Friday, July 10, 2009

Food for Thought: "Casual Friday"?

I laugh when I hear people discuss "casual Friday." In this day and age, how is a "casual" Friday a departure from the dress code on the other four weekdays?

People wear jeans to work. ALL THE TIME. Women wear relaxed dresses that reveal plunging necklines, open backs, and bare shoulders that are better suited to cocktail hour on a yacht (or, depending on the dress, to a bar in Jersey) than to sitting in a conference room. I know someone who introduced "Formal Fridays" to his company as a way to make Fridays special again since the "casual" theme was hopelessly redundant.

I think it's nice to relax silly standards sometimes. I appreciate that the dot-com era introduced a relaxed-cool philosophy best embodied by Steve Jobs' black turtleneck and jeans uniform. Why would he wear a suit when he's Steve Jobs? Who does he need to impress? I once heard that Sam Walton drove around in his favorite beat-up pickup truck despite his millions because if people judged him he'd just cry all the way to the bank.

BUT. Most people are not Steve Jobs or Sam Walton and should therefore contemplate what their clothes say about them.

I have always loved clothes for their transformative powers. Think about the fun of dressing up as a child. Consider Cinderella...Pygmalion...My Fair Lady...Pretty Woman...Clueless...the makeover in attitude makes a huge difference but the clothes can turn a guttersnipe into a countess.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wisely observed the following in his short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair":
"When a girl feels that she's perfectly groomed and dressed she can forget that part of her.
That's charm.
The more parts of yourself you can afford to forget, the more charm you have."

I have always loved dressing up. I don't wear pants and don't even waste my time looking at them when I shop. Perhaps one day when I achieve Catherine Deneuve's physique I'll find some divine pair of sailor trousers or palazzo pants and go to town. Until then, dresses are the best fit for my body and my philosophy. A younger friend of mine wrote an email to me within the first few weeks of her freshman year at college and noted, "Whenever I wear dresses everyone always asks me why I am so dressed up; I knew you would understand."

Unless I put my best foot forward, I don't feel like I CAN move forward. In college I dressed up for exams, believing that if I felt ready to seize the day the test would be just one more item on my to-do list rather than the inevitable disaster I rolled out of bed in sweatpants to contend with.

I'm not suggesting that anyone buy into the gimmicks of the fashion world (just because I do it doesn't mean you have to). You don't have to spend more money than you can afford and you don't have to change who you are. But wearing sneakers, tshirts and jeans everywhere will hardly earn the respect of your peers. Don't be afraid to look great. Don't shy away from being perfectly put together. Embrace what's beautiful about the world and make every day lovely!

Happy Weekend!


Meghan said...

I just wanted to let you know how FABULOUS this post is! I couldn't agree any more :)

Brown Eyed Girl said...

Agreed, Great post. I love wearing dresses and skirts and am also constantly asked why I am dressed up... I guess it doesn't help that most geologists dress in ratty flannel and socks with sandals! I'm in an office, I shouldn't look like I've been in the field for weeks!

Britt said...

I get the same "why are you dressed up" comment when I wear dresses/skirts. Luckily, my new boyfriend loves it.

I don't fit into pants real well. I do own shorts but I still manage (according to others) to "look dressed up" in them. I just hate leaving the house looking like I was just working out or rolled out of bed.

Great post!

Kate said...

Love this post. In DC I went from a federal job to just state (well "district") and I couldn't believe what people wore to work! At the second job people actually wore SWEATPANTS! It was crazy.

ms. mindless said...

i'm with you about dresses. i feel so much more comfortable and put together in a dress than i ever do in pants. i do wear jeans, but otherwise it is always dresses for me! i used to dress up for work, in the three years i worked in higher ed administration before doing teach for america and moving to a classroom. teachers dress like absolute poo. it is sad. no motivation to look nice. my attire as a teacher was so crazy. dresses 3 days a week and jeans the other 2 day! i swear i could have worn a burlap sack to work and no one would have cared.

carol said...

Christine, I was reminded to go on your blog bc I got to see you tonight. ;-)...

I love this post, too. Particularly these two lines:
"Don't be afraid to look great. Don't shy away from being perfectly put together. Embrace what's beautiful about the world and make every day lovely!"

If "dressing well" illuminates a deeper appreciation for life, then AMEN to dressing well!

BLC :o said...

LOVE this post! First, Fitz is soooo right. Second, I love the girl comment. I hate it when people asked why I am all dressed up! I snark back, "oh I just showered today" and it usually ensure they don't ask again. Third, I dressed up for exams TOO!! Sometimes I feel guilty NOT cramming and primping, but past precedents keep me priming away!!! Xoxo-BLC

PS: I am a fan of the Formal Fridays! Hehe.