“Ooh, what are you all dressed up for?” “Got a job interview or something?” “Lookit you, all fancy!”
If you’re even remotely interested in fashion, then chances are you like to have a little bit of fun with your outfits, and wear something other than the standard-issued jeans or sweats from time to time. And if you do that, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the phrases above – or ones just like them.
These days, you see, anything other than the most casual of clothing is considered “dressy”. Decided to wear a skirt today rather than jeans? You must have either a date, or a job interview! Thrown on an old cotton sundress, because it was too hot for anything else? Why, you’re “all dressed up”, and you’re going to be hearing about it all the livelong day!
The thing is, people don’t just comment on what they perceive to be a “dressy” outfit. They comment negatively about it. Thanks to what we think of as “The Cult of Casual” (a society where jeans are seen as the solution to every sartorial problem, and people have no issue with being seen in public in their pyjamas), “dressing up” is very much looked down upon by some people. If they suspect, rightly or wrongly, that someone has made more than the usual amount of effort with their appearance, they’re going to make a big old deal about it, and leave the dresser-upper in no doubt that they’ve done something wrong, and are being judged accordingly.
Why is this? Why are people so obsessed with being “casual”, and so horrified by the idea of someone willingly “dressing up”?
(We use the phrase “dressing up” in inverted commas here, because it tends to be applied to pretty much ANYTHING other than jeans or sweats. You may think that ancient skirt and sweater combo is anything BUT “dressy”, but to the Casual Cult, it’s not denim, and it doesn’t have legs, so it’s automatically “fancy”…)
There are a few possible reasons for this. One is simply that it makes some people feel uncomfortable to be around someone who they perceive to have made more of an effort than they have. They feel somehow wrong-footed, and wonder if perhaps THEY should have “dressed up” too, so as not to feel out of place.
Other times, however, it’s the “making an effort” bit that’s the problem. It’s not really cool to make an effort with your appearance these days, is it? In some quarters, anyone who’s interested in fashion, or makeup, or appearance in general, will instantly be dismissed as vain, vacuous and, well, a bit of a joke, really.
Well, we think it’s time to set the record straight:
1. It is possible to be interested in fashion – or just clothes in general – and to also be interested in other, weightier subjects, too. There’s no rule which states that if we ‘re interested in clothing, we must ONLY be interested in clothing, and can’t also be interested in politics, say, or current affairs, or any number of other issues. We’re women: we’re used to multi-tasking.
2. It’s also possible to love shoes, or dresses, or bags, or whatever it is you love, and still be a serious, responsible adult, capable of thinking and talking about all kinds of other topics. Really.
3. It takes less time to pull on a dress than it does to put on a jeans and a sweater: wearing a dress is really NOT the gargantuan effort some people think it is.
4. Not all dresses/skirts/heels are automatically “dressy”. Some are as simple and easy-to-wear as those jeans everyone loves so much.
5. It’s possible to be comfortable in a dress, skirt or other item which some would deem “dressy”. Sometimes even MORE comfortable than you are in a pair of jeans.
6. We’re not “dressed up” because we’re vain and looking for attention: we’re “dressed up” because we like clothes, and we want to wear them, rather than just leaving them hanging in the closet. For some of us, it’s a creative outlet. For others, it’s just a fun hobby, or a temporary escape from the more serious side of life. Can’t be serious all the time, right?
7. In fact, sometimes we’re not “dressed up” at all. To us, they’re not fancy clothes: they’re just clothes. And once we’re wearing them, we don’t really think about them any more than you think about your clothes.
8. Not all women struggle to walk in heels, or find them unbearably painful. Just because you can’t imagine wearing them doesn’t mean that anyone who does wear them is obviously an airhead who puts style over substance and is prepared to cripple herself to look good. To some of us, they’re just shoes, and we can walk in them just fine, thanks.
9. We didn’t make a “huge effort”: we just got dressed. In the clothes we like, and find comfortable. You know, just like you did?
10. No, we don’t have a job interview. Please stop asking.
In short, we think it’s time people stopped treating “dressing up” like a crime of fashion: because we really don’t think it is.
Now, who’s with us? Do you like to wear outfits that other people consider to be unusually “dressy”? Do you ever feel like you’re being judged negatively for it?