Dress Me Up, Dress Me Down: Our Appetite for Formality

Long before the recent New York Times Article – “Shirtless Goes the City” – appeared, I had been thinking about modern society’s penchant for casual dressing.  As a disclaimer, I was the college freshman who went to her interview to work on the EVVYs (Emerson College‘s version of, well, any awards show – but as they used to boast, “with many fewer errors”) in a tailored three piece suit my parents had bought me, just for an occasion like this.  I remember the advisor – a man who would later become a mentor – commenting on how I was a “women who knew how to dress for an interview” – and it made me think, what did other people show up in?  I got the job – hopefully not because of my pant suit (which would have made the “pant suit afficiando” herself jealous), though I don’t think my attempt at formality hurt things.

I’ve found myself on the other side of the interview table many times since, only to be continually surprised & amused at what some folks (of all ages) feel is appropriate to wear to an interview.  In my last job, where I led a web/broadcast production company, I actually had a young lady show up to an interview in shorts that would make Daisy Duke herself blush.  Shorts!  I cringe.  I hardly wear them to the beach…let alone interview in them.

More recently, an older person I know commented that an established, high-end restaurant in town had recently gone through a renovation.  This individual said the traditional bar had been modernized and, with it, the clientele began coming in wearing jeans.  The comment made was, “Well, I guess this is what your generation likes…”

But, do we?  Do we really?

I can’t speak for everyone, but – and although showing up to a nice restaurant in jeans hasn’t really ever been my “thing” – I’m not sure that’s what people in “my generation” are looking for.  Ironically, this was highlighted for me during my 30th birthday weekend.  Everywhere – and I mean everywhere – I went over the course of the weekend had established a dress code.  Jackets for men, no denim.  And the restaurants we visited & resort we spent time at were modern & fresh.  Most of our close male friends know their way around a bow tie & never think twice about adding a pocket square or tie clip – sartorial details are important to them (should you need photographic evidence or perhaps inspiration, check out our friend Brian’s work & social channels).  And the ladies give their threads a run for the money – not that it need cost an exorbitant amount to pull oneself together.  The truth is – “when you leave your house, you represent your family.

On the other hand, as NYT points out, men are going around Manhattan with little more than shorts (again, gasp!), shoes & a smile.  Column writer Guy Trebay shares this interesting thought:  “‘It is all a predictable part of the dressing-down of America,’ said Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. ‘It’s great we live in a democratic society, but we’ve lost all sense of decorum and occasion,’ Ms. Mears said. ‘To be on Fifth Avenue is now about the same as being on the Coney Island boardwalk.’ To display your unclad torso on Fifth Avenue is also, she added, to give proof of the proposition that in the evolutionary arc of masculinity, men are no longer the oglers; they are the object of the gaze.”

If you took one gender studies course in college, you’re well familiar with “the gaze.”  And, yes, even before the shirts came off in New York this summer, there have been plenty of ads & movies that have helped this phenomenon along, the article goes on to say.  But my point isn’t about gender or relegated to men or the east coast for that matter – today I saw a suburban teenage girl wearing a tank top, in the mall, sides completely cut out, lace bra exposed.  In the food court.

As you might have guessed, the trend of lux pieces worked into your casual wear really appeals to me this season.  My favorite pair of flats so far this season:

Absolutely in LOVE:  Prada - Leather Point-Toe Bow Ballet Flats - Saks.com

Prada perfectness…borrowed from the boys & right on trend.  I love them with a wildly feminine dress or skirt.  A hat, perhaps, if you’re feeling frisky.  But why relegate formality and luxe to your piddies?  Or to a black tie affair?

Enjoy some Brunello Cucinelli mixed media separates deliciousness (my dream is a closet of Cucinelli separates to wear daily…the ultimate in casual luxe):

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 8.33.53 PM Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 8.32.19 PM

On that note, don your party dress (or suit) & hit the town.  It is, as they say, always better to be overdressed.  You won’t regret it.