Happy whatever-you-may-celebrate-even-if-it's-nothing-at-all, everybody!
In response to Thursday's post about "age-approproate" dressing, a reader commented:
I think the degeneration of appropriate dress comes from a general decline of public civic life. We all have a civic responsibility to dress in an appropriate and dignified way.When I read this, I immediately had one of those "aha!" moments: Yes, I thought, that's exactly it! It's great to dress as you please -- for you -- but how about the rest of us?
The way we dress isn't just "all about me" but actually constitutes the culture of our families, our neighborhoods, our towns and cities. It makes up the civic backdrop of our community.
Now, I don't want there to be a dress code or anything, I think freedom to wear what you want is a big and important political freedom, but along with freedom comes responsibility, in fashion no less than any other area of life.
So I was in the lovely Hudson River town of Tarrytown yesterday with Michael, my mother, and the dogs -- just a trip out of the city on a lovely Spring day.
We bought soil and plants at a garden center in Ardsley, ate a picnic lunch in a local park, and had coffee and scones at a charming independent coffee cafe in town. Everyone we saw seemed happy to be taking in the sun and fresh air: children, seniors, men and women and plenty of cheerful pets.
But a few things caught my attention. The contrast between the elegant, small-town setting and the way most of the young people were dressed -- men in flip flops, baggy cargo shorts and tee shirts, young women in flip flops, mini shorts and tees, multiple tattoos and piercings (Do I really want to go there?) -- was jarring to me. I guess I'm just from a different generation. I witnessed no unruly behavior, just the opposite: everyone seemed perfectly pleasant and well-socialized. But still...
I had a long conversation about it last night with Michael in relation to the comment up top. Do we have any larger obligation to the community to dress in a more "formal" way in public? Does informality in dress portend a breakdown in civic life? Does one have anything to do with the other?
We concluded that, as much as we might long for the days when men wore suit jackets and women wore hats in public, we wouldn't want to feel like we had to dress any particular way. Michael said that the history of public dress codes was more related to honoring the nobles on whose estate you lived than it was to self-respect or modesty.
If as citizens we have (ostensibly) the same ranking, then there's no reason to dress a particular way to honor anyone else -- not nobility or any sort of power greater than ourselves.
Most of the dress codes I'm familiar with, in fact, have to do with organized religion and it doesn't seem right that other people should have to abide by the laws of my religion and traditions, or vice versa. If you want to dress up for Easter, that's fine. But if I don't celebrate Easter, why should I have to?
Anyway, this has been on my mind and I'd love to hear what you have to say about it.
Is an "anything goes" attitude toward dressing simply the price we pay to live in a "free" and essentially non-sectarian culture?
If we really don't care how we look to others, but other people consider it disrespectful towards them (or to ourselves, in their eyes), what should we do about it (if anything)?
Jump right in!