but among the kids, it is exactly that — a trend, and is in no way meant to convey that they are too depressed to put on real clothes or don’t care about their appearance.

      • PollyD

        This – perfectly done hair and a full face of makeup – made me snicker in recognition. When I was in college so many girls wore perfectly matched sweatpants and sweatshirt (yoga pants really weren’t around then) along with the perfect hair and makeup. And this was when big Jersey hair was popular, so you KNOW they didn’t just roll out of bed looking like that. Yeah, I don’t think the sweatsuits were a sign of being depressed or not caring about their appearance, either. It was just the cool thing to do.

        I think the difference is that, back then, most of us recognized that although people dressed like this in college, it wouldn’t fly out in the world.

      • Eliza

        I’m at a school with a lot of hipsters and theater students, which means that a large proportion of the school uses clothing as a means of self expression. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone wearing pajama pants around campus. We’re much more likely to have people wearing suits with sparkling pinstripes or oversized, chartreuse silk pirate shirts! It’s definitely an enviroment where almost anything goes, which on the one hand is wonderfully freeing, but on the other, makes me wonder how we will all have to addapt our definitions of appropriate when we graduate.

  • You read my mind! I ran into a coffee shop late Sunday morning for a latte and the two young ladies in front of me in line were still dressed in their flannel pajama pants and even fuzzy slippers. And I thought that was just plain lazy and inappropriate.

    And on the subject of dressing up for the theater: I love to dress up for the theater and symphony. I wish everyone would do so a bit also. It makes it into a special event and somehow feels good to get all dressed up!

  • LinB

    Agreed. Clothing is different for different occasions, FOR A REASON!!!!! Otherwise we should all just opt for a Chairman Mao uniform for all people all the time. Special occasions should be reserved for special clothing. Office wear should be modest and unassuming, so that all in the office can focus on their reason to be there: WORK. Save leisure wear for leisure time. Swimwear is for swimming. Sleep wear is for sleeping. Some sports require special clothing — wear it then, not to the opera. Some occupations require special clothing, for reasons of safety or utility — wear it then, not to a wedding. Thus endeth the lesson; and all the people said, “Amen.”

  • I’m with ya, Sal, and glad to know I’m not the only one bugged by the evolving acceptability of visible bra straps, or even bras. When DH and I went to the opera once in downtown LA, I was shocked to see people show up in jeans and sneakers.

  • Angela

    Right on again Sal. I was in my local mall, everyone was dressed like crap and half of them looked like they hadn’t showered either, on Remembrance day ( equivalent of your veterans day) so you have a day off work and you don’t have to wash??

    I think society’s casual dressing is spilling into our casual attitude about everything, friendships are online, not in person, no one is courteous to anyone else, work wise or socially…I’m starting to rant now, but as my dad used to say (related to his beloved soccer teams) “look smart, play smart”

    Once you travel down that sloppy (slippery, lol) slope of not caring how you look, you stop caring about everything else too

    • Kay

      I’m thinking people dressing more casually is actually because of the casual attitude about everything, not the other way around. I think you start to not care about how you look when you’ve stopped caring about everything else.

      The thing that really got me about your comment was the not showered at the mall thing. First: Why must I shower on my day off? Sometimes I just need a break from showering. I like to get dressed up and put on makeup and do my hair, but that’s an hour long process when I have the time. And on my day off (which are few), I don’t always have the time. And to me, the mall isn’t a place that requires me to shower. Second: Me not showering for one day does not make me dirty. I don’t sweat at my desk job and by the time I get home I’m going to bed. I’m not a sleep sweat-er (unless I’m sick or having a nightmare and when that happens I do shower). One day without a shower basically just means I didn’t shave my legs that day and my hair will get a bit greasy. But I have a friend that can shower 3 times a day and her hair is still greasy like she hasn’t showered in days. Just because you assume people haven’t showered does not mean they haven’t, and even if they haven’t, so what? I’m not trying to say “who cares if someone wants to be stinky!”. More, that every body is different. Every person is different. All of our perceptions are different.

      Knowing that people out there really are judging me for the way I look just adds to the already in place anxiety about getting dressed every day. I realize that you have to dress appropriately for things like jobs, going out, hiking, whatever. But do I really need to worry about what people are thinking about me when I drag my ass outta bed on the worst day of my life just to go to the store and I just don’t want to put on “real” clothes? Should we all really be so focused on what other people are wearing? If you like what you’re wearing, that’s great. Not everyone will. But don’t judge what other people are wearing, even if it is something inappropriate because you just cannot know the reasoning behind it. And no matter what, it doesn’t really matter. Just be happy that you feel good about what you’re wearing and leave it at that.

  • Jen

    I have a few very lovely semi-formal cocktail dresses I adore and would love to find occasion to wear more often. However, when I drag them out and put them on I find I feel overdressed for the occasion (dinners out, evening at the theatre, even a wedding) because other patrons or guests are so dressed down. These are establishments where one might expect well-dressed clientele, or even a dress code (I hate those though!) but I will see many in jeans and rumpled tops. Don’t get me wrong-I love an evening out in my denim and sweatshirt enjoying a burger and beer with my boys. But sometimes a girl wants to show off her girly side too! And when I get side glances from dressed down diners at upscale restaurants, it can put a damper on an evening. Sigh.

    • Sal

      It’s true. I’m sure that the casual-ization of dress is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for that very reason.

    • T.

      I understand completely. Sometimes I want to dress up for an evening out, but when I do, I feel like others think I didn’t get the memo that we don’t need to do that any more!

    • Miss T

      Yes, this is my problem, too, just about everywhere. I love to dress “right” (or as right as I can get it) for every occasion/place, and I constantly get looks that don’t seem to be approving, and certainly make me feel uncomfortable. It might be slightly regional, though: when visiting NOLA a few years ago, my boyfriend and I “dressed” for every dinner. More than one cabbie asked us where we were from and when we said “California”, they were SHOCKED, saying that nobody from CA ever “dresses” for dinner, which is de rigeur in the South.

    • Every once in a while, I get a pang of intense anxiety about my outfits versus the outfits of the other patrons at an event. Recently, my roommate and I attended a fundraiser for the local United Way. There was a circus theme, and the dress code was “Black Tie or in Costume.” Roomie and I dressed up as clowns (clowns who were invited to a Black Tie event, who dressed up the way they thought was appropriate for a fancy party). When we arrived, however, we found out the in the hours before the event started, the organizers changed the dress code to be less formal. Almost no one showed up in costume. As we got out of the cab, I thought to myself: “Oh, shit. We’re the only ones who are in costume… I kind of want to go home.” And then I took myself firmly by the shoulders, and told myself off, went into the party, and was told repeatedly how awesome my costume was, and how much the other patrons wished that they’d dressed up, too.

      That feeling I get when I see other people looking at my sideways when I’m much more dressed up than anyone else sucks. I hate it. So I always tell myself that the people who are looking at me intently, sideways, whatever, are thinking one of three possible things (EVEN if they aren’t thinking this at all):

      1) Oh, look how dressed up she is, I wonder why she’s so fancy!
      2) Oh, look how dressed up she is! She looks awesome!
      3) Of, look how dressed up she is. I wish I’d gotten more dressed up.

      Convincing myself of that makes all the bad feelings go away!

      • Hi, Becca, I bet you they are thinking number 2&3! at least that’s what I think when I see someone dress up on the street.

      • GlamaRuth

        My husband says that you can always take off your tie and jacket, but you can’t wish you’d brought them and put them on once you’ve arrived.

      • jaya

        and add think bubble 4- (oh, she dressed up. maybe it’s some special occasion! She looks amazing. I wish I had a reason to dress formal..) and add green fumes coming out of their ears… wont look like disapproval then 😀

    • Veronica

      I am disappointed with it as well. I have a few dresses that rarely get worn because events are so casual now-a-days, except for attire specific weddings. 🙂 Just this past Friday my dh took me to the Kennedy Center to see the NSO for my birthday, I was really excited. While a lot of people were dressed nicely, as we were, there were still quite a few in business casual. While I was thinking that maybe they could’ve put a little more thought into it I was glad to see no jeans and hoodies. Then on our way back to our seats after intermission what do I see? Jeans and a hoodie. It was very sad imo. Being a SAHM the only times I get to ‘dress up’ is for my dh’s company winter party and if I’m invited to a wedding or a random nice date night. Even when we were really poor, me a waitress and him a full time college student, I put effort into my outfit if we went somewhere nice. I’ve done that as long as I can remember, which may make me a girly girl but I don’t care. People should just show some effort imo.

  • Robert

    Your really a great writer! I wish i could write like that! Thank-you for being so open-minded..In the age of computers,we are constantly re-inventing ourselves. I agree with most of your points!
    Just look how far we have gone with lingerie! I’m fairly shure today’s fashion will lead to more stylistic circumstances..I also think “Proper Attire” has gone to the way side on some Level…
    Love those bunny slippers!!

  • Elin

    Interesting topic, Sal! Going to high school and college in the Midwest during grungy 90’s, I remember being admonished for dressing up for a special night. While times have changed, I think it’s still common for people to feel that dressing up is something they HAVE to do, so they just don’t want to do it. I have always enjoyed dressing up and playing with fashion – no matter the occassion. But, I know that there will always be LOTS of opportunities to say, ‘what were they thinking wearing THAT to THIS event?’

    And maybe people are just more dressed up in Atlanta, but I rarely see pjs in public anymore. I like that I don’t see it!

  • Stephanie Davidson

    I also think this ties into a past post that you wrote dealing with fashion and how it can be a ‘level of importance’ for some people. More important for some and not so important for others. I find it just fine to run to Walmart on a Saturday morning in some yoga pants and a tank. Am I letting myself go? Am I on a slippery slope? Nope. It’s Walmart and I am trying to get in and out and spend the rest of the day chilling out with my family. Fashion on a Saturday morning? Not so important to me.

    Now I don’t wear my slippers because I wouldn’t want them to get dirty. My bra always matches the shirt I am wearing if it is going to be showing the straps and I would make an effort for a special event. I think that’s just where I place fashion in my day to day and its level of importance in my life.

    So when some get offended and others don’t I think it ties into level of importance. Not always but it could be one of the reasons.

    Great post!

  • I think it’s interesting that as a culture, our sartorial lines have shifted towards casual wear. Only a couple of decades ago, men and women were expected to dress more formally and covered up – think hats and gloves for women, suits and ties for men, worn during occasions we would now consider informal (meals out with friends, movies.) There was very little casual wear available, and it was reserved for sports and other activities that required clothes which were easier to move in.

    As our country has shifted away from formal wear, our clothing has become increasing casual. It does not surprise me to see pajama pants at the supermarket anymore. We are much more relaxed as a culture, so it makes sense our clothing would reflect that. The proliferation of virtual communication, such as that through instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, has put less emphasis on dressing formally. When we can’t see how the other person looks, we care less about our own uniforms and clothing that’s considered socially appropriate.

    • jaya

      I agree. I live in a place where some people cover up their shape via burqa and some others always wear business casual. it is important in this culture that skin is covered.

      my take is, a tshirt and yoga pants cover up more of the body than most dresses available now. yes, one can wear a pretty top and pull on some jeans.. but is that really so different from pj’s?

      i get that the fashionistas who really take the time to look well put together might think it is lazy. Yet, I do not think friends getting together for tea will be wearing pj’s .

  • T.

    I’m wondering if this increasingly-casual approach is happening more in the US than in Europe. My husband travels internationally quite a bit, and he has observed that the American travelers are much more likely to wear shorts and flip flops on the plane than are people from other countries. Maybe some of your readers from outside the US could comment on that.

    • Hi T, here in Argentina everytime we see someone with a T-shirt, shorts, sunglasses and a camera on a hand we know he/she is American, It’s seems like and uniform when they travel abroad. My boss lives in California and visits the office here in B.A. twice a year, he loves the working dress code, but everytime he visit us regarding business, he forgets his tie, jaja

    • Mia

      To some extent, though, a plane isn’t a good indicator of formality. Most of us (here in the US, at least), try to dress in whatever makes it easiest to get through security, where you have to do everything short of stripping naked. I would guess that people from other countries don’t do the same because their national airport security standards might not be so ridiculous?

      • GlamaRuth

        Paul Fussel in his book Class and Alison Lurie in The Language of Clothes, both books breaking down social indicators, comment on this phenomenon. They are a few decades old, but the point about US tourist-wear holds up. Americans on vacation tend to dress like kids – which gives some indication of how we tend to think of the rest of the world as our playground.

    • Sonja

      I was waiting for someone to bring up the difference between the US and Europe, T.!
      Because this is not the first US-blog where I’ve read the discussion about pajamas in the supermarket, and I’m always thinking “WHAT?” I think in Europe nobody would ever leave the house in nightwear! In sweatpants, yes, but in pajamas and slippers? I’m even thinking that in the German countryside, where my parents live, the shop owners might ask those people to leave or call the police…

    • Isis

      This is precisely why I make sure to dress up just a smidge when traveling. Not fancy, just snappy. I enjoy contradicting the stereotype.

    • I agree with Mia that the airport isn’t the best place to look at those cultural differences, but I think in large cities with tourist destinations, it’s pretty easy to pick out. My husband and I went to Paris for the first time this spring and went out of our way to dress nicely, and dress like we lived there, not like we were on vacation somewhere tropical. We had only lovely, polite experiences with the French, whereas a friend of ours who went the month before us and didn’t bother with what he wore complained of rude waiters and snobby Parisians on the subway. I know our (rather poor) attempts at speaking French helped as well, but I think the way we dressed was also a large factor in not standing out. Like so many other situations where nicer dress is appropriate, it’s all about showing respect for your surroundings and the people around you — in this case, not treating Paris like it’s the local Six Flags.

    • Exactly. You can always tell Americans walking around, say, Paris because they’re the ones in sweatshirts, jeans, & big white tennis shoes while Europeans are in dressier clothes.

      Even European teenagers dress better — they tend to wear trendy jeans, fancy sunglasses, & look like they stepped out of “Vogue.”

      • Sonja

        On the other hand, many nationalities can be easily spotted when leaving their country. Many German tourists, for example, usually dress up in a kind of ourdoorsy safari clothes, as if they were going to the jungle, even if it’s only the urban jungle of Paris or London, and combine this look with sandals + (white) socks. :-/

  • Anna

    Yes, indeed! I agree with all these points (with exceptions noted by the professional arts contributors about making performances accessible and nonthreatening to all).

    May I add a couple more:

    Is cleavage now required in business environments?

    And what about casual drawstring pants in plaid flannel, now widely available, which look exactly like pajama pants? I have to look twice to tell the difference, and even then it’s practically impossible. (I suspect they are made by the same manufacturers from the same patterns but then marketed as pajama pants vs. street wear.)

    • Oh, I wish I could avoid cleavage in my business clothes…but for some reason, tops in my size (I’m just into plus sizes, mostly because of the *expletive deleted* bust) are all incredibly lowcut, at least on my 38G-but-trim-through-the-shoulder frame. Yes, I can add a cami, but those tend to be kinda low on me too, and too darn hot much of the year.. So, unless I never reach forward, there’s just going to be cleavage. I’ve given up.

      I suspect this is because a lower neck is more flattering on people built like me (trust me, a turtleneck is a scary proposition, but jeez, clothing manufacturers, let me buy a little decorum!

  • I’m with you on all of this. I suppose I care least about bra straps, partly because I’m de-sensitized to it now, and partly because some tops are designed in a way as to inherently expose straps—tank tops, as you point out. But then again, one can always switch bras, or strap configurations. Bras are available with seventeen strap configurations these days.

    The general feel where I live is, “I can’t really be bothered to get dressed, and I don’t care.”

    What’s really interesting is what I’ve been seeing in job interviews. Maybe I should post about that.

    • PollyD

      (settling in with some popcorn and clicking over to your blog to see if you have…)

  • Valentina

    I am one of those people who thinks that “the rapid casualization of our dressing society to be a sign of the pending apocalypse”, as well as someone who puts a very high priority on comfort. So no pajamas in public for me! Sometimes I think that boundaries are slowly dissolving: always accessible via social media, public and private lives are getting harder to separate for some people. I like my privacy, I like not always being able to be reached, I like dressing up and I like wandering around my house in a big old Joann Whorley caftan.

  • Kat

    I’m a classical musician (amateur, but actively performing) and agree with the other performing artists on the thread: I just want an audience full of people who really want to hear the music. Classical music is struggling enough without a stuffy and unfamiliar concert experience; I’d like to see the experience becoming more casual and welcoming. (But I do love the opportunity to dress up, as a performer; it justifies owning fancy clothes I never wear anywhere else.)

    I wore PJs to college classes once or twice mostly just because I could, but I always felt, well, undressed. I’ll wear them to check the mail and put out the trash and even then I’m a little embarrassed if my neighbors see me.

  • Lynn

    I have to agree with you, Sal. Part of my job is with a think tank on a college campus that hosts a speakers series for the community. We have had to add a specific training session on appropriate attire for our student assistants who have shown up in pajama pants, low cut tops, torn jeans, visible underwear, etc. They ae great people, but they do not realize it is just not professional or respectful. I went to a funeral last week and people were wearing rumpled old tee shirts and jeans. It just made a sad situation even sadder.

  • Anna D.

    See, the thing I like about the casualization of traditionally formal events (like concerts/theater) is that I think it opens up the experience to a wider range of people. I realize the argument might be that everyone has some kind of “nice” clothing they can wear to such an event, and that if you don’t have anything formal-ish you may well not have money to go to such events. But I still think that casual clothes to the theater results in a democratization of such events, which I think is important. I’d rather have more people go to concerts/theater/opera dressed casually than have fewer people attend because of the formal dress aspect.

    Otherwise, I generally agree.

    • Anna D.

      (Posted before I saw similar comments above! Oh well.)

  • I’ve always been a bit overdressed but I never really cared what other people wore, until a few years ago. A bunch of my friends gathered at a house prior to going all together to a friend’s wife’s funeral. My husband was the only man in a suit and I was the only woman in a dress. Almost everyone were wearing jeans. I was completely appalled. When the host and hostess of the meet-up house saw us, they both paled, then changed. When we arrived at the funeral, I was so embarrassed both for my friends and the widower. All of the older people were dressed in appropriate clothing, but almost everyone my age wore jeans. It seemed so disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The interesting side effect of this event was that my husband decided it was time to get rid of “business casual” and upgrade his wardrobe. He said it was time to start dressing, in his words, like a grown man instead of a big man-child.

    • I find that appalling too. In my 20s I had to attend the funeral of my dear friend’s mother and it would NEVER have crossed my mind to throw on a pair of jeans and go. I don’t understand how anyone, regardless of age could think that was appropriate! At the time I had very little to choose from but wanted to demonstrate my respect for the occasion so I ended up wearing a simple black shirt-dress from H&M, which was the best I could do at the time.

    • Hi Andrea, I agree with you husband too! there are clothes for big man-childs and clothes for grown man. They can use both, but separately, according to the occasion.

      • jaya

        I want a like button under each comment.

        Yes, there is a time for a man (and woman) to grow up, and it seems “its a free country” means you can decide when (or never) to grow up.

  • sarah

    exposing a bra strap is sexualizing??? sorry, I disagree. I just think that if bra strap exposure is inevitable, I’d rather display a pretty, harmonious color than dingy old white or beige. In fact, exposed beige or white could be an even greater underwear-signifier. A brighter color may simply give the impression of a layered tank. Besides, the color only draws attention to your shoulders. It’s not like you’re drawing circles and arrows around your nips.

    • LQ

      I agree with this. I find beige, utilitarian bra straps sloppy and upsetting and slippery slope-ish, in more or less the same way as sweats-everywhere. But intentional-looking exposed bra straps don’t at all strike me as 1. sloppy or 2. hypersexualized so long as it’s just the shoulder strap that’s exposed and not the chest part. (Lingerie that’s deliberately worn more exposed, as clothing, is a whole different discussion. This comes up every few years — I think it was Dior a couple of years ago that showed a lot of lingerie dresses. It’s an aesthetic one may choose to quarrel with for reasons of politics or taste, but it’s not the same topic as bra strap exposure.) So but intentional bra strap exposure — it’s not a *polished* look, sure, but it’s neither disastrous nor indecent.

      For me it’s a question of necessity to some degree. As a 36G with a very dense heavy chest I can tell you that, while strapless solutions do technically exist and I have used them in very formal situations, they’re extremely cumbersome, hot, and uncomfortable and are thus unsuitable to deploy on an everyday basis. So the alternative to occasional strap exposure is never to wear a strappy top or dress in the heat of summertime. Fletch that. I do have some Second Base half-camis in the Meredith and Celeste styles that are great for covering the kind of bra straps one cannot possibly pass off as intentional (ha) in a casual day or casual evening context, respectively, so those with bra exposure issues should look into that.

    • Sonja

      Where I live now (Barcelona, Spain), it is very, very normal to expose your bra straps, as it is usually warm and women go sleeveless. I’ve seen several ways of dealing with this – some women just don’t care, some – like me – try to match the bra colour to the colour of the top, some even create interesting deliberate effects with layering bra, camisole, tank top etc, and many young women, especially those who have more of a hippie-style, even go braless.
      What worries me a tiny bit are the young girls. I personally agree with you, sarah, that I don’t see the visible bra strap necessarily as a sign of sexualization. But I know from reading this same discussion on other sites on the internet that there are many people who do so. And if those young girls wear visible bra straps, in addition to those clingy tops and tiny shorts that are so “in” now, there are conveying the image of an sexually active, even alluring adult woman. They have the absolute right to do so, but what worries me is the fact that they might not be aware of this, or of what effects they may cause. Many of those girls might not be prepared for being looked at or being approached by boys/men. I do not want to imply any of those horrible arguments about sexiness in dressing and “provoking men”, God, no! But I think that visible bra straps nowadays are part of a young girls’ uniform that just might be too much for some of them.

  • Tara

    When we were getting ready to leave college for Thanksgiving break, I noticed my (American) freshman roommate, who up to this point had worn jeans and sweatshirts, dressing up in a nice blouse and slacks and putting on makeup for her train ride back home. She was taught that you dress up when you are travelling. While I make sure I am never wearing PJs or sweatshirts when I travel, it wouldn’t have occurred to me not to wear jeans if I am travelling for my own leisure. (If I am travelling for work, I always dress in a way that’s respectful for my position). Point being, not too long ago (even long ago for my roommate to have been taught by her parents), travel would have been such an unusual and special opportunity that we would have dressed with respect for the occasion. Do our flip-flops and shorts on international flights signal that we now take our mobility for granted?

    • Sloppiness at airports is a personal pet peeve of mine! I definitely understand the desire to dress for comfort, especially as travel times are growing longer due to delays and plane seats grow more and more constricted, but I think one can still dress with an attention toward comfort without looking like you are about to attend a sleepover for 12 year olds. I personally find that I always feel a little grungy and gross while traveling and therefore a little extra effort toward my appearance helps to boost my mood and I therefore deal better with any travel-related headaches. And after any international flight I take myself immediately to the bathroom upon landing to refresh or else I feel like death and treat everyone around me accordingly…

      • Isis

        Dressing up a bit for travel can also have its perks. I’ve found that looking like a professional grown-up tends to elicit a higher level of courtesy from everyone, from TSA agents to flight attendants. Sure, I need to be a little more prepared and un-lace my shoes rather than just kicking off flip flops, but it’s worth it. Needless to say, I also lament the extremely sharp decline in travel formality.

        • jaya

          yes. “looking like a professional grown-up tends to elicit a higher level of courtesy from everyone” . Worked for me.

    • I agree with this too. I’m not offended by flip flops in airports, but I do take exception to leggings worn as pants, in airports. For some reason, they bother me more in that environment than they do in the street, and I’m not talking about leggings with a tunic-length top, which would be fine. Maybe this is because when you’re traveling, you are representing your nation–even small regional airports have international travelers passing through. Of course you should be comfortable when you travel, but there’s no shortage of comfortable clothes that also look neat and pulled together.

  • A few years ago I was taken on a trip to Las Vegas. I worried during the packing & the flight that my clothes were too casual and I’d stand out like a ragamuffin. Found myself rather disappointed that all the gambling casinos were filled with people wearing cut-off jeans, flip-flops, and tank tops. Don’t get me wrong, I crunch granola with the best of them. I enjoy & wear those kinds of clothes every day during the hot weather months working on our farm. Despite the fact that I don’t care for gambling, however, I was sorry to see that the veneer of glamour was gone.

    I joke about “dressing in drag” when I wear makeup and heels, but sometimes it’s fun, you know?

    • Isis

      So true! I couldn’t believe it the first time I went to Vegas. I didn’t even *bring* any jeans, so I was in dresses and stockings the whole time. I was extremely disappointed to see everyone shuffling around in shorts, even in the evenings. Also, what happened to the famous Las Vegas lounge clubs? I confused the heck out of a concierge when I asked after something like that (cocktails, crooners, that sort of thing). All I got was a blank stare.


      • The only time I’ve been in Las Vegas was last April for a rockabilly festival, so everywhere I went were ladies in stylish dresses, gloves, hats, heels and gentlemen in slacks or trousers with shirts (some with ties) and hats. There were a lot of amazing tattoos, and definitely some casual wear during the day for the pool parties, but for the most part, everyone was dresses to the nines.

        When my friend and I took a tour of The Strip before we left, everyone had the same uniform of jeans and tees, shorts and flip flops. It was really weird to see around the elegance of some of the casinos and shops, like the Bellagio. I’d assumed everyone would be swinging, sipping cocktails and smoking cigarettes. (I was right about the cigarettes!)

  • Courtney

    I think we’re in this awkward cultural phase where people don’t want to be told what to do, but we’re still being judged on the quality/appropriateness of our clothing. We want to wear pajamas to Walgreen’s, but people are going to judge us if we do — whether they will admit it or not. We don’t want to be told we’re going to look wrong and inappropriate if we don’t put forth the effort to wear a suit to work, but people are going to look down their noses and maybe not promote us if we don’t. Judge is a dirty word to today’s Americans, but we all do it, and clothes are one of the most obvious traits you see upon meeting a person.

    Basically, we need to go one way or the other. Either we throw out the idea of appropriate clothing and manage to convince society that clothes cannot be a factor in how you judge another person (really hard and possibly unwarranted), or we suck it up and wear the right clothes (less hard but feels more constraining).

    Although one thing I don’t agree with you on is the pajama pants on the street thing. “Street clothes” is about the least definable clothing you can think of. I’ve seen everything from suits to pajama pants to black leather fetish wear on the street. I feel like you can’t instruct people to wear certain things when they’re lounging around outdoors; there really is no appropriate wear for that besides “whatever suits the activity you’re doing and the weather.” You don’t wear a suit to go hiking not because the outdoors demands a different kind of outfit, but because it will get dirty and uncomfortable and torn up, and the shoes won’t help you climb well. Once you go into an establishment, though, there are standards, because that establishment is put there for a purpose, by people who will judge you for what you wear. The outdoors is just the outdoors.

  • My brother always used to say to me (quoting Mr. Foxworthy, I do believe): “If your bra has straps, but your dress doesn’t, you’re probably a redneck.” This was usually said to me when I was wearing a specific kind of tank top that showed my bra straps (racerback tank, for example). At the time, being pre-breast reduction, my over the shoulder boulder holders had VERY thick straps, and the only kind of tank tops that were flattering on me were those with spaghetti straps (or so I thought at the time), so my bra straps were showing pretty much all the time. It wasn’t until I had a breast reduction (and could wear strapless and halter bras) that I really started experimenting with different undergarments and top combinations.

    As for sweat pants and PJs in public… Well, you know the story! Needed to start a style blog to stop wearing those damned yoga pants EVERYWHERE I went. 🙂

    • Ha! to the Foxworthy quote. A few weeks ago I saw a young woman on the bus wearing a tube top over a regular bra. I was quick to cite this to my friends as a perfect example of what a klassy-with-a-k area I live in. I don’t mind bra straps peeking out from a tank top (and don’t find it sexualizing at all), but a strapless top over a regular bra? C’mon now.

    • Aya

      I maintain that racerback tanks (which I like!) should all come with little tags alerting the consumer to the existence of racerback bras.

      • @Aya — Racerback bras aren’t always an option. I just don’t wear racerback tanks, because I wear a 28J bra size, and I’ve never once seen a racerback bra in anything even approaching my size.

        • Aya

          Wow, I didn’t know they were a limited in availability by size. Thanks for the insight!

          • When you get above a certain cup size, or even a certain cup/band ratio, a lot of bra manufacturers simply stop making bras in your size. The ones who do tend to cut well back on available styles. I’m “only” a 38DDD/F, which puts me miles and miles ahead of GlassCannon and some other folks on the thread on the “being able to find things in my size” front, but I haven’t seen a racerback advertised that will fit me in ages, even in specialty stores, and I have seen maybe one “convertable” bra in three years, in beige.

            Sometimes an exposed bra strap is just an exposed bra strap, y’know? And all of mine are fancy shmancy and different colors, because if I need to spend $50-$100 on a bra in my size, I’m sure as heck making sure it looks as awesome as possible.

  • The casual movement for special occasions saddens me – to me, it makes those events less special, less meaningful. I have always been the dressiest one in the room at any event, and have felt the eyes upon me when everyone else is dressed in jeans.

    I was quite poor for a very long time, but you can easily thrift a dress or a nice jacket for a few dollars and make that effort to respect the event, and its host/hostess.

    My hope is that the rebound effect will happen: the Casual Generation will lead to the swing the other way of people dressing more formally. I can hope!

    • PJ

      Agree completely. Last year went to a concert at the symphony. The woman behind me made some completely snarky comments to her husband about how I was dressed up, that I had worn high heels. Black and cream checked dress, black tights, black pumps, not flashy.

      I was sitting in a beautiful building, listening to a wonderful musician (the musicians were all well dressed) that we had saved up to see. I won’t say it ruined it for me, but it made me feel hurt. The tyranny of the casual. Nor do I feel it is class related as casual wear has become more expensive. Jeans aren’t the $15 Levi shrink to fit things they used to be, are they?

      • Eleanorjane

        Jeez! Did you turn around and tell her to shut up! Or at least glare? How incredibly rude of her. She was probably feeling threatened by how good you looked. Stay strong and stay beautiful!

  • Mel

    Interesting that you should post about this today.

    Today I am going to the funeral for my uncle. He had a hard life, and caused a lot of pain to others throughout it, and yet….here I am, dressed in my best dress & nylons, wanting to dress so that I am showing respect for this man who was someone’s son and someone’s brother.

    • Miss T

      I think you hit the nail on the head: much of “dressing appropriately” is about showing respect (or lack thereof) for others.

  • I HATE pajama/sweat pants and slippers in public. It smacks of absolute laziness. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to throw on a pair of jeans, or even yoga pants (because let’s face it – most bums look better in yoga pants than they do in baggy, saggy pjs!).

    • My post is awaiting moderation, but you might want to take a look at it when it posts. Some chronically ill people — myself included — cannot wear jeans or yoga pants without extreme joint pain. I’m lucky enough that I have the ability/time/money to sew skirts and dresses that don’t hurt my joints, but not everyone has that option.

    • Honestly, I think it all depends on the time and the situation. I have a dog and at times he needs to go out early in the morning or the middle of the night. In these instances, when I’m staying close to home, I have no issue going out in my pajamas as long as they are appropriate (and given they are pants and a teeshirt, they generally are). If someone wants to judge me for this, that’s fine, but honestly if I’m going to be outside for all of five minutes, it doesn’t seem worth it. You might consider it absolute laziness but for me it’s simply that in this context, I’m perfectly comfortable with myself.

      And in most circumstances, as long as it’s not going to the extreme (incredibly casual or incredibly dressy) in a way that is inappropriate for the enivronment, I don’t care.

  • Lorraine

    And church; don’t get me started on what people wear to church, both to weekly services and weddings. I know the argument that it’s better for folks not to have to “dress up” in order to attend, but really, T shirts with obscene slogans? And dresses appropriate for a strip club at a formal wedding?

    But the oddest bra straps I ever saw were on a bridesmaid in a strapless gown!

  • Sarah

    When it comes to special events (symphony, opera, musical), I love to dress up. It’s a nice to have that opportunity to wear a special dress or outfit. As 20-somethings, husband and I had opera season tickets and enjoyed arriving early so we could people-watch. Oddly enough, I have felt the opera was more interesting for people-watching than the state fair (where you KNOW you’re going to see all manners of dress). For the most part, I was happy enough to see young people there that their attire was unimportant.

    Now if only people would be respectful during Broadway shows and not cheer, whistle, and scream when the lead first appears on stage.

  • Leah

    I’m so different from most people here. I love clothing and dressing myself, I’d probably classify it as a hobby or interest. But as long as people are clean, I genuinely don’t care what others wear and when. I liken it to someone who is way into cars being annoyed when people take the bus. Just cause we think it’s important, doesn’t mean others are obligated think the same way.

    • Sal

      I can definitely see how caring about others’ dressing choices could be construed as overstepping. But, again, dressing is a social act. What people wear is chosen actively and broadcasts information – albeit superficial – about their opinions, priorities, presentation, and selves. And what we wear, like what we do, affects others when we venture into public spaces. It’s not exactly the same as someone who adores cars and resents bus riders because plenty of people who aren’t “into” fashion still have strong feelings about dressing and decorum. (Though I do love the analogy!)

      • Yes I think when you are dressed inappropriately that you actually call way more attention to your clothes, even though that may not have been the intention. In some cases that might not matter at all, but in the workplace or for important occasions like weddings/funerals, you really don’t want the focus to be on “what the heck is she/he wearing!” because it’s distracting. In these examples, dressing appropriately doesn’t signal an interest in fashion at all, it just signals respect for the situation. (In fact, an interest in fashion could lead you to dress inappropriately sometimes!)

  • Leslie

    “Leaving a few places and occasions off-limits for jeans-and-tees-level attire helps us to remember that life has pockets of formality, some events deserve our best duds, and that we may feel more connected to an experience if we dress in a way that makes us feel more attentive and attuned.”

    I agree with the other professional classical musicians who have commented that it’s more important to be heard than it is to be heard only by people in their best clothes. One thing to keep in mind is that there’s already a well-established ritual to classical concerts, which serves–hopefully–to draw the audience’s attention into the moment and into a receptive, listening frame of mind. Briefly: free form warming up – entrance of concertmaster/mistress – formal tuning – respectful pause – entrance of conductor and/or soloist – downbeat.

    The issue of what performers themselves wear is also interesting. For example, I could do without tuxedos for men, but on the other hand, uniformity of some kind ensures that the clothing doesn’t distract from the performance.

  • Anne

    I have quite a few personal opinions about appropriate dress that I try to keep to myself. We all have to share this rapidly shrinking world so I try to adopt a live and let live attitude. I do have three observations that I think speak in favor of cleaning up your sartorial act. 1. Women my age that take the frumpy route (I mean not teenagers) tend to just look miserable. I often wonder, if the could smile at their image before leaving their houses, might they be able to smile a bit more when they’re out and about? 2. People seem to behave better when they’re dresses up a bit. My husband comes around and opens the car door when I wear a dress, he offers me his arm while we’re walking. People seem to know instinctively: nice clothes require nice manners. 3. Being dressed appropriately is not an all or nothing proposition. Iron your clothes, tuck in your shirt, brush your hair. Making an effort towards neatness goes a long way. Maybe then you can tilt that slippery slope the other direction.

    Most importantly I think we all have to learn not to take other people’s clothing choices personally.

  • Ellie

    Worth pointing out that a lot of people at Broadway shows will be tourists. Last time I went to a Broadway show I was on a four night trip to New York with hand luggage, so wouldn’t have had room to pack a dressy outfit and outfit appropriate shoes.

    • LQ

      You can more or less get away with that in New York. As opposed to, you know, Milan. (NYC is a place where you can elevate just about any outfit with one or two really great accessories, btw. Good jeans with a fab bag and shoes will see you anywhere.) But I kind of feel like if you can’t fit appropriate clothes for where you’re going in your bag then you need to pack a different bag?

      That said, if you genuinely feel fine at a Broadway show in whatever, then your solution suited your own cost:benefit calculus and that’s great. The reality is that appropriate is to some extent in the eye of the wearer nowadays.

    • PollyD

      Last time I was at a Broadway show I saw two women dressed as if they had just come from the gym – bike shorts, tight atheltic-style t-shirts, and gym shoes. Nothing anyone can say will convince me they had no other choice. What, they were on the way home from the gym (this was a sunday matinee, by the way) and just happened to pop by the theater and pick up last-minute tickets for a pretty popular show? They completely forgot about the show until they were at the gym? They were tourists with enough room to pack athletic gear but not a simple dress and sandals? Hell, even a decent skirt and sandals with the t-shirt in a pinch!

      To me, THIS seems rude to the performers – it says that this show you are putting on is so not-special that I can’t even be bothered to change out of my gym clothes. I might not have even come, but I just happened to be able to squeeze your show in. Again, a simple dress, nice top with a nice pair of jeans, non-athletic shoes, these are not difficult or expensive to buy or pack. I, too, had only a small bag on my trip and managed to shove a dress in there.

      Maybe that’s a topic for Sally – how to quickly convert your everyday outfit into something just a tad nicer for an event.

    • But it’s so easy to pack a classic outfit that *isn’t* jeans & T-shirts for travel. Do a quick web search on capsule wardrobes & travel wardrobes, & you’ll find tons of examples (I just blogged about my 10-day trip to Spain w/a choir, attending concerts every night, & I didn’t wear jeans to any performance). Jeans take up more suitcase space than a jersey dress from Target (as suggested above) or a pair of neutral pants & a sweater, all of which can be worn during the day too. Add neutral walking shoes, maybe a few small accessories (which take up almost no suitcase space), & that’s perfectly lovely & more dressy outfit than cliche tourist clothes.

  • “And while that could merely be interpreted to mean, ‘If they’re gonna show, at least make it look intentional’ it could also be interpreted to mean, ‘If they’re gonna show, why not take the opportunity to make yourself an alluring sexual object?’ That doesn’t sit well with me.

    I think the jump from “colorful straps” to “make yourself an alluring sexual object” was a bit sudden. Would you describe short skirts and high heels as “making yourself into a sexual object,” or just experimenting with different looks? If someone’s top is so revealing that I can see a lot of strap, I’m not sure a more subtle bra would make the look LESS sexual, you know? I can agree that visible bra straps might look tacky or cheap, but not that they signify objectification more strongly than other revealing or sex-associated clothes.

    • Sal

      Well, short skirts and high heels are clothing. Bras are underwear. Being intentional about showing your underwear strikes me as odd to begin with, but then being told that the way to do it “right” is to show colorful or printed underwear adds another level. Again, yes, it seems more intentional to go that route. But also again, it’s still underwear. And if you’re being encouraged to choose more exciting, eye-catching underwear when you let it peek out, that has sexual implications, in my mind.

      • LQ

        Maybe we’re picturing different levels of color etc here. I don’t think the point the intentionalists are making is that traffic-cone orange or shocking pink, bow-decorated, beribboned, shiny satin etc bra straps that bring to mind the Frederick’s or VS catalog are the only way to go exposed. I’ve done this kind of thing with, e.g., a deep blue bra strap, narrow, maybe a touch of quiet lace overlay, maybe not even that, showing about a half cm at the inner edge of a sleeveless but not spaghetti-strapped black tank top on a casual summer evening. It isn’t a polished, modest look, but it isn’t a supersexualized on-the-prowl look either.

  • Thea

    Thank you so much for this post. Flip flops at the opera can be avoided. I think so many people are just clueless about what is appropriate. Many young adults just really have no education in the various levels of appropriate dress. Kudos to colleges that provide a crash course. Older folks often know what is appropriate but disregard those norms. I dress for myself and with respect for those around me. As for your “outrageous” example of overalls at a funeral….I’ve witnessed that one.

    • jaya

      i agree that there is a huge lack of education etiquette and other social rules. I would say that a huge majority of children do not learn all that they should from their parents. They either try to learn via the internet, or ignore the ‘norms’ and live life as they see fit. this is one of the base reasons for all of the fashion “mistakes” we see.

  • I recently witnessed a “Flair Hair” hat during a church funeral. In the church. During the funeral. Flair Hair. Google it.

    • GlamaRuth

      Ok, I did, and that is just deeply… odd. And the only way it would be appropriate at a funeral is if the deceased was the originator of Flair Hair.

    • hahahahhaahhahhahahahahahahah!!

  • Hi sal, I agree with you. I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and here things are getting more relaxed regarding dress codes too. Thank god my parents educated me to follow some simple but helpful dress rules. I remeber once my little sister showed up with her boyfriend, they were wearing only shorts and flipflops and a bikini top for my sister; my father stopped them at the door step and told them “this is not Miami, put a shirt on” jaja love him! at least the have my father to show them some maners, but others aren’t so lucky! In the past weeks I have seen an alarming number of men on the streets rolling up their T-shirts to the armpit due to the hot weather here, they look pathetic and ridiculous (both, fat and slim ones) :-P. My grandfather was a smelter, he was born in 1923, past away in 1996 and he used to wear sleeveless T-shirts at home, but on the streets, he wore a shirt, a suit and a hat till he died, and he was a factory worker! Dressing smart made him fell ok with himself and made him feel part of the society of that time. Wanted or not our image, what we project through our clothes is as important as a what we know or what were are capable of doing. Our image is a reflect of our inner.

    Now check this link:
    I know it’s in spanish, but you can see there are two guy in a business presentation, the guy on the left is well dress (he is in a business meeting) and the guy on the right wears more relaxed clothes but he speaks English fluently. Guess who, according to the ad, will get the job? the guy who doesn’t even care to wear a tie to a business meeting!!!! really, him ??? he doesn’t care!!!
    Woaw, what a world we are living in… sorry for such a long answer 😉

  • Sarah

    Is the fancy Celine pajama streetwear trend what inspired this post? Alexa Chung looks pretty cute in them.

    • Sal

      Hah. Nope, but I’m not a fan of that trend either!

      • Sarah

        Put the wrong link in, sorry. I am not so into this look for myself, but I saw some fashion industry women wearing these “off-duty” and thought they looked chic. Aren’t rules are meant to be broken? It was not that long ago, that pants on women were considered scandalous, and as late as the 1970’s women in pants were barred entry from restaurants in New York. My mother used to have to wear a hat and gloves to college, it was mandatory. I am glad we have evolved past those sartorial rules. Still not up on the brastraps, I just think it looks unsophisticated and sloppy, the exact opposite of sexy, imo.

  • Danielle Marie

    I see the perpetual pajama/sweat-pants/flip flops outfits everywhere, going to college in Northern California. I’ve voiced my opinion about it often to my peers: that it’s disrespectful to professors (esp. in small classes) to dress like you just rolled out of bed, it makes you look unprofessional, it’s unflattering, etc. They often have the “Whatever, I’m in college, no one really cares and everyone else is doing it” attitude, but I firmly stand that while yes, I am in college, I’m also a 21-year-old woman and should dress as such. Even wearing a low-key cardigan, jeans, and boots and class show that I have self-respect, I take care of myself, and I value my education and the professors and faculty in which I interact with daily.

  • Melissa

    Sal, I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with all of your points. Very broadly, I think that cultural standards of dressing are arbitrary and constructed. Why is it that sometimes we feel that we should present ourselves more “formally”? There is nothing inherent about being in an opera, fancy restaurant, etc. that means you need to look a certain way. Some standards of dressing are not constructed- ex: jackets and warm clothes in the winter. Those are necessary to being comfortable for most people, and so they wear these clothes.

    I think you could also make the point that dressing in a certain way can be a political statement. People do assume certain things about people we see based on dress. For example, I’m studying at a university where most students come from very wealthy families. Their clothes clearly cost more than I could afford, even when they are trying to dress “down”. Wearing my casual clothes, even in an environment where more formal dress is common, sets me apart and (hopefully) shows that I am not a part of the majority. That being said, I don’t wear PJ pants anymore, mostly because I love my jeans, but I definitely wore sweatpants in high school.

    • “Wearing my casual clothes, even in an environment where more formal dress is common, sets me apart and (hopefully) shows that I am not a part of the majority.”

      But do you really want to say that you are disrespectful of the event & others there? Bec. that’s what casual clothes at a formal event says. It doesn’t say “how cool, I’m a rebel,” it says “I don’t like you enough to pay you & your event any respect.” Would you dress casually at a formal wedding or a funeral? How do you think that would make the families feel?

      You can be “not part of the majority” in many other ways sartorially. Dressing to the level of formality expected doesn’t mean looking like a clone.

      Casual clothes are as arbitrary & culturally constructed as anything else in society. The fashion for casual sportswear has only existed since about the 1920s. Before that, all clothing worn by women & men of all classes & ages in Western society was far more restrictive. And you had no choice.

  • Aya

    Ah, the perfect venue to air my ongoing pet peeve about my college campus:

    Leggings are not pants! I see so many human behinds as clear as daylight on campus. (because apparently leggings double as undergarments as well) If you are wearing something transparent over your ladyparts, layer it with something opaque. This seems so simple. Graurgh!

    • Linds Hoffner

      Oh my gosh, yes! This! A million times over!

      I can understand if leggings are layered underneath a long shirt, a short dress, a tunic even. But worn as a full replacement for pants? Nope. I’ve never met a pair of leggings (apart from jeggings) that weren’t see-through. And this isn’t even a problem of the young; I’ve seen many women twice my age equally afflicted.

  • ali

    I’m in college, and have never worn sweatpants out of the house unless it was for athletics; or pajamas in public, because I find both of those really annoying.
    I don’t wear bras as tops, nor do I wear dark ones under a light colored shirt; However one could often see my bra straps if they cared to look, as I live in Cali and wear mostly tanks that would require a strapless bra to not show.
    As long as you don’t let that become a slippery slope of wearing underware as clothing, I don’t see any reason why I need to hide them: if you are looking than that’s your problem,not mine.

  • benny

    I am very into fashion, and JUMP at every opportunity to dress for any occasion. However, my darling husband could not care less about what he wears. At first, I wondered about that. But, here’s the important thing – he never limits my choice of fashion as an expression of my personality. I can wear whatever I want, whenever I want, and he still adores me. And, he is so smart and such a character, that people are drawn to him for HIM. It’s a match made in heaven, and we have been together for years, so I guess it works. Love your blog.

  • Weddings are getting more and more casual these days, and sometimes that works for the aesthetic. Some examples could be groomsmen wearing collared shirts, vests, and ties, but no coats (our groomsmen had that exact outfit), or brides in tea length wedding dresses (beautiful, but not my choice).

    I walk by a courthouse on my walk to and from work and the train station and sometimes see couples dressed up for a courthouse-wedding. It makes me smile because even though their wedding isn’t an all-out affair, they’re still choosing to observe the occasion with different clothing.

    All things considered, a couple could get married in their PJs today. I’m sure many get married in jeans. That just isn’t my kind of wedding.

  • Josie

    Pajamas in public really really bug me. And I can’t put a finger on why. I live on the west coast of Canada, where everyone spends their downtime in Lululemon, sneakers and Gortex. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. (You might want to go hiking or something on the way home from the grocery store!) But pajamas get to me. Maybe because they have no function outside of the house? I don’t know.
    Also on inappropriately sexy clothing: I’m not particularly religious, but strapless hooker dresses at a Catholic (or any church) wedding is shockingly disrespectful. If I can almost see your butt cheeks, your dress belongs nowhere outside a nightclub.

  • Very interesting post. I’ll just add that I wear PJ bottoms in public almost 98% of the time because I have severe stomach pain issues and often they are the only pants I can get on. Trust me, I’d rather wear normal clothes and show some style.

    • Sal

      Sara, GlassCannon just shared her experiences with chronic pain, too. Glad you two spoke up.

    • Hi Sara, yep, I’m definitely with you on that. I’m saying my farewells to jeans this month, can’t wear them without severe pain anymore (though mine is joint, not stomach). If it helps at all, I’ve found a lot of inspiration in vintage styles, far more than with “normal” modern clothes. The tight waists and full skirts of 1950s fashion work well with my joint pain, but I’ve also had fun with the 1960s mod revival that’s been going on the last few years. A cute 60s-ish shift dress with no defined waist (and therefore no pressure on your stomach) might work well for you? I know for me, looking cute makes the pain so much easier to deal with. 🙂

  • I 100% agree with you on these slippery slopes, and I’ll even add one: workout gear anywhere except the gym or other workout-appropriate venue. It drives me CRAZY to see people in gym shoes/tennis shoes and jeans when I, for example, go out to dinner. Yes, tennies are comfortable. But, as you’ve so eloquently stated, is comfort of the utmost importance in every venue? Same goes for that ratty T-shirt from college everyone has lurking in their bottom drawer. I have several T-shirts that I cannot let go of, and you know what? I wear them to the gym. They get to go out in public, but don’t hang out in places where they shouldn’t be.

    And I wish everyone would abandon this “casual dress everywhere” mentality. I agree: it’s a shame. Dressing up reminds people to respect their surrounds and take themselves and others seriously. That’s not to say dressing up has to be boring. In fact, I would argue that you have more freedom to express yourself when you dress up and put effort into your appearance, rather than just throwing on jeans and flip-flops for a change.

  • I found your blog through a link on Gertie’s Blog For Better Sewing and have been enjoying your posts recently. This one in particular is an interesting topic, and one I’ve given a lot of thought to recently — specifically because I *am* the chronically ill person who is in danger of never wearing anything besides pajama pants ever again.

    See, I have a chronic, debilitating illness that causes constant pain in my joints, primarily my hips and my knees. I’ve been dealing with it for eight years now, and it’s gotten worse over the years. I simply cannot wear jeans or denim of any kind any more. At all. Wearing jeans causes excruciating pain in my hips and knees. Imagine someone following you around and smashing your hips and knees with a hammer every 3 seconds — every 3 seconds, of every hour, of every day. That’s what it’s like for me when I try to wear jeans.

    So no, I CAN’T just throw on a pair of jeans to run down to the pharmacy to refill my prescription or pick up a gallon of milk. Yoga pants, leggings, and a dress with tights are also out, as anything too stretchy and tight also puts painful pressure on my joints.

    As you might imagine, that level of pain and the restrictions that pain has put on my life activities carries a large amount of depression with it (depression I can’t get adequately treated without doctors invalidating my real physical illness, fwiw). My illness also makes my feet constantly cold, and some days Uggs — with socks! — are the only footwear that will keep my toes from aching painfully or even going numb. So when you talk about someone who is ill and depressed wearing pajama pants and slippers/Uggs, you’re talking about *me*. Keep in mind too, mine is an *invisible* illness. Unless you happen to see me limping, or wincing in pain, or trying to pop my knee back into joint, you wouldn’t know that I’m sick. To the outside world I look a slim and healthy, if not exactly athletic, woman in her mid-20s. But I’m about as far from healthy as a person can get without being contagious or dead.

    But for all that, I live an incredibly blessed life. My husband is wonderful and supportive, and we manage to live pretty comfortably on his salary alone, which allows me to work freelance when I’m healthy enough, and not work at all when I’m not up to it. That gives me the option to not leave the house more than once or twice a week, rather than having to try to dress for an office every day. I can’t imagine living with this disease and having to put together a professional outfit that doesn’t cause unbearable pain, five days a week all year long.

    The other way I’m extremely blessed is that my mom taught me to sew as a kid, and I’ve been sewing for myself for more than 20 years now. I’m down to *one* pair of ready-to-wear pants that I can wear out of the house — from a velour track suit I bought a couple years back when they were all the rage, to help deal with the extra pain air and car travel cause me. If I couldn’t sew, I’d be stuck with all lounge pants, all the time. And if I had to depend on social security disability payments to survive, I might well have to make do with the pair of fleece pajama pants my mom gave me for Christmas a few years back, with snowflakes and reindeer on them. When you’re sick, depressed, and depending on a government program to pay for the medications that keep you alive and to pay for gas for your car so you can go see Yet Another Doctor, I’m afraid that what pants you wear out of the house falls way down to the bottom of your list of priorities — right above caring what a stranger thinks of what pants you wear out of the house.

    But because I can sew, and have the luxury of spending both time and money on it, I’m able to make skirts and dresses that both look cute and accommodate my joint pain. I’ve been drawn more and more towards retro styles, because styles that are fitted at the waist and loose through the hips (impossible to find in modern styles) don’t physically hurt me. I’ve been experimenting with petticoats under full skirts, and find that I can tuck the petticoat under me when I sit, to help pad my hips against all the hard, uncomfortable seating out there. Putting my hair in rag curls and styling it in vintage styles helps it look clean and presentable for longer, meaning I can go longer between showers — my disease also takes a huge toll on my energy level, and I literally cannot do anything else on a day I shower. Put cute retro clothes, vintage-style hair, and some winged out eyeliner and red lipstick together, and suddenly I look pretty good. And when you spend as much time hating the *functioning* of your body as I do, feeling that your body at least *looks* good can be a huge benefit to your mood and outlook on life. Some days it’s the only thing that keeps me from falling apart.

    So I do agree with you, it’s a slippery slope. Jeans were once only causal or manual labor wear, but now we’re asking people to at least dress up to that level. Casual Fridays have become Casual Offices which have become “I can go to class in my pajamas”. And when you’re ill or depressed — chronically or even for just a few days — it gets all that much harder to not slip down that slope. I’m teetering on the edge, constantly, and only by spending some of my limited energy on looking good on the days I do leave the house have I managed to maintain my hold. Like someone else said, wearing sweatpants (or pajama pants, etc) is like saying you’ve given up on life. When you’re as ill as I am, giving up on life is quite literally a death sentence, so I have to fight my way back up that slope every time I slip.

    I agree with you, BUT I also think it’s important not to judge other people. You just never know what’s going on with someone. You CANNOT tell by looking who has a chronic illness, or whose mother just died, or who is clinically depressed. You don’t know who is hanging on to life by a thread, who hasn’t physically been able to do laundry in a month, or who doesn’t have the money to buy even a jersey skirt. You just don’t know. And no, it’s not that small of a portion of the population. Try searching for the hashtag #spoonie on Twitter sometime, particularly late at night. There are more of us than you might think, and every one of us has had no option but to go to the pharmacy in pajama pants, at least once, myself included.

    • Sal

      GlassCannon, I so appreciate you sharing your story. It’s essential to note that generalizations can be really damaging, and that what you see is never the whole story.

  • ily

    I’ll represent the minority here who isn’t too worried 😉 I don’t wear PJs outside the house, but I really don’t care if other people do. You know how in representations of people “in the future”, everyone is wearing a stretchy jumpsuit? Maybe pajamas are just a way station on the road to stretchy jumpsuits for everyone. Okay, I’m sort of kidding, but clothing norms are always changing.

  • It’s odd: I’ve lived in a relatively small (25K) college town for the past six years and I have noticed a clear trend towards less pajama/yoga pants in public. When I first arrived in this town, I noticed that many girls wore UGG boots, workout pants and sweatshirts everywhere they went. But over time, there has been a very definite movement towards cute blouses, nice denim, pretty dresses and even bright, fun accessories. Take a drive down Greek Row, stop in the local Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon, or visit the big-box grocery store and it becomes clear that far more girls are choosing to wear put-together outfits, while the minority throw on yoga pants and a sweatshirt.

    In terms of corporate wear for those of us in our mid-twenties, I realize that some girls do choose very inappropriate outfits for work/interview situations. In particular, I have noticed sky-high heels, too-tight blazers and blush-inducing décolleté. I always wear conservative pieces in professional situations, as do my friends, and we are baffled by the choices some of our professional peers make, so I can’t speak to that trend.

    Finally, as a performing classical vocalist and lifelong lover of the arts, I’d like to chime in and say that I do not think people should be discouraged from attending a performance if their attire is casual. If anything, we need more people “popping in” for a show. Someone mentioned community theatre events above; I would agree that these shows are generally more attended and I believe that it is because the atmosphere is much less intimidating.

    While I agree that fancy dress could garner more respect/enjoyment in theory, I don’t want to see even less people interested in opera/symphonic performances because their jeans + sweater combo is deemed too casual. Classical/Music Theatre genres are something every person can enjoy–there really is something for everyone–it’s just a matter of getting people in the door. Perhaps after attending one or two events in casual duds, a person’s interest might be peaked and their dress might naturally improve, without a reprimand about their former sartorial choices.

  • Meshell

    Growing up below the poverty level in Texas with a degree in music, I am still happy to wear handmedowns and make it to a performance to hear wonderful music. And while I agree that it’s not that challenging to get dressed for certain occassions (sans illness of any form), I find it to be a bit judging when others look at me and are aghast at my clothing choice. Are they judging a book by it’s cover? Probably. Is that the sort of attitude I would promote? Absolutely not.

    Finding clothes that fit your body can be a real challenge. Finding clothes that fit your body and the occassion is in another ball park. Shouldn’t we all check out judgy pants at the door and be happy that someone made it there. While they might not be wearing what WE want them to wear, they are THERE, which is a lot more important than what we wear.

    Sal, I am not upset that we have progressed in our sartorial choices (pjs to walgreens, flipflops to the concert). As a Western society, we have yet to grow accustomed to other forms of dress (Saris, monk uniforms, new zealand sheepherders trousers), so why waste time judging others for their PJ wearing when we all would cock our heads at the dress of a shintoist monk? It seems such a hypocritical waste of time. I believe we should try our best to understand why someone made a clothing decision without judging if WE would wear that to the event. I know what I would wear, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to wear it too. And on that note, who would wear a bikini to an office? Those places are so cold and if a guy or gal wants to wear it, more power to them. I am gonna giggle at their gooseflesh, not feign offense so my ego has something to complain about. No thanks!

    BTW, I totally wore white to a wedding. And lace. With the bride’s consent. She and I laughed our asses off at the offense so many took. It was her wedding, and she isn’t down for judging. How about that for thumbing your nose as social norms to make others feel better ;D

    • Eleanorjane

      “new zealand sheepherders trousers” What the heck are they? (as someone from New Zealand who grew up on a farm).

      I think typical things you’d mention as worn by farmers here are gumboots (wellington boots), little black shorts and Swandris (a tartan wool jacket/coat thing). Maybe an oilskin coat in very bad weather…

      • Heheehe. I even googled it.

      • Meshell

        Haven’t you seen Flight of the Conchords? It’s an excellent documentary on New Zealand.

        Just being a bit candid. I find it humorous that we defend judging* others. I don’t think it’s cool, ever.

        *which is vastly different than assessing a person/situation. Judging leads to a sense of “I am better than them” rather “oh, they must be a fan of herding sheep. Interesting.”

    • I think if someone wore a bikini to any office I’ve ever been in, it would only be to submit their immediate resignation…

      • Meshell

        True, unless they work at the beach or a pool. Those country clubs got some pretty swank offices, I hear.

  • MM

    @Polly….you make a good point, but as an active performer, I’m happy to have an audience and don’t feel their clothing choices denote disrespect for myself or the art form.

  • Kenzie

    I wish more people dressed up for theatre, concerts, ballets, operas, etc. That and eating out at nice restaurants are my only excuses to get dressed up! Restaurants are also a pet peeve of mine. If you can afford to spend 20+ bucks on an entree you can afford to wear something other than a sweatshirt! I worked in a fairly nice restaurant in high school and I always thought it was kind of silly looking when people came in looking so slobby.

    As for college campuses, things get a little trickier. Especially living in dorms at a small school, it’s hard to define “the comfort of your own home” for pj/sweats/yoga pants wear. I would never wear any of that to class-it’s disrespectful of my teachers-but drawing the line from whether it’s appropriate for movie nights in the lounge, or breakfast in the dining hall, or getting coffee at the shop in one of the other dorm buildings is a little more difficult.

    Travel, though – I think it’s perfectly reasonable to wear PJs or the like for red-eyes if you’re in coach. The point of those flights is to sleep. No one is paying attention to what you wear.

    • jaya

      conversely, if i am wearing a sweatshirt on the street, does that automatically mean i cannot afford to pay $20 for an entree?

      I read a story once, about rich kids who deliberately dress grungy, and after a car salesman (in a cheap suit) looks down his nose at them, bought a BMW.

      the point being, you are not your clothes.

      yes, you can wear pretty clothes that makes you feel wonderful, or you can wear something that will make the public want to wash their eyes out with bleach, but clothing is a personal choice.

      on airplanes.. yes, you want to wear something comfortable when you sleep. No one cares what you wear inside the plane. Going out the airport of another country looking like you just rolled out of bed –you give us lots of fodder to judge on 😀

  • Oh, Sal! You definitely are my hero!

    I wore flannel pajamas to school when I was in high school because I was obsessed with Evan Dando and the Lemonheads circa the early ’90s. I look back at myself now and think, “How idiotic of me!”

    When I was at Evergreen State College, members of my program were invited to see Carmen at a discounted rate. When we arrived, we looked rather odd because most of us were in our street clothes. Of course, we got stares. This was, for most of us, the first time we had been to the opera, so we just didn’t know any better. I now know what is inappropriate and what isn’t.

    Furthermore, I have always wondered how girls can be blatantly unaware of their thongs playing peek-a-boo and the draft of air that comes with cleavage of the hiney and, yes, I equate peek-a-boo bra straps with peak-a-boo thongs as well. Yet, I can’t say that I’ve not gone to the drug store in my pj’s in recent times when I was very sick and out of clean laundry. Thankfully, my pajamas now consist of yoga pants and t-shirts.

  • susan

    I’m in the minority, but I think pyjamas in public are interesting and fun. There are so many whimsical prints out there. Why not sleepwear as daywear?

  • Jenny

    I just wanted to add another voice to the “couldn’t care less” camp. For me anger or anxiety about what others are wearing is just so much wasted energy that I could expend in better ways — admiring beautiful or interesting clothing choices around me, for example. I do find it interesting to note trends in how we dress in various spaces for various occasions (and I teach college, so like many others, I have plenty to observe along those lines), but I think it’s short-sighted to condemn others’ choices or draw hard lines about what is or is not acceptable (not that I think you’re doing that, Sal — your post as always is satisfyingly nuanced).

    • Meshell

      Agreed! Why waste our precious time judging and condemning others when we can spend time admiring and supporting them instead? I don’t find pleasure in doing that and often feel guilty after tearing a woman’s sartiorial choices up and down. She at least has the opportunity to express them, so why should I get all verklempt over someone’s pajama bottoms. It’s not like those pajamas are jumping out and maiming my kneecaps.

  • Mary W.

    This made me think back to a few years ago when our son was in high school and mentioned that the low pants his female classmates wore allowed the top of their thong underwear to show when they leaned over, and how much the guys appreciated the view. I worried that any of these guys would be able to concentrate enough to pass their classes and graduate, but they did!

    I guess I believe how we choose to dress sends a message…and are we sure it’s the message we want to send?

  • rb

    You’re preaching to the choir when you’re preaching to me, girl. If it were up to me, Casual Fridays would be balanced with Black Tie Mondays. 🙂

  • I think each person gets a pass to wear PJs in public only 3x per year — 1) when you have the flu & need to run to the drugstore for a prescription or more tissues, 2) a grocery store trip between the hours of 2am-5am, & 3) maybe one more time if the duration of the public exposure is 20 min. or less.

    This desire for “comfortable / casual” clothing can be met in so many other ways with jersey & drapey rayon or washable silk fabrics, elastic waists, wide leg shapes, flowing skirts, tunics, & similar. You can be totally dressed up & still *feel* like you’re wearing PJs without looking like a slob.

    I am firmly on the side of “casual clothes bringing about the apocalypse.” Of course, I’m writing this while wearing yoga pants & a hoodie, but then, I’m working from home & the only creatures who see me are the cats! It’s all about appropriate environment, showing respect, & remembering the image you project to those around you.

  • Amy

    I really agree with you Sal, although feel compelled to share my experience. I hate showing bra straps, but due to worsening scoliosis, I’m pretty much limited to y-back bras…and I’m approaching 50 years of age, so although I do think the whole colorful bra strap thing looks cute on the younger women, I am just not comfortable with it for myself. But, do you know what a large proportion of tops and dresses have a wide neck cut such that a y-back bra straps show? Argh! I do what I can with layering and scarves, but it is a constant challenge.

    • Carol

      I’m almost 45 and I hate showing my bra straps too. Maybe its somewhat of a generational thing. Although, to be honest, I don’t think its cute on younger women either. At what point, did spaghetti strap camis become the only thing women want to wear when its hot? A tank with wider straps or a tee can be just as cool.

      I also don’t let my 10 year old daughter wear camis with spaghetti straps to school. Many girls her age do and I’m sure she thinks I’m appallingly conservative, but in my mind spaghetti straps are for swimwear and nightgowns.

      I’m actually wearing a spaghetti strap cami today, but I’m using it as an extra layer under a somewhat sheer blouse and I’m wishing it had wider straps:)

  • I find pajamas in public so annoying. If you want to be comfortable, then wear comfy CLOTHES, not comfy pajamas. A pair of leggings with a loose dress, a cardigan, and boots isn’t that bad and doesn’t take that much time or effortt o put together.

    I don’t have a problem with pretty bra straps showing. Personally I try not to let any of mine show, but I am a 32DD and my bras are all these industrial-strength beige things… the equivalent of granny panties.

    I like getting dressed up and seeing others dressed up as well– it makes the event more special. Maybe that’s not fair because I spend my work week in scrubs, so I relish the opportunity to wear dresses and tights and do my hair, knowing that no one is going to pee on my shoes or spit pureed ham at me (I work in a nursing home). Maybe if I worked in a conservative office and had to wear heels, nylons and a business suit every day I’d relish the idea of yoga pants instead! Still, I think there should be a dress code for performing arts events. it seems like common courtesy to me. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to get in without a ball gown and pearls, but jeans and sneakers? No. You can find clothes that are relatively comfortable and look halfway decent at the thrift store, so it’s no excuse. I am not wealthy, not even a little bit. I used to dress like crap all the time, especially when I felt like crap, and now I regret it. It makes you feel even worse.

  • I agree with most of what you wrote, Sal. But I have to disagree on the bra straps. I’m large-chested enough that no strapless bra will do anything for me except fall down, so my choices are: do not wear a bra; never wear spaghetti straps; or let the bra straps show. When it’s summertime, and I want to go run errands with as little clothing as is socially acceptable, I’ll pick the last one. It’s not about being all “look at me!” but about trying to be as invisible and comfortable as possible.

  • Halo

    When I was in high school, I rowed crew. My team was a parks department endeavor, made up of kids from six different public high schools. As you might imagine, most of our opponents were at prep schools and boarding schools. When we traveled to and from regattas, our coaches required us to dress neatly and nicely and be well groomed because they explained parents and students on other teams expected us to be public school hoodlums and that our appearance would alleviate some of that prejudice. It was true (we heard comments). The kids who went to national team, including my brother, were expected to travel in sports jackets/ties or the female equivalent. I think I internalized this at age 15, so I’m biased toward presenting myself appropriately for the situation.

  • Irene E

    I think one of the saddest parts of this is the part where people who dress up for special events like concerts or the opera get looked down at by the people who dress down. Granted, I am also one who can’t afford to go out to performances very often, but on those rare occasions, I do like to dress up a bit – and then I worry about looking over dressed! And ironically, my daughter who is 7 has always had more gorgeous hand-me-down dresses than dressy events to wear them – and when she does, she is usually the dressiest person in the room!

  • Gillian

    This is an interesting discussion. I don’t mind pjs in public because I don’t think anyone can mandate what is appropriate to wear in a public place. I don’t think visible bra straps are a big deal and don’t see them as sexual, but I do think they are a casual look and would spoil the line of a nice dress or fancy top. I think underdressing or “inappropriate” dressing is a problem, but I am primarily concerned when people underdress or wear questionable outfits to events or situations where appropriate attire and behavior would have displayed respect. For example, I might think a person odd for wearing pjs at the mall, but if I took it personally it would be my issue. But in the workplace, at parties with set dress codes, at ceremonial events, weddings, funerals, and the like, I think there is a pretty clear social contract that demands people show respect through appropriate behavior and attire. That’s not to say the dress code couldn’t be casual at work or at a wedding, but it is up to the people in charge to set the tone.

    After thinking this through I realize I haven’t defined to myself what I view as appropriate. For the situations listed, I would say not overly sexual, clean, not casual material (denim), nothing that competes with the person being honored (no white to wedding, etc), and I would only wear black to a funeral.

    Going to an upscale restaurant, attending an arts event, and the like can be more complicated situations. I don’t think there is a clear social contract in place, but I would feel more comfortable if I dressed nicely out of respect for the performers or my fellow patrons at the restaurant.

    The one benefit to our totally lax clothing culture? You learn a lot more about people, their lives, and their values when you can observe all the sartorial choices out there.

  • Jane

    I am a high school teacher and I have preaching about bra straps for years! That fashion trend, to show your bra straps, has been around much too long and although the fashion designers that put them in photo shoots might think it fun….I get to look at the dirty bra straps of high school students that never seem to was their bra! UGG!

  • len132

    All things I can pretty much agree with. However, remember- the “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy. It is only valid if you can demonstrate a probable sequence of events. I don’t think that wearing pajamas outside has a logical progression to wearing a bikini in the workplace.

  • Josie

    I’m sure the exhausted mom who runs out to buy Tylenol for her 3 puking feverish kids would love to know that her sweatpants and unkempt hair are being judged by someone who has no idea what her life is like.

  • Angela

    As someone who’s been suffering from depression for years, I’m rendered speechless at your comment. I’ve seen people DIE because of it, and you think their priority should be pleasing you with what they wear? I think you owe all of us an apologize, because I am sincerely hurt by your non-chalant brush-off of people with true, clinical depression.

    • Sal

      Hi Angela. What part of my post did you interpret to be a “brush-off of people with true, clinical depression”? What I’ve said here is that most people are capable of making other dressing choices besides pajamas for public wear, but that there are clear exceptions for those battling illness, depression, and dire circumstance. Also, did you happen to see the part of the post where I specifically mention that pleasing others needn’t be anyone’s priority? Just wondering if you read through this entire post or any of the associated comments – including several from those who suffer from depression and debilitating physical illnesses who give their opinions and input on the ideas presented here.

      • Angela

        I’ve read several shallow comments about how dressing pretty could help you feel better, and others equating post break-up unhappiness to “depression.” The fact is you’ve opened a can of worms here by even MENTIONING depression. You should have just left it as “I don’t like seeing pajama-wearing in public.” Depression is a severely misunderstood and stigmatized condition and you really SHOULDN’T even go there.

        • Didn’t Jezebel step on this too, a few years back?

          I think that if Sal hadn’t mentioned some of the legitimate reasons that PJs are the best things for some people to wear when they’re out shopping–and depression and chronic pain are the two that spring to mind first–she would have just been called on that in comments. (And has been, anyway.) It’s frustrating that people think that because we use the same word for a minor blip as a chronic illness that the two are relatable. But I don’t think Sal was giving depression a brush-off. Some of the commenters don’t appreciate how depression works and that’s causing them to make thoughtless comments, but I thought Sal’s point was fair–some people have good reasons for wearing PJs as streetwear, but it’s frustrating when it becomes the hip new trend. I may not agree with her point but I don’t think it’s that bad.

          Also, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Sal has no experience with depression. We shouldn’t make people quote their bona fides before letting them talk. Er, blog.

          • Sal

            I appreciate this, Aris. I have mentioned many times that I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression myself for more than 10 years, but didn’t think I would need to here. And my point in bringing it up at all was to highlight depression as one of the possibly invisible reasons why people might be wearing PJs in public. Perhaps that wasn’t as clear as I’d thought.

        • Mica

          While there are certainly people who may be over-dramatizing their emotional state, I feel like you shouldn’t dismiss all post break-up unhappiness as not being depression. Breakups can be truly devastating to many and you could be belittling someone’s state by implying that their sadness is not legitimate enough to be depression. The same way that people implied I couldn’t possibly be depressed, or at least shouldn’t be, because as they saw it, I ‘had no reason to be that sad’ and that it was ‘all in the mind’. As you said, depression is severely misunderstood and stigmatized and I don’t find it difficult to understand that people can become depressed after the end of a relationship.

          In regards to ‘dressing pretty to help you feel better’, I can attest that at some of my saddest times I actually dressed very well. By no means did it cure my depression but it did give me some semblance of order amidst all my chaos and the tiniest golden ray of sun within all the darkness. It may be ‘shallow’ but I kinda think Sally’s blog is all about how one’s outward appearance CAN affect one’s inner state. The same way that a friend who lost all her hair after cancer treatments wore a wig and some make-up to make herself feel ‘just a little bit better’. None of us have any right to judge anyone’s sadness, or their choices to cope with that sadness — any little bit can help, even if it’s just a pretty dress. Sometimes, that’s enough of a crutch to help you keep walking.

      • Not trying to offend here, but please, please do not levy anything that could be remotely construed as judgment on those with depression. If you understood the condition, you’d know that changing from kitty PJs to a more societal pleasing yoga pant could very well be the equivalent of climbing Kilamanjaro for that person. I know that sounds ridiculous to someone with normal seratonin levels, but depressed individuals don’t have that luxury of mental clarity like you do.

        We all say things sometimes that we wish we could rescind once we learn a few more facts. So, maybe just try to be a little more sensitive next time around…

        • Sal

          Sarah, please see my response to Aris/Angela. I only mentioned depression to illustrate that depression is among the possibly invisible reasons why people might be wearing PJs in public – as is chronic pain, something that has also been addressed in these comments by several sufferers. Perhaps my wording wasn’t strong enough. I appreciate your input and will be clearer and more sensitive in the future, should I decide to discuss the topic again.

          • Genevieve

            I’ve suffered really debilitating depression and I don’t have any issue with anything Sal said. I think Sal “gets it” for the most part. I don’t think these criticisms are fair.
            I recognize and defend your right to criticize her as you do, I just don’t think it’s fair in this case.

  • I feel that judging people for dressing inappropriately can’t help but carry an overtone of class. It isn’t so long ago that there was no such thing as a thrifted $5 dress appropriate for dressing up, and men’s clothing still has bizarre and arbitrary rules that can make dressing up hard to fake on a budget. In some places, or for some body types, it’s difficult or impossible to find dressy clothing for cheap, and not everyone can sew.

    But even beyond questions of access, sometimes people just don’t know what levels of dressiness they can accomplish–something which style blogs and the internet have been really helpful for! If everyone you know dresses a certain way, it can feel weird to dress up, even if you’re going to a special event. It can be easier to dress up in defensiveness and entitlement than research where to get clothing that will meet an unknown minimum threshold of “effort”.

    (I’m remembering the scene from Series 2 of Red Dwarf where Rimmer, Lister, and the Cat all dress up to go rescue what they believe to be three stranded women on another spaceship–they all put in their absolute best efforts, and all achieve radically different results.)

    And a special note about depression: Even if you think you would judge someone with depression less harshly than someone without if they were wearing PJs in public, depression can ALSO be an invisible illness, so don’t count on your ability to tell. Depression doesn’t necessarily mean “being sad all the time.” It doesn’t even necessarily mean “being tired all the time”! People with depression can still be engaging in conversation and excel in their job and yet run into mental blocks when it comes time to dress up all right and proper or do all the laundry. (Allie from Hyperbole and a Half just had a comic about depression, actually:

    • Thankyou Aris for clearing up the thoughts on depression which may not have anything to do with one’s cheerfulness or not. Muchly appreciated by one who suffers greatly yet is known to be a happy person. People expect the same of me as the give themselves but never seem to actually hear when I say I just am not capable of so much or that when I say I sleep all day and night that means I really do. They just see my few accomplishments and think it is the tip of the iceberg rather than being the only things I have managed to do. Cherrie

    • Ruth

      I don’t buy for a moment the idea that judging people for dressing down inevitably carries an overtone of class. Even when an item of clothing or way of wearing it is associated with a particular group of people — say for instance all those guys in the hood wearing their pants low enough to show four inches of their boxers — very quickly those trends spread well beyond that group.

      Moreover, people with serious money are themselves frequently dressed down. I used to work as the personal assistant for a wealthy couple, and when I was sent on errands on Rodeo Drive, the staff treated me in my Target and Ross Dress for Less duds just as well as anyone else who came through the door because they knew that what someone wore was in no way an indication of how much money they had to spend.

      It used to be that dressy clothes = expensive clothes and dressing down was inexpensive. But this just isn’t true any more. Lululemon things cost an ungodly amount of money — $78-$98 for yoga pants! Criminy! — but I picked up a gorgeous cocktail dress at Nordstrom Rack for $40. And all sorts of lovely dressy clothes are available at thrift stores.

      • Genevieve

        I think the way you dress can absolutely carry with it a sense of respect for your community and for other people.

        Just look at the way people dressed for the March on Washington. Everyone in those pictures is wearing a collared shirt. Many have on hats. It’s DC. They walked a long way. Not one of them is in tennis shoes. These pictures have great dignity. Many people were afraid that so many African American people in one place would lead to a riot. The respectful way the marchers dressed helped to communicate their message of peace.

        I live in DC and have marched in many a protest. I never looked as dignified as that, but I do my best. My midriff is always covered. I wear dark sneakers and pants. I look somewhere between comfy and professional. I wore the same to the viewing of Rosa Parks coffin lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. You get some accommodations for weather/exertion, but there’s no need to look a mess.

      • Meshell

        Ruth, I believe she meant it carries a classist undertone. “oh, she is dressed so trashy.” “What a ghetto outfit. “She looked like she just crawled from the gutter.”

        While these might not seem classist at first, think of where these insults derive. Yes, they all carry a classist undertone. Do the people realize they are doing that? Probably not.

        Language carries a lot of weight from the past, and currently it is a joy to see those of wealth dressing down. Let’s just not ignore the power words carry. Intention is different, but the semantics can carry weight.

        • Thank you, Meshell, that is exactly what I meant.

  • Jen

    Exposed bra straps? The norm.
    PJ’s worn outside? To be expected, especially on lazy Sunday’s.
    Casual wear? What else would one wear?

    I live in this extreme (by the beach and near several colleges). The funny thing about it is that it’s incredibly intentional, at least out here. Shirts are designed with awkward arm-home angles so the bra has to show. People get hammered and hang out in bars in their pj’s the following day…why bother hiding the fact that you had a fun time last night?

    It’s a bit boring living in jeans, hoodies and flip flops but other fashion vices have usurped the potential savings. Ladies spend a lot of cash on manicures, hair dye, and spray tanning. It’s not a stereotype, it’s true. Many businesses consider business casual to include jeans, t-shirts (as long as they’re fitted), and even hoodies.

    How does one fight against the crushing wave of casual clothing? To each their own, I suppose. I wear whatever suits me for the day, but I cannot bring myself to wear sneakers with non-athletic clothing.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps people who you deem depressed at Walgreens and wearing something as horrifying as panjama pants…perhaps …maybe…and I realize this is a big leap ___they are at Walgreens because they are ill and are picking up medication? Do Walgreens not have pharmacies in Minnesota? I know crazy to think that when people are feeling poorly be it a wicked cold or depression that they DARE step into a drugstore to pick up meds that …wow…may help them. I know it so crazy to think!

    As someone who has always managed to work 1 to 2 jobs while simultaneously going through a very bad spot of depression, somtimes there are days where you don’t give a flying fuck about the world. Your only errand for the day is to run to Walgreens to pick up meds so God willing you can continue to get better. Why? So that I can stay employed. Why do I need to stay employed? So that I can have access to insurance. Why do I need insurance? So I can continue to get treatment and medication I need to not wind up living in a shelter wearing something that is likelly far worse than pajama pants.

    All y’all who say “just put on lipstick and jeans you’ll feel better”. Um, yeah not that easy.

  • I have to agree with Aris’ comments on depression. I suffer with it and know it affects my clothing, eg wearing old nighties most days around the house and out the front to the bin, etc. I can see why some are so down they don’t dress up for the shops. But still it should not be a rule to be OK with such casualness. Depressed people still need morms to aim towards in their better times so that they feel they have advanced. Number one rule of ‘Flylady’ is to get dressed in the morning including shoes. Many have commented that this helps to empower them through the day.
    Here in Australia the pants sliding down towars the crack seems to be getting more and more common. Will it become the norm. Possible as manufacturers make pant tops lower and lower and they are harder and harder to keep up. Is it disgusting? Definitely. It was also made possible by the idea that there is no taboo about the midrif. All the cutoff tops of a few years ago have helped this evolution. Back then the oldies said how disgusting it was but fashion did not listen. The exposed bra straps is also due to fashion allowing more skin to be OK. When you see enough people with dirty grey (should be white) straps exposed you might get to think that your lovely matching straps are fine. Manufacturers try to improve the situation for those with unbleachred clothing and come out with clear straps. It all propels the trend towards visible bra straps being part of the look.

  • Gayna

    Hi,I think you should dress for yourself,but with care… Not dress yourself with other people’s opinions in mind. Self respect is putting on jeans or a long skirt in place of PJ’s and wearing appropriate underwear. That’s not to say I won’t throw on the first thing I find to get my morning coffee, but I damn well will be DRESSSED for my second one! And dressing for ‘events’ is tricky, as what is appropriate for me, may not be for you, I have enjoyed reading these views, especially those on the accessibility of such events, and going easy on those who may not be able to afford appropriate attire but enjoy symphony, opera etc, More power to those in flip-flops (thongs) if that is the case!
    But PJ’s in public? Never!!

  • Erin

    Madonna for the win.

    Bra straps are cool as hell.

    Maybe not to your grandma’s funeral, but otherwise have at it.

    • Sal

      She really is the icon of icons. Now I’ve got “Lucky Star” in my head.

  • Genevieve

    One of my favorite stories of my dear granny who passed away this summer was on the topic of dress codes.
    My mother, a high school teacher was arguing forcefully at the Easter dinner table for school uniforms. She argued that people behaved better when they were dressed better.
    My uncle, a high-powered attorney with cerebral palsy who has a very good reason to want to wear sweat pants all the time (mobility issues) argued that he thought that was a crock since he could argue a case just as effectively in sweat pants as he can in trousers and resents the necessity of wearing binding pants to work.
    My mother, who is a whiz at changing her argument to suit her purpose finally said “Well I just hate how low they wear their pants. I think we can all agree that we don’t need to see anyone’s genitals.”
    My uncle agreed.
    Then my granny piped up, “Well, I think the human body is a beautiful thing and perhaps if people saw genitals more often they wouldn’t find them so objectionable.”
    I was flabbergasted. I was probably 18 at the time. I said “Granny, surely you’re not proposing that we all be naked at a setting like Easter dinner?” She said “I wouldn’t mind. I’m sure you’re all beautiful.”
    We all kept our clothes on. And my family later made it clear to me that, no, Granny wasn’t losing her mind. She’d been a theoretical nudist for years – going on about the beauties of the human body. She never acted on it – she just thought people were too hung up about nudity and would often speak up about it.
    Just one of the many reasons I love my granny! Can’t get much more body positive than that!
    Oh – and I’m a theater director and I love to dress up to go out but don’t expect others to do so.

    • Sal

      I love that story, Genevieve. And she’s probably right about our hang-ups.

  • Veronica

    This is a great article Sal! Though I found a couple of the comments about you ‘brushing off/judging depression’ rather……unfounded. You clearly do not imply anything against anyone in that way. I really enjoyed reading all the comments and seeing different views of people with depression or other ‘invisible’ diseases. I personally see nothing wrong with pj’s at a pharmacy if all you can do is roll out of bed to get your rx or at a 7-11 if you’re jonesing for a slurpy or because you ran out of Yoga pants are fine as well but pj’s out at a ‘place’ you’re at by choice, that irks me a bit.

    Bra straps just popping out doesn’t bother me but blatantly showing them irks me. I’m reminded of Carrie from Sex and the City who seemed to do it purposely and it really annoyed me. lol I also understand that women of larger chest size don’t really have much of a choice, in which case why not have them be pretty?

  • Kookoo

    I cry nonsense to those who can’t buy an inexpensive black dress for a show or event. Just as I do for not dressing for public consumption. My mismatched flu clothes never see beyond my front door and neither should theirs. We all have bouts with lethargy, depression, and general blahness, but don’t need to visit them upon others. I know it’s common to say others opinions don’t matter, but I teach high school where that immature uninformed attitude is expected, and generally grown out of with maturity. Grow up and get dressed!

  • Kookoo

    I’ve also had severe postpartum, panic attacks, and other debilitating depressive disorders for many years so I understand being too weary to do anything but go through the motions… But i made a decision to do it In style all the way!

  • Kenzie

    I’ve thought a bit more about the “not putting in effort when you don’t feel up to it” thing…I don’t want to speak for true illness or depression because I’ve never been depressed and when I get sick I just don’t leave the house. But for more environmental hardships – stress, breakups, rejection (either relationships or career related), sleep deprivation, crappy weather, whatever’s making me not want to get up in the morning, I always try to keep this in mind:

    In Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, there’s a scene where Billy and I believe it’s Edgar Derby (correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t have a copy of the book with me) are prisoners of war. And Edgar Derby is looking into a mirror, combing his hair. Billy asks him why he’s bothering to do it and Edgar says something along the lines of “If I give up and stop giving myself this little bit of self respect, then that’s one step further to letting them win”

    This isn’t by any means a hard and fast rule I expect other people to follow – I don’t know your life. It’s simply a personal philosophy I’ve tried to stick to ever since I read the book.

  • I don’t, never have and hope I never will, wear pajama pants out of the house. I don’t even wear sweats out of the house. I wear workout wear only to workout, but have been known to run to the store after a workout, still in my workout clothes, because I don’t want to waste gas going home then back out. Saving fuel is more important to me than being sweaty at Safeway.

    I actually didn’t much like slip dresses in the 90s because I don’t like my bra straps to show. I try very hard not to let them show, but have worn a black bra under a cream blouse for a night out. Not sure why I feel there is a difference, but I do.

    Finally, it makes me sad that people don’t dress up for things. Like weddings. And the opera. And theater. It’s hard for me to believe people wouldn’t embrace the opportunity to break out the sequins, but I guess it’s their right. It’s just sad.

  • Sonia

    Bless you for mentioning the cargo-shorts-at-the-opera topic. I thought I was the only one out there and a total fuddy-duddy! I don’t own a gown or a pearl choker, but on the rare occassion that I get to go to the THEATRE, I do like to don some nice pants, a fancy blouse, and my nicest jewelry. It’s all part of the fun to feel classy and fabulous! I mean, c’mon, people — we’re not at this year’s summer blockbuster movie — we are watching highly-talented ARTISTS who are working their butts off to bring us an amazing experiece! BE part of the amazing!

  • Anon

    I think that the issue many people have with this post is that neither it nor the comments that follow seem to have a good understanding of what depression really is. This post is full of comments about “bouts of depression and lethargy,” some equating it to “general feelings of blahness.” Your blog in general doesn’t demonstrate a proper levity for it– a quick search reveals that you give advice to not “descend into bouts of depression” because of seasonal weight gain, that purchases were made because of depression, etc. I am not trying to speak for your own experiences with depression but rather that you seem to be perpetuating a false and harmful usage of the term.

    The point is, the way this word is repeatedly used on this site demonstrates a reduction of clinical depression as a temporary thing, a mere “bout” of moodiness, rather than actual mental illness. My mother suffered (and to some degree still suffers) from clinical, psychotic depression. She was a completely different person when depressed, suffering from extreme paranoia and seeing conspiracy theories in everything, including in the actions of those who loved her most. At one point, she was physically dangerous to herself and others, and she had to be in a clinic for a while. She’s better now, but I know firsthand that depression is not something you can just “shake off” or not let yourself descend into, it is an illness beyond one’s control that dominates every aspect of one’s existence. I don’t feel like this post, your previous ones, or your note adequately address the problems many people have had with this post.

    • Sal

      My intention has never been to reduce depression to anything, nor to demean or insult anyone who struggles with it. I am not intentionally perpetuating myths or untruths about depression due to personal prejudices or some hidden agenda, but instead speaking from my own experiences and from what I’ve been told by others who have been or are depressed. I have been diagnosed with depression myself in the past – treated for it with both therapy and medication – but never dealt with the depth of struggle that some have come forth and described here, so my understanding has always been that depression has levels of severity. I have been told by doctors and sufferers that there is a spectrum, and that not all depression is utterly debilitating.

      Again, the very reason I mentioned depression at all was to point out that there may be underlying reasons invisible to the observer, and that blanket judgment is unwise. Those who have taken umbrage with what I’ve written appear to have judged me regardless of any further explanation I’ve offered, and with no consideration that my intentions may have been willfully misinterpreted. Hurting, insulting, dismissing, and judging people are all polar opposites from my goals here, as anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know quite well.

      • Anon

        I really doubt anyone believes that you have a malicious agenda or are intentionally perpetuating myths about mental illness, it’s just that some feel like the term should be used with more gravitas, lest unintentional perpetuation or misconstrual (like the sort found in earlier comments about lipstick curing depression) should occur. Again, I am not trying to discuss your personal experiences with mental illness (my sympathies), merely the way you use and have used the term. I agree that it’s a spectrum, but doesn’t that mean you have to be even more careful about the language you use (since “depression” and “illness” are blanket, generalized terms for a population with vastly different experiences, etc)? As a blogger and writer, you aren’t merely responsible for the “intentional” realm of your writing but also the implications and consequences of it.

        • Susan

          In Sal’s defense, I feel she is careful with her language. She uses the term “depression,” not “clinical depression.” I’ve never read a posting of hers that suggests dressing well will cure clinical depression. As her comment above says, there are many levels of depression. Fashion helps her feel better. Wearing red lipstick helps me.

          I feel we need better terminology, but that’s a larger issue for society and something fashion blogs cannot fix.

  • I’m only speaking for myself here, but having been through severe depression several times, I’m mindful of the connections between how I feel and what I wear. As I’m relatively healthy at the moment, and can afford to spend some mental energy on clothes, I take pains not to dress the way I would when depressed. I put some thought into my outfits, I take better care of my hair and skin, and I try to enjoy and appreciate clothing whenever I can. For me, this is one small way to feel a bit stronger.

    I want to stress that this is what I’m doing as a previously depressed person who is recovering, not as someone who is currently in the midst of depression. It’s hard to describe the level of hopelessness and self-hatred that a depressed person can reach, but I can confidently say that putting on nicer clothes did not help one bit, and at times it made me feel even worse (“no matter what I wear, I’m still ugly and despicable”). I don’t find any of Sal’s remarks objectionable, but I’m uncomfortable when people use phrases like “letting yourself go” and “no self-respect” with regard to depression; it oversimplifies and trivialises the issue.

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  • Wtf

    It probably would have been best to leave the whole depression thing out of it. Most ppl, specifically students will openly admit wearing pjs all day due to laziness.

    However the way you worded your post doesn’t sit well with me and if someone with depression can muster up the will to leave the house that’s pretty friggin good.

    Maybe they can’t be bothered to get dressed because they are dealing with other things … Like suicidal thoughts.

    Or someone going through chemo out to pick up their scripts might be more thankful that they stopped feeling nausea long enough to leave the house more than viewing it as an opportunity to dress up.

    The way you wrote this article makes you sound like an @ hole. A huge one.

  • Rachel

    Many people here have written about being judged for dressing too formally to events, and many people here are judging others for dressing too casually to events. Maybe we need to accept that the social contract for some occasions (going to the theatre, for instance) has become more fluid, and give people more leeway to dress as they choose, whether that be formal or casual.