Why Dressing Up Is Not a Crime of Fashion

Why dressing up is not a crime of fashion[Image: Next]

 “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?


  • October 3, 2012


    Thank you for this. So accurate.

  • October 3, 2012


    Thank you. A LOT. If I so much as put on a shell instead of a tee, I’m dressed up. (The Cult of Casual will never let go down here, not with all the ranchers and wanna be cowboys.) Invariably my response is “This isn’t dressed up. You’d know if I was dressed up.”

  • October 3, 2012

    Jennifer via Facebook

    Amber- Would it be alright if I linked to this on my blog, as a topic of interest? I’d give you full credits, yada yada, but wanted to make sure you had no issue with a referral link like that.

    • October 3, 2012

      The Fashion Police

      Yes, of course, I’d be flattered – links are always welcome, it’s just copying and pasting the text that causes problems!

  • October 3, 2012


    YES. Thank You. I relate to this so much especially 8, If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to ‘maybe put on something more comfortable’ and ‘You can’t possibly walk in those’, I could quit college right now. My heels are comfortable and I can walk in them just fine! Stop pestering me about it.

    • October 3, 2012

      The Fashion Police

      Those comments absolutely infuriate me: I get them a LOT, and I feel like what the people who leave/say them are basically telling me is, that I’m stupid and vain, because I’m OBVIOUSLY forcing myself to wear shoes I can’t walk in, just for the sake of fashion.

      I’ve been wearing heels since I was a teenager, and walking in them is second nature to me now: I’d have to be an idiot to wear shoes that were impossible to walk in!

      • October 3, 2012


        Same here! It’s like they think you’re so stupid you can’t determine your own comfort!

    • August 11, 2013


      One thing I hate is, to put on another outfit is a pain in the ass – I got into something I liked and thought about for quite a bit (depending on the day) and it was possibly stressful if I thought I was running late. And people think they’re doing me a favour by suggesting I change? I wasn’t looking for anyone’s permission!

  • October 3, 2012

    Melisa P.

    Oh my god, I love you for this. This happens to me EVERYTIME I put on something pretty, or wear high heels. The worst was when about a month about, I went out with my 9 year-old brother to the Mall and everybody thought he was my son! I mean, seriously? What’s wrong with people? I put on red lipstick, high heels and I suddenly become a mom?? God!

    I loved this post so much I’ve shared it on my Facebook wall and my blog Fanpage. =)

  • October 3, 2012

    Liza Ashby

    I so agree with all of this! I prefer not to wear jeans and therefore wear skirts, dresses and shorts on a very regular basis, and am constantly bombarded with comments about ‘dressing up’ or ‘having somewhere to go’ whereas in fact I’ve just pulled something on to pop to the shops!

  • October 3, 2012

    via Facebook


  • October 3, 2012

    Jennifer via Facebook

    Thanks! I already had the link ready to go, I just wanted to double check on permissions

  • October 3, 2012


    I agree with this 100%!!! I’ve had flatmates comment in the past ask where I was going as I was “dressed up” for lectures. I was wearing a pair of jeans and a blazer, that’s my idea of very casual! I don’t own hoodies or tracksuit bottoms as they’re not my idea of comfortable.

    If you’re ever in the west end of Glasgow, count how many you see in the “Glasgow Uni uniform” of hoodie + leggings/tracksuit bottoms [must be Hollister/Abercrombie, obvs] + Ugg boots. Add a gilet for colder months. *shudder*

    • October 4, 2012


      I’m from Glasgow too! I can’t stand the trend of wearing the leggings, ugg boots and gilet! I don’t know where it came from but it needs to just go away.

  • October 3, 2012


    You know what? When I wore the outfit from my last but one Shoe Challenge to work, my coworker asked me if I had something big planned for after work. It was jeans, a longsleeved shirt and a waistcoat for god’s sake! Nothing that I would consider even remotely “fancy” or “dressy”.
    As much as I like dressing in jeans and t-shirts for work (Because it’s just damn convenient, you know?), sometimes I feel the urge to wear a skirt, too. Or a blouse. Or a nice sundress when it’s hot.
    There’s nothing wrong with it. And I’m in fact looking forward to those rare occasions when I can actually go all the way with a ballgown and heels.

  • Many a time have I gotten ready, looked in the mirror and thought people would think I look stupid in something because I am just going to run errands. And, normally, I will go back in the closet to find something more suitable so I won’t feel uncomfortable thinking people are judging me. That is probably the worst thing to do, I need to start living it up more! Thanks for the post!

  • October 3, 2012

    Zaggora Girl

    Brilliant post! We love dressing up, even if it means going out for a couple of errands. Dressing up and looking our best helps us boost our confidence! Do you agree?

  • October 3, 2012


    STORY OF MY LIFE! I swear I get weird looks every time I wear something that’s not neutral coloured, and god forbid I wear a pair of heels…

  • October 3, 2012


    Best thing on the internet.

  • October 3, 2012


    For the first time since reading your blogs I feel happy I live in a country in Eastern Europe :). Here (at least in the capital, where I live), almost everyone you see on the street looks like they’ve made an effort to dress nicely – granted, sometimes it’s too much of an effort (such as wearing very high heels when going shopping at the mall) or not the right effort (a lot of girls dress in a pretty vulgar way). So even though for the past 3 years or so I’ve worn almost nothing but dresses, I’ve never got any of the condescending remarks you mention. I knew there had to be something good about living in my country :).

    • October 4, 2012


      Same here in Germany, only that people tend to be over-fastidious and do not dress very sexily (both men and women). If you walk out with a tracksuit chances are your friends will ask you whether you’re headed for the gym or the soccer field. Wearing that kind of clothing, like sports clothes when you do not exercise, or even some revival of the 70’s polyester “leisure suit” here is the mark of the low education/low income bracket. As for pyjamas, I have never ever seen anybody on the street with that.

      • October 4, 2012

        La Frivole

        Happy to say I haven’t seen anybody wearing pajamas on the street either :D.
        I wanted to add that it’s very strange how things are, because for me going to London a few years back was a completely “enlightening” experience regarding shopping for clothes – I discovered Asos (in Glamour Uk), Topshop, Warehouse, River Island, Oasis etc. – basically most of the shops I now shop (online) from.
        To me the UK is shopping heaven! We don’t have any of these shops here (but we do have Zara and the rest of the gang – which are hugely popular) and I find it strange that someone who has all those options at their fingertips doesn’t take full advantage of them.
        I suppose part of it has to do with you having led “the good life” 😀 for a long time, while I (I’m 32) can still remember that during communism we were allowed no buying options and had to buy whatever The Party deigned to bestow upon us slaves :D.
        All in all, it’s good news for me – more dresses left for me to buy online :D.

        • October 10, 2012


          I think it _is_ a cultural thing, but not so much a “I can buy anything here so I don’t need to”, but rather that a person who dresses very sexyly after, say, their mid-twenties is thought to be a bit dubious. I do not mean that everybody’s clothes are plain and/or cheap – though enough of them are – but rather that you do not see a lot of bare skin, sequins and stilettos on the street. You see a lot of tight clothing – but that’s just people who have gained weight and did not notice it.
          I am, BTW, 46, and though I still wear size 38 (12 in the UK, 8 in US), I do not show much skin any more.

  • October 4, 2012


    I completely agree with you… my idea of a casual outfit is a cotton skirt with a jersey top or a cardigan. I’m always the one who looks a bit overdressed and I’ve really stopped caring about it, but I do get some stupid comments from time to time. To me, these clothes are my day-to-day clothes I wear to go to school and work, nothing fancy. But then people start acting like it’s so weird and such a big deal.

    I got more and more comments like them since I started making my own clothes. Sewing basics is boring so I tend to wear a lot of prints and color these days, and even though I rarely mention to people that I made something, I get comments on my clothes anyway.

  • October 4, 2012


    I’m with you! Love this post!

  • October 4, 2012


    The only time ‘dressing-up’ should be looked down upon is if what the person is wearing is completely unsuitable for what they’re going to do/what event they are at. Other than that, I can’t understand why people give me so much garbage for wearing a pair of cute wedges with a dress. Honestly.

  • October 4, 2012


    This article went to straight to the heart of the matter. I get this all the time. I have put it down to people feeling insecure about their idea of fashion and so bring you down to feel better. As for those duels that I always wear – I find them comfortable and quite easy to walk in, I am used to them.
    Also, many times I feel judged as being less intelligent yet I have 2 university degrees…go figure.

  • October 4, 2012


    That should read shoes in my comment above

  • October 4, 2012


    What a brilliant article. I am an image consultant and had this discussion with a client 2 days ago. She says that when she makes a little effort she also gets snide comments like “where you going?” This make my blood boil. I tell my clients dress everyday to make you feel confident and fabulous. When you dress up those that have not made an effort don’t like how it makes them feel, because they know they should have made an effort, and so want you to feel bad too. Would add to No 6. We dress to make ourselves feel good, happy and confident.

  • October 5, 2012

    Carolina W

    Just wish teenagers would make an effort when it comes to picking their clothes. I’ve been living in the States most of my life and almost everywhere I look, I see girls of all sizes that look like they left the house in their underwear (though they still managed to do their hair and makeup) and boys with their pants/shorts hanging under their butts, even when they have belts. Its ridiculous, especially since I have people asking if I’m going to be a nun or something because I won’t wear anything that falls above my knees. I also won’t wear tank tops. Is it so wrong to dress conservatively, especially since I live in the desert and burn easily?

  • October 6, 2012


    This often happens to me, not only when I dress less casually, but also, strangely, when I change the makeup I’m usually wearing. Red lipstick instead of my usually coral? Different eyeshadow? Different blush? I must have a “hot date” or “party” to go to after work! Even worse if I happen to wear fun, new makeup and a skirt on the same day.

  • October 6, 2012


    I totally agree, my parents are on the it’s not practical unless it’s hideous bandwagon and it drives me insane!

    We went to the beach today and I wore a dress with leggings and sandals, they both wore walking boots and jeans and despite the fact that I was the only one who could go paddling (we knew we might be cut off by the tide) they still think that what I was wearing was impractical!

    I just don’t understand why so many people have such strong preconceptions of dresses, a jersey cotton dress is so much more comfortable than jeans.

  • October 8, 2012

    June Biswas

    That was a really superb post! I completely agreed with it.

  • October 9, 2012


    Yes! As a stay-at-home mother in the USA, I’m bombarded with the message that I should wear ‘yoga pants’ everywhere I go. NO! I don’t even DO yoga! And I’m certainly not wearing my running tights to my kid’s soccer game, the grocery or the mall. Nice jeans and boots may be ‘dressed up’ for me during the day (given my domestic servitude lifestyle), but if I go out to dinner with the hubby, I’m wearing heels and a dress. And I demand that he wear a tie (or at LEAST a button-front shirt).

    Does anyone remember dressing up for church? I went to church (way back in the day, like early 90’s), and it was: tights, Laura Ashley dress and curled hair. Every Sunday. And it was lovely!

    • October 10, 2012


      Pantsuits or something else that looks very put-together for church. I sing in our church choir and we almost look like a corporate board when we stand up to sing *gg*.

  • October 12, 2012


    Oh my God, thank you for this article. I don’t wear make-up (I have dance first period everyday), but I usually wear a skirt and a pair of thick stockings to school with whichever top I feel like, and probably with a pair of high-lace boots (which, hello, hidden zipper) or heels and everyone’s always like, “Got a hot date?” or “Are you really wearing that in the winter?” and I’m like, “Honestly I think my wool tights are warmer than your ripped skinny jeans, but okay.”

    • October 23, 2012


      I think people assume that skirts are unwearable in winter, & I get comments all the time asking if I’m cold, but you’re right — thick tights & tall boots can be warmer than jeans, especially if the jeans are made of thin material, or are “fashionably” ripped.

  • January 18, 2013


    Ah how did I miss this post before, this is like my life all over. Today in the snow I still wore a dress and high heeled boots (but with a big coat over it and changed into my snow boots to and from work) but everyone else was in jeans and jumpers and asking me if I was going to an interview. Erm no, this is how I usually dress. And yes I know it is snowing (Which is what they also said to me “but, it is SNOWING!”) but it was snowing outside not inside!! In fact our office was a toasty 24 degrees C due to being in a 100 year old building without air conditioning and all the old radiators jammed onto full. I was the one laughing when they were all sweating this afternoon.

    I love this post :)

    Janine xx

  • June 12, 2013

    Jane Hiushark

    Some people love to make us pressed with their word, that’s not wrong when we dressing up even we are not going anywhere. Maybe they are just people who hate fashion or can’t afford it.

  • July 28, 2013

    life is a shoe

    love this post and I SO agree with it! I’ve decided to not care what people say when I wear my high heels to just run an errand in the bank. I mean what’s the use of having all these gorgeous shoes and clothes if you don’t wear them right? people who look down on people who dress up are probably just self conscious about the way they look anyways!

  • August 27, 2013


    Dressing up is one of my favorite things to do, well on the fashion side of my life. And yes, I get the comments and remarks, occasionally, but most friends know I do dress up so they are just used to it. It is funny what people like to think when they see you dressed up though.

  • September 3, 2013


    ladies? Yes I am a man but I am a true supporter of the fashion police and Shoeper Woman and her efforts. For all the ladies who feel they are overdressed at times or most of the time, I wouldn’t classify it as overdressed, I would say you have more full-time class than other women, it’s like a breath of fresh beauty to the world, like that smell that invigorates you after fresh spring rain. Never think your overdressed your just showing more class than the woman who wears pajamas or sweats and Uggs to the grocery store to do her shopping. If I knew I wouldn’t get slapped every woman that had class enough to where ensembles like that I would tell her “it’s nice to see a lady with class, thank you… I love the shoes ” but I would probably get slapped more times in my face could handle so I keep my silence and appreciate the ones who are overdressed.

  • […] Why Dressing Up is Not a Crime of Fashion. Exactly. […]

  • November 20, 2013


    Love this article!! I definintely think that people don’t like it when others dress up because it makes them feel inferior. I love dressing up, and do it as often as possible. I’m a farm girl, so there are days when jeans and a sweatshirt are totally necessary (like today! Shearing sheep and such), so it makes me really want to go all out on the days when I can. I’m trying to start wearing heels more often. I wear them to church all the time, so I’m now really good at walking in them, but I’d love to wear them at other places, too. Maybe tomorrow. :)

    Thanks for all your awesome posts!