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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

3 Dressy Days Gone By

Of all the trends that have come and gone, and for all the cyclical movements we romanticize with our fatalistic rhetoric only to see them turn around right before our eyes, there is one national movement that is irrefutably spiraling into decline: the casualization of our wardrobes. As the opportunities for increased standards of dress dwindle, so do the occurrences of more gentrified clothing in our closets. The oxfords, slacks, wingtips, dresses and heels of days past have been replaced by t-shirts, jeans, sweatsuits, furry boots and Crocs. We are not only a fatter nation, we are a lazier nation, and the time it takes to don even the simplest items of dress-wear has proven to be a prohibitive inconvenience. Our idyllic visions of recent history are often times no more geniune than the televisions shows from which we derive them - but no matter what the dirty underbelly of our past, we certainly were better dressed. And while there is no shortage of style in modern times (just look at the magazine rack in your local bookstore), there is a shortage of places to acceptably exercise it. In light of that, I present three occasions that need re-dressed:

1. The Sloppy Skies. As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when air travel was considered a luxury, and people actually dressed up to fly. Airports looked more like churches than bus terminals, and the pilots and air crew were not the best dressed people on the plane. But as the prices of air travel have fallen to the point of nearly ubiquitous access, the proletariat brought more than simply their money and travel plans to the airport, they brought their clothes, too. Today, not even the feeblest attempt at dressing up is made, and the modern day air terminal houses the greatest collection of leisure wear available since the death of disco. Honestly, I think the entire couture sweatsuit industry is being propped up by female air travelers. It’s as though there has been some kind of collective failure to notice that the airport is actually a public place. It’s just house-shoes and bathrobes away from everyone walking around as though it's Sunday morning in their own home. Listen, I know that coach seating is far from opulent, but it’s also not so agonizingly uncomfortable that it obviates the need for just the smallest measure of decorum when picking your clothes. Trust me, if I want to know what you wear around the house, I’ll stop by. In the meantime, stick with pants that don’t have elastic anywhere in them.

2. The Show’s Clothes Just Gone. Theater used to be a magical experience. Whether live or on-screen, we would enter into these elaborately-decorated shrines of seated comfort and dim lighting to be wholly, and utterly without distraction, entertained. And for this privilege, we would dress to match the fanciful nature of these accommodations. Even as styles changed, going to see the show was always an opportunity to look our best - even though we’d be sitting in the dark amongst strangers and all staring in the same direction. The staff of these dedicated show halls were similarly buttoned up - often in something drastically more elaborate than anything the patrons would wear. And even though these same staff members have been reduced to ill-fitting pants and seldom-washed (and never pressed) polo shirts, they are, unfortunately, still the best-dressed people in the joint. The distressingly poor fashion sense of teenagers notwithstanding (certainly a whole separate discussion), if I didn’t know any better I’d think that the front doors to these theaters connected directly to a Wal-Mart (more on that later). It’s as though the predominance of home movies has convinced everyone to dress as though they’re on their own living room couch, and adopted clothing that will accommodate any bodily expansion provided by the livestock-sized portions offered up at the modern concession stands. If sitting for two hours is too painful to endure in anything but pajamas - perhaps it's better you stay home anyways.

3. Shopping Gall. I’ve looked at shopping as a particularly difficult task. Of course, I’m not counting (a) getting anywhere near a shopping mall during the holidays; (b) even thinking about about a warehouse store on a weekend or (c) grocery shopping mid-week. But while those retail occasions are entirely unpleasant - the whole point of me avoiding them if at all possible - they certainly aren’t physically demanding. You know, the sort of demanding that would obviate a desire to dress like an adult - with clothes that button rather than tie-on? It seems, however, that the shopping public at-large finds this otherwise pleasurable retail exercise daunting enough to dress as though they shopped entirely out of the “free” box at a garage sale, a thrift store, or with a $5 maximum clothing budget - per outfit. I remember actually getting dressed up to go to the mall. After all, people were going to see me. Okay, girls were going to see me. Okay, in fairness, girls weren’t going to look at me if I ran by them literally on fire - but hey, I wanted to be ready if lightning were to strike. But now I see people wearing things I wouldn’t even dream of wearing on a late-night prove-how-much-I-care tampon run to the drug store - let alone to a multi-acre, multi-level shopping mall in the middle of the day. It makes me wonder if someone forgot to tell them that these places are, in fact, open to the public. And yes, that’s me laughing at you in your XXL Tony Steward t-shirt and Crocs while you window shop the Gap.

* * *

There is no greater evidence that the primary social casualty or our time is shame than looking at what people wear. We have infused an entire culture with the mantra “who cares what other people think?” And look where it’s gotten us - we’ve turned every public space into a trailer home living room, complete with nearly disposable lounge-wear, a complete disregard for the visual health of others, and our dignity sacrificed so profoundly that the Mayans would be jealous. Comfortism has replaced hedonism as the primary pursuit in our most selfish moments, peddled to us by rock-hard models who we are led to believe spend all their time simply lazing about - rather than spending 6 hours in the gym it takes to get abs you can cut paper with. The comfortistic movement has created the greatest fashion crisis since - well, the currently concluding douchebag era - but hey, it’s still bad. Don’t me wrong, I don’t think one’s clothes should hurt - but when our public paradigms for how we present ourselves become identical to our private ones, the one thing you can count on is a whole lot of uncomfortable.


Kristina said...

I try to be as comfortable as possible when traveling. (You think they'll let me wear my PJs on the plane?) Walking what sometimes seems like miles from the parking lot, through the airport, pulling 2 tons of luggage, just to stand in line for 30 minutes. And, of course, not only do you practically have to take out everything in your luggage to be set separate, but THEN you have to practically undress to get through. Could you imagine doing this in heels? No, because you're a guy and a guy's dress clothes are only slightly different from casual clothes.

I agree with number two. It's supposed to be a night out on the town!

Come on! The emails with the "scene at walmart" photos are my favorite of the internet! Oh yes, don't you wish you had THAT mirror?

And all this from someone in boots and jeans, sitting in her office working :)

Jen and Tonic said...

I laughed because I, at one point or another, have been guilty of each of the things you've listed.

I agree with what Kristina says about being in the airport dressed up. Women vs. competition, women have it more difficult. That said, I think there IS a way to dress nicely while being comfortable.

They dedicate entire magazines to this kind of stuff. You need to get a gig at Cosmo, give them a male's perspective ;)

Anonymous said...

Man...having said all that....I'm just glad you didn't pick me up at the airport...

I was wearing everything that I couldn't fit in my suitcase. Like... my grey brickyard hat, RED Ohio State capri sweats...a white Ohio State dressy long black peacoat (unbuttoned mind you).... and.... wait for it.....wait for it.... my bender boots... with (I can't believe I'm telling you this).... sigh... white socks. Yeah.... don't re-read it... yup..I said "white socks".

**This comment is for the sole purpose of your blog. So I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring the above up to me later. I wouldn't wanna have-ta post your "snazzy" house slippers on here. ;)


SavageLettuce said...

AMEN TO IT ALL! But then again, I am notorious for overdressing. Of course, if wherever you go 80% of the people you run into are dressed like they've just come from a couch potato contest, that's not hard to do.

OZ101 said...

I've been bitching about airline travel outfits for years now. I remember when my father would force me to wear a SUIT to get on the airplane. I dressed up for the airplane until I was about 21 when I realized that I didn't have to anymore. But come on! I've never seen PINK or JUICY written on a fat chicks ass more in my life!

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