Getting dressed for an event used to be easy. People were expected to look appropriate, and those perameters were clearly defined by the occasion. The casualization of America, as well as many other places around the globe, has served to make getting dressed more difficult.
Long ago, women never even thought to enter a place of worship with out a skirt or a dress, and stockings. Now,pants are not only permissible, but are often the norm. Jeans have found their way into many churches, begging the question of appropriateness to many.
Jeans have become a mainstay in most people’s wardrobes, and fashion often dictates how they are worn. Men dress up jeans with open collared shirts and blazers. Women add heels and a dressier top for a night on the town. Jeans have become acceptable in many workplaces, restaurants and at social functions.
Shorts are an item that fashion has endorsed in recent seasons, with women wearing them back to crisp shirts, tailored jackets and chunky heels for a polished look that is suitable for many occasions and venues.
But what happens when those who are not fashion conscious decide that shorts or jeans are right for them?
Often, chaos and bad taste ensues. Shorts suddenly become too short, or too casual. What was once a “look” easily becomes sloppy, when shorts are paired with casual tee shirts and flip flops, or heaven forbid, Crocs.
Torn jeans are a big trend right now, but when placed in the wrong hands, they become a reckless, slovenly mess.
How do you enforce a dress code, when you can’t enforce good taste? The answer sadly, is that you can’t. If you want people to look “appropriate” you have to prevent them from making fashion faux pas with a stringent dress code.
I recently experienced this first hand, when I became stranded in Florida due to inclement weather at home.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a July 4th soiree at a country club, but discovered that I didn’t have anything in my bag that was deemed appropriate for the occasion.
My jeans, strategically torn by the designer, and paired with a printed silk top, hand knit flyaway sweater, a statement necklace and heels were on trend and in my opinion very pulled together and fashion right. Unfortunately, they did not meet the criteria of appropriatness for this venue. Although I would have been the most fashionable one there in that outfit, I ran through the local mall, frantically searching for something to wear. I ended up with a white tee shirt, paired back to some other pants I had with me, and while I looked fine, I didn’t look chic. And for the most part, neither did anyone else.
It is sad that places need to have a specific dress code in order to ensure that people look “nice.” And even sadder when looking nice equates to looking bland. In this case, the dress code of “country club casual” meant white pants, a colored tunic length sweater or blouse, and gobs of makeup for the women. Pleated trousers, often white, worn back to collared shirts, were the uniform for the men.
Although cookie cutter, and as exciting as the canned peaches on the buffet table, everyone fit in, and met the social norms of the area. Although it would have been completely disrespectful to my hosts to try to defy the dress code, I was a bit miffed that mediocrity trumped fashion sense. Yet, at the end of the day, it should be about the company, and not the clothes that make the evening a success.
What do you think about dress codes? Are they a nuisance, or a good way to make sure that everyone looks appropriate? Would showing up in a too short skirt, or an extremely low-cut blouse be better than jeans? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
photo: glasshouse images