Tag Archives: dress code

Those Were the Days

Did you ever wonder if you were born at the wrong time in history or if some freak cosmic glitch dropped you into the wrong point in time?  Now, as a faithful Catholic, of course I don’t believe in reincarnation or cosmic glitches, for that matter.  But I do sometimes wonder why I am so drawn to the lifestyle of previous generations.  The post-war generation in particular.  Apparently, I’m not alone in this.  According to this New York Times article, vintage fashion has made a big comeback.  Not the 1980s look, either.  It’s more than the fashion, though.  Two blog posts, here and here, got me thinking about the good old days of ladies and gentlemen.

Yes, I know the 1950s and ’60s weren’t without their problems.  There was the Cold War Soviet menace with its threat of nuclear holocaust and Vietnam brewing.  Brown vs. Board of Education may have been the law of the land, but racial segregation and discrimination weren’t going anywhere soon.   Ask any historian and you’ll learn that women were oppressed and relegated to domestic drudgery.  And behind many picture-perfect, happy American families lurked alcoholism, abuse, or depression.

There are plenty of things worth bringing back, though:

Image from grandmothersattic Etsy shop

Girdles:  I can remember my mom wearing them well into the ’70s. (Sorry, Mom.)  Were they comfortable?  No.  But slip a dress on over one and, Wow!  What a difference!  A real lady wouldn’t leave the house without one.  These days, thanks be to God, girdles are making something of a comeback in the form of Spanx and similar “shapewear.”  That’s a friendlier name than “girdle,” I guess.  Hollywood starlets wear ’em on the red carpet, and better clothing stores routinely recommend them for everyday wear.  If we are a society that’s all about feeling good about ourselves as well as looking good, how on earth can we accept THIS as our normal, satisfactory appearance:

Manners:  Remember when people had some?  Deportment and good penmanship used to be part of the school curriculum way back when.  It used to be important to know how to behave in public, how to greet people, and how to be a good citizen.  The grammar textbook SuzyQ used in 8th grade, Voyages in English 8, copyright 1962, included detailed lessons in good manners.


When we bring home a guest whom our parents do not know we should introduce him to them…We should always be courteous, gracious, and cordial.


KATHLEEN: Mother, this is my new friend, Dorothy Coll.  Dorothy moved here from Gesu parish.

MOTHER:  How do you do, Dorothy.  I hope you will be very happy in this neighborhood.

DOROTHY:  How do you do, Mrs. Fries.  If all the girls are like Kathleen, I know I am going to like it.

Do you ever hear anyone say, “How do you do” anymore?  Here was the section on writing (Yes, writing!) thank you letters:

The well-bred person always says “Thank you” for any gift or favor.  The letter need not be long, but it should be friendly and sincere…


Dear Mrs. Cray,

     How can I ever thank you sufficiently for such a pleasant day as yesterday?  Mother claims I even talked about it in my sleep last night!

     The trip to Radio City was a delightful experience, and the visit to Mother Cabrini’s shrine was most impressive.  Indeed the entire day, from the moment we set foot in New York until we boarded the train for Hartford, was a real joy.

     I want you to know that I am very grateful to you for inviting me to share this memorable experience with Jeanne.  I am sure we shall never forget our first visit to New York.

                                                                                         Affectionately yours,

                                                                                         Patricia Dacey

I think I would burst into tears if I ever received such a gracious thank you note.  Today, you have to spend big bucks to get your kids educated at cotillion classes or manners camps.  Even then, the extent of the curriculum is the obvious stuff, like table manners, saying “please” and “thank you,” and good sportsmanship.  That’s the best we can do?  Is it too much to ask in our modern society for a gentleman to hold a door open for a lady or stand when she comes to the table?  What about children addressing adults as “Mrs. Jones”  instead of “Miss Tracey?”  Are “ma’am” and “sir” confined only to military members now?

So if you put it all together, what do you get?  Well, maybe if we women put a little more effort into dressing like a lady, say “Mad Men” style,

we might get a little more treatment like this:

Not that women bear the full responsibility for improving their appearance.  Maybe more men would act like gentlemen if they dressed the part.  You know: save the ball cap for an athletic event, same goes for the track pants; try a button-down shirt every now and then.  And by all means, wear a coat and tie when you go out to a nice restaurant or club or to church.

A disclaimer: I have never watched the show “Mad Men” since we don’t get any premium TV channels.  I’m certainly not advocating the behavior portrayed in the show.  I’m just saying that I often feel like you could plunk me down in 1960, and I would feel more at home in that era than I do now.  Yes, I would wear the girdle, the gloves, and the little hat.  And I would be expecting doors to be opened and chairs to be pulled out.  Another disclaimer:  I actually get all of this treatment from Darling Husband even without the girdle.  Jealous?


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Filed under etiquette, life in America, Uncategorized

Fashion Police Again…Mom Weighs In

This weekend I took SuzyQ shopping for some fall clothes.  She is 16, and we have never really had battles over what clothes are considered appropriate.  We simply have a 2-way veto policy:  I can veto anything she picks out, and she can veto my selections.  So far, so good.   Nevertheless, shopping for clothes in the Juniors department is torture.

Take jeans, for example.  The average zipper length on jeans for teenage girls must be about 3 inches.  How do girls sit in them?  And I don’t even want to discuss what underwear is appropriate for something “ultra low-rise.”   Who knew that “low-rise” was just the beginning of the torment?  This fall, the hot trend is the “jegging”: leggings made out of denim.  Essentially, they’re tights.  Back in the 80’s (my high school and college era), we wore leggings under giant sweatshirts that came almost to our knees.  Today’s teens see nothing amiss about wearing these “jeggings” just like they would any other pants: with just a t-shirt.

Image from Macy's

Doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, does it?  Just because there’s no skin showing doesn’t make it any less objectionable.  The rule at our house is that skinny jeans or leggings automatically get paired with a top that covers the butt.  No exceptions.

Take another look at the picture, and you might notice the shoes.  Am I the only one who is reminded of a street walker?   I can’t think of any occasion that would call for a teenage girl to wear 4-inch platform stilettos.

Every generation has its questionable fashions.  I get that.  What I don’t get is how any girl in her right mind could imagine that clothes like these would produce anything but slutty looks and remarks.  If clothes are the way teens express themselves, what is a girl in this outfit trying to say?  And what kind of parent lets her daughter parade around dressed like this?  Not an uncommon one, that’s for sure.

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Fashion Police: The Catholic Squad

It’s well after Labor Day, and I wore white pants with white wedge sandals to church last weekend.  According to some, I made a fashion faux pas.  Was it because of the white or because of the pants?  Apparently, a number of good Catholic folks would condemn me for wearing pants–of any color.

Yes, it’s tough being a Catholic in today’s culture.  I figure it’s hard enough trying to build a modest wardrobe for myself and 16-year-old SuzyQ.  But then I come across discussion about whether it’s immodest or even sinful to wear pants.  Not just the pants that are so tight that they look painted on and flesh rolls out over the top of them or even the ones that are cut so low that they leave more of one’s backside uncovered than covered.  This discussion was about any pants: trousers, dress pants, jeans, etc.

Now, do Catholics really have nothing better to worry about than whether pants lead men into impure thoughts?  Sadly, I have known women who, though only implicitly, cast some judgement on women who don’t wear frumpy jumpers and long skirts exclusively.    Now, as I read more Catholic blogs, I find out that people actually believe it’s no coincidence that women started clamoring for ordination about the same time that pants became an acceptable part of their wardrobes.  Some even link pants to the Culture of Death that pervades this country.  Pants??  So pre-marital sex, abortion, shacking up, “alternative lifestyles”, sexualization of children, and so on all trace their roots to pants?

I happen to love skirts and dresses.  Usually they are easier to fit, and they can be very comfortable, especially in the summer.  But I also think pants are very practical, and they can be very attractive with the right fit.  Both can be tasteful and modest.  Sure, I would like to see more women wear skirts and dresses, particularly to Mass on Sunday.  It just makes it look like they put a little extra effort into going to Mass.  (I blogged about it here.)

The world thinks we Catholics are crazy enough as it is.  I don’t think equating pants with immorality helps attract people to the Church.

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Sunday Best

Does anyone even use the expression “Sunday best” anymore?  Each week as I attend Mass, I wonder what ever happened to the idea of wearing one’s Sunday best to church.  Maybe this is something peculiar to Catholics, which would be sad indeed.  It has become less the exception and more the norm to see the congregation decked out in jeans, shorts, sports jerseys, sneakers, and flip-flops.  This is practically the universal church dress code for kids aged 10 and up.  Sadly, though, adults often dress in the same way. 

The arguments people propose for not dressing up for church are basically twofold:

  1. God doesn’t / shouldn’t care what I wear.  Isn’t it enough that I go to church?
  2. Nobody dresses up for anything anymore.  Why should I dress for Church?

Both of those typical arguments make me sad.  In the first case, people trying to get away with the least amount of effort possible sort of miss the whole point.  Why do we bother dressing up for work, a date, or a wedding or funeral?  In all of these cases, we do it out of respect for someone else.  Spending time on our appearance indicates that the event we’re attending or the job we’re going to means something to us; it’s important enough to put more effort into it than you would for, say, a trip to the grocery store.

In the second case, I get discouraged by the casual-ization of American culture.  If everything is “come as you are,” what is special anymore?  One year my husband and I went out to dinner for our anniversary to a certain expensive steak restaurant.  OK, it was Ruth’s Chris–definitely a special occasion place for us.  Darling husband wore a suit, and I wore a little black cocktail dress.  Even the wait-staff at the restaurant were all dressed in white shirts and black ties.  Unfortunately, we were sorely overdressed.  Golf shirts and jeans on the men and capri pants on the women were the nearly unanimous choice of apparel.  Well, there was a teenage couple obviously on their way to prom after dinner.  I can’t imagine how out-of-place they must have felt in their evening attire.  The crowd at this higher-end restaurant looked almost exactly like Outback Steakhouse diners.  So much for marking a special occasion.

In my humble opinion, there is a link between our dress and our behavior.  (Incidently, this is a big argument in favor of uniforms in schools.)  When we are dressed up, we act with better manners, we stand up straighter, we aren’t as loud and boisterous.  When we change into our jeans, we immediately want to spread out on a couch somewhere, put our feet up, and yap away on our cell phones.  It’s no wonder then that Americans are seen as loud and obnoxious by most of the rest of the world.

Do you dress up for church–or anything–anymore?


Filed under etiquette