Dressing Appropriately.

 

Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006)
1950
Photograph, gelatin silver print
*Photograph by Gordon Parks. Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
*Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What can we (really) learn from the fashions of bygone eras? 

“We must have the courage to go back to the age-old tradition of ritual and dress code. We must have the courage to turn the shoddy away at the door.”  Glenn O’Brien 

People of Walmart.  The voyeuristic blog-dumping-ground for the least appropriately dressed folks from America’s largest chain store.  You’ll see it all – men in tutus shopping for fresh produce, women in shorts so short you’ll struggle to identify them, more men in costume buying whatever.  (Spinoff websites including, beach creeps, neighbor shame, and wtf tattoos.)  What’s going on here?  When did our bar drop so low that the most casual of casual outfits now passes for nearly every occasion?  Going to church?  (Crocs will do.)  PTA meeting?  (Yoga pants sound right.)  Going to see the bank manager? (Jorts. It is MY money after all….) 

 

There’s a separation between where we are now – the 21st century and where we were 50 years ago.  The gap has become so wide that we don’t even really recognize the differences for what they are anymore.  

Take a look at your grandparents photo albums.  You will not find one picture in which anyone, and I mean anyone, is underdressed.   You’ll see men in double breasted, three piece suits, with shined shoes wearing hats.  They’re proud.  Women in tailored dresses with gloves and heels.  Mind you, there were no gender specificity or income level requirements for dressing well and appropriately, simply, there was a sense of pride. 

Wanna impress your date? Put on a nice shirt and some real pants.

Things got easier as the decades passed.  Hair got longer, pant legs got wider, the tee shirt took over as an icon rather than something that went under a dress shirt.  It took a long time to get loose like we are today.  Vintage fashion is your closest direct link to those days.  I’m not saying in any way that we should all dress like it’s 1955, in tweed and chenille and smoke Tarrytons and style our hair with Brill Cream.  But what we can take from those eras was the rule of dressing for the occasion.  Raise the bar a little bit.  Glen O’Brien basically says it best, snarky sure, but aren’t we all a bit edgier than we used to be anymore? 

“One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see a woman in a pretty little black dress, her hair all coiffed up, with a guy skulking next to her in a T-shirt and acid wash jeans, I hope to God that they’re not together. I hope he’s like her gardener or something.”  – G.O’B.

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