Musings from Home

“Appropriate” Attire

My high school friend, Jenny, who lives in California, posted a picture on Facebook last night. It was of a mother dropping her children off at school in the morning, wearing a pink bathrobe and pink fuzzy slippers. Jenny commented that she’s not even allowed to wear jeans to work. Other friends of hers commented about how they keep high-heeled shoes in theirs cars in case they need to dress up an outfit. All of them seemed to be in agreement that they wouldn’t wear a robe and slippers to their children’s school.

What struck me was how uninhibited that mother was. While I have always been dressed in real clothes in public (in college you’d have to include sweats in that), in my younger adult years I didn’t wear any make-up unless I was dressing up for a special occasion. Now I do not leave the house if I have not washed and styled my hair, put on my make-up, and dressed in “proper” clothes. I don’t even answer the doorbell if I’m in pajamas or exercise clothes.

Yes, it is a major fashion faux pas to show up anywhere outside of your own home in pajamas. And I have watched enough What Not to Wear to know that many women who do are not doing it out of confidence, but because they have given up. I am in no way suggesting that we give up, but wouldn’t it be cool if for once we didn’t worry about how we looked or what other people thought of how we looked?

This goes back to what we were talking about the other day. Who you are inside and your value as a human being have nothing to do with external appearances, and yet I have noticed that when I am dressed particularly nicely with a stylish coat or cape on and have my hair nicely styled with new highlights (rather than roots beginning to show), I am treated differently by total strangers than when I’m wearing old jeans, a fleece jacket, and my hair in a ponytail.

While I fully believe in dressing appropriately and teaching our children to do the same, I also worry about the messages we are sending when we are so focused on how we look, rather than who we are and what we are doing.

Emerald’s last day of school before the holiday break was Pajama Day. She was so excited at the first mention of it. And then she started worrying. What if she were the only kid in her class to participate? She is in fifth grade now; is it babyish to wear your pajamas to school? Would her friends think she was weird? Which pajamas should she wear? Should she even do it? It saddens me that my 10-year-old daughter is already dealing with these issues. Her view of what is fun is tempered by what others think. I know it’s normal and it’s natural, but it’s also normal and natural to be yourself and to be different from everyone else, unique. That doesn’t make you weird (unless you define “weird” as no more and no less than being different — and then we’re all weird). It makes you special

I know that dressing nicely and feeling you look good can build confidence, but having the confidence to dress out of the norm can also be freeing.

So in the spirit of loving ourselves as we are and trying not to be so critical of ourselves, I have a challenge for you. Invite your friends to meet you out in public someplace, dressed as you would never normally appear in public. It could be in your workout clothes. It could be with less make-up and less perfectly styled hair. It could be in pajamas or a robe. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Enjoy each other’s company and the freedom to let your guard down, for just a little while.

Local folks, who’s with me? Suggest a place and a time and let’s see how many people we can get to make the statement that we are comfortable enough in our own skin to dare to wear “what NOT to wear”, just this once. I know this will be hard, but I will make the effort if you will. 

[For the record, I am not suggesting that the mom whose attire started this discussion chose her clothes yesterday morning to make a statement. Neither am I suggesting that she has given up. I don’t know her at all. The photo of her just got me thinking how great it would be to be uninhibited enough to appear in public in a fuzzy pink robe and fuzzy pink slippers. Something I could never do — from a confidence perspective more than a fashion one.]

Thanks, Jenny P., for the inspiration for this post.

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Comments on: "“Appropriate” Attire" (14)

  1. For a number of years, I wore shapeless baggy clothes that were meant to hide my body. When I started running, I finally got the confidence to start wearing clothes that were more form fitting and flattering. Not that I’m wearing really tight stuff, but I’m not longer trying to hide. As I’ve gotten more confidence, I’ve started branching out and trying new styles. Now, I try to make an effort when I get dressed.

    That said, I don’t spend a lot of time pondering what I’m going to wear every day, nor do I spend a lot of time getting ready. I have easy hair and I don’t tend to wear a lot of make up (although I have branched out there too). I wear what makes me feel good about myself and I don’t worry about what others think of me or my sartorial choices. That said, I’m not particularly wild, so I doubt I’m raising any eyebrows when I’m cruising the aisles at the grocery store.

    I’m trying to think of what I could wear that would push me outside of my comfort zone. I have cute workout clothes that I have no qualms about wearing out in public, even to run errands. In fact, I often walk or bike my errands around town.

    I’ll totally meet you for coffee some day and I’ll even figure out what I could do (or not do) that would be outside of my comfort zone.

    • As you know, I used to hide in oversized clothes, too. Now I dress for myself and it is a confidence boost, but it does bother me that I won’t exercise while Sapphire is in school because I would either spend the entire time she’s in school exercising and then reshowering/getting ready or I’d have to go to her school to pick her up in exercise clothes, looking sweaty and unkempt. And the latter I just won’t do. So instead, I either have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to exercise or wait until the afternoon (which is fine, but then I have to do it inside or take a 5-year-old with me, which isn’t too conducive to walking fast or running). I am striving for the day that I am confident enoujgh in myself to appear in public without looking “just so”.

    • Tell me when and I’ll be there in workout clothes. 🙂

      • Andrea, I think your goal for January or February might need to be taking your girls to school in your workout clothes, then going to workout. To that end, let’s talk via email or Fb about meeting for a power walk and/or coffee. This is going to be GREAT!

  2. Maybe the mom had some kind of emergency and didn’t have time to get dressed? Maybe one of her kids was throwing up all night? Another kid dropped his homework in the toilet and clogged it? We never know what is really going on in someone’s life. I hope I don’t appear on someone’s FB to be mocked after I stop at the grocery store on my way home from the gym.

    I always dress up to fly. First, because jeans are not comfortable for five hours in an airplane and second, because I get treated better. Plus that way I can look with justified disdain on the women who wear track suits and flip flops to the airport. There are too many of them for it to be a bad, rushed morning. These women are making actual style choices.

    • I must apologize for mischaracterizing the FB post and comments. I don’t believe my friend posted the photo (which incidentally was from afar and did not show the woman’s face – she was turned away)to mock the person. In fact, Jenny was the one who suggested I blog about having the confidence to wear a robe and slippers to take your kids to school after I commented how great it would be to be that uninhibited. There was one comment to her post about that being what not to wear, but all other comments were about our own worries about how we’re dressed. One parent said she had worn slippers to take her kids to school once and then had to get out of the car, and how embarrassed she was.Your point is very well taken that we don’t know what was going on in the mom’s life that day. My point is simply that I lack the confidence to take my kids to school if I’m not fully done up (I might take them to the ER in an emergency in pajamas). If a kid threw up on me or I didn’t have the time to get dressed, my kids would have to be late to school. Sad, I know, but that’s where this post came from, my insecurities and worries about how I look.I envy people who can run errands without going to a lot of fuss to get ready.

  3. Oh my. I am *that* woman. I own that fuzzy pink robe! =) giggle. I’m pretty sure I went to my own wedding in flats with no make-up. I do try to ensure I wear a bra when I leave the house, but sometimes I don’t notice and walk out without one.

    My husband and I have actually been refused service both car and furniture shopping because the sales people looked at us and made the judgement we must be too poor to buy anything. We made an appointment to test drive the exact car we wanted to **purchase** a car once, and the salesman said to us, “You prove to me you can afford it, and *then* I’ll let you drive it!”. No joke.

    Your posts are always so great and thought provoking!

    • My dad used to love going around town (in the town you and I grew up in) in an old VW and dressed in clothes he’s painted in, etc. He loved the assumptions people made about him because he knew they weren’t true. It held a fun irony for him. It is sad that people refuse service based on how you’re dressed. When my husband and I bought our current house, we had to pursuade the real estate agent to show us houses in our price range because he didn’t believe us we could afford it (even though our mortgage broker had set the range — we didn’t get formal preapproval papers at the time). He thought we were wasting his time. I almost insisted we switch agents, I was so frustrated. Your point is well-taken. I do envy people who don’t have the self-imposed inhibitions about what they wear in public (to a point, of course). Truly, I would just love to go out in public in sweats again and not feel self-conscious. Working on it.

  4. I have never NOT gone to the bus stop in the morning in my PJ’s or workout clothes. If you’re lucky, I’ve brushed my teeth, but that’s only on the mornings I’ve been to workout first. I’m also known to run up the the grocery store around the corner in my pj’s to grab something for breakfast.
    I get cleaned up when it’s called for, but I have no shame about doing things in my pj’s before a certain hour (9 am) in the morning.

    • That’s awesome. I have no shame doing things around my house in pj’s, especially on the weekends, but I’d be horrified if someone rang the doorbell. I strive to branch out of my comfort zone and run errands after a workout without showering again first. I might be able to go to the bus stop in the morning (or even afternoon) after a workout, but that’s probably because the bus stop is at the end of our driveway and my daughter is the only one who gets on/off the bus there.

  5. Wow. How interesting this all is! Personally, I don’t want anyone seeing me in my jammies because I am way to modest for that! I’m not even wearing a bra! And it just seems so personal. And people see me in my workout clothes all the time because I run through town so can’t avoid that. But I would change before walking through the halls of my kids’ school…why is that? Very interesting….

  6. OK! I’m glad to know I misunderstood. I also realized I might have been a little harsh in my comments out of defensiveness, as I do not look my best when I run my morning errands after the gym. That’s because I am lazy, not because I have a good excuse! But it seems crazy to go home after the gym to shower and change only to go back out and retrace my steps. I suppose I could shower at the Y, but that would mean hauling stuff, etc. I have accepted that I am just not going to look great.

    Your point about better service when you are well dressed is well taken, though. People do judge. Why make it harder for yourself? Yes, everyone should treat other human beings with dignity and respect, but it makes things easier when you look nice. We shouldn’t judge but we do.

  7. DOC (my hubs) and I had this conversation awhile back when I noticed my pre-teen niece not seeming to take pride in how she looks. How could her mother not teach her how to wear outfits that flatter her figure/buy her clothes that fit properly? Does she not know how to style her hair?

    And it made me realize all of the times I had thrown the kids in the van and ran off to the Super Wal-Mart in sweatpants and a fleece jacket with the honest to God rationalization “it’s JUST Wal-Mart! I’ll probably be the best dressed person there!” Maybe I was setting a bad example for my kids that how you look when you go out in public is not important. Am I always following my own rules about fashion “Just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it” when I’m wearing bummy sweats in public. Am I setting an impression in my daughter’s mind? So I made an effort each time I took my kids someplace to have on proper pants, brushed hair and make-up. (Ok, CVS doesn’t count because I’m going there because someone is sick.)

    Running to WalMart in sweat pants because you are lazy is bad. Picking your child up from school in work out clothes, from when you were ACTUALLY working out, shows your child that you have a life outside of her, that you choose to take good care of yourself and, as a bonus, now that you’re already in workout clothes that you and your daughter can go for a walk or play on the playground a little longer and show her the importance of lifelong fitness. GO FOR IT!

    (Side note: And why do I judge myself and my actions so much harsher now that I’m a mom. Oh, because everyone else does. Moms, let’s quit beating each other up and being so judgy!)

    • Both of my girls have gone through the phase of not caring one whit about how they look — sweat pants, t-shirts, hoodies, Crocs. It’s not like either girl didn’t have other options in their wardrobes, plus I was willing to buy whatever cute clothes they wanted if they’d just start putting in a little more effort and only wear the sloppy stuff at home. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, however, because the fact is, they’ll likely spend the rest of their lives thinking about their clothes and how other people view them, so why worry about it when they’re in elementary school?

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