Dressing Up – The Answer To All Life’s Ills

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I was watching Blitz Street on Monday and once again it struck me how well turned out everyone was in old video footage from the era.

I’ve mentioned it before but it never ceases to amaze me when I see images of people sheltering from bombs and picking through the rubble of their shattered homes and lives wearing stockings and overcoats with perfectly coiffed hair

I can only imagine scenes like this on a British street now, full of tracksuits, jeans and T shirts and probably a smattering of pyjamas.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that we don’t HAVE to dress up every day in the modern world. Trust me, sometimes when all I need to do is get a pint of milk, it’s a relief that I can just go to the shop in jeans and shoes I can actually walk in. It’s just that it seems that we’ve gone too far the other way. Where making an effort with your appearance on a day to day basis has become a sign of vanity and viewed as aberrant behaviour in some way.

Once, at work in a Call Centre, I was in the ladies toilets. I was dressed in a green bias cut skirt, black v neck jumper and black court shoes, nothing particularly over the top. A Woman looked me up and down and said “Oooh, where are you off to? Anywhere nice?” when I replied “Nowhere” I could see visible surprise on her face and she just scurried away. When even wearing a skirt to work is dressing up you know there’s something weird going on.

To me making an effort when you dress isn’t about vanity (ok, sometimes it is) it’s about respect. Not only respect for myself, but for others.

Dressing up doesn’t have to mean stockings and a hat, it just means dressing appropriately to the situation and making sure you’re smart and well presented. Arriving at a Wedding Reception, for instance, in jeans and a t shirt (and someone did at mine. Someone I didn’t know and hadn’t invited personally as well!) demonstrates a flat out lack of respect for your hosts and the effort and expense they have put in to arranging the event.

Now, I’d never claim you can’t be a total scruff bag and the most altruistic person who ever lived. Or that sartorial elegance makes you immune from being a selfish, evil git, I’ve seen enough Bond films to know that’s not true. But it does seem that the death of dressing up is a symptom of a larger issue of respect. It’s nice to live in a (mostly) relaxed and tolerant society. It’s not nice to live in a society where people no longer CARE. Not caring for your appearance might be one thing, but dropping litter and spitting in the street are another. They might not harm anyone directly, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK.

It seems the more people keep shouting about a return to “traditional values” (which ones? the oppression of Women? Sending small children up chimneys?) and irritatingly plastering pictures of Churchill all over their literature without any real understanding of the mans life and politics (you know who you are), the less likely they are to actually be applying any of those values to their life.

Presumably they’re talking about someone else?

It makes me even sadder when I hear news stories that tell me that “young people” don’t care about Politics, I’d rather they thought about it carefully then voted BNP (actually no I wouldn’t, but you get my point, surely?)

P.S. If you don’t know who to vote for try this site.

Caring about things just doesn’t seem to be the done thing. Well, I DO care.

I care what I look like, I care what the streets look like and I care what YOU look like.

So next time you decide you can’t be bothered to brush your hair to go to the Post Office it might be worth stopping and thinking about what else you’ve stopped caring about, because the much touted political word “community” isn’t about being bessy mates with your neighbours (god forbid, I hate talking to my neighbours, brings me out in a cold sweat). It’s about showing respect for other peoples work, property and privacy and realising that we don’t exist on this planet alone.

I think over the last few years or so there HAS been a slow move back towards caring about the quality of your clothes, where they were made and who by and a slight shift away from Sportswear in public. Long may it continue.


Seriously, it could be the answer to all our problems, both the ones made up by the newspapers and the REAL ones.

Photo by Danny McL

34 Responses
  • Emma
    April 21, 2010


    Love this post and couldn’t agree more. We do seem to live in a society now where no one cares and everyone “says it how it is” (an updated version of “I’m not being rude but…*insert rude comment*)

    Maybe if more of us considered what others thought and felt, everyone would get along better!

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      Yes! That’s a reality TV favourite along with “I’m just being honest!”

      Sometimes it’s not dishonesty, it’s politeness!

  • Emmaj414
    April 21, 2010

    Here here!!

    I honestly couldn’t put anything else to that. Its so sad that people don’t feel happy to wear whatever they like, and the ‘norm’ is dressed down. I take pride in myself, and dressing before I leave the house. I have a son and a husband, and I care how I look, as it reflects back on them too.

    Plus, I absolutely LOVE dressing up, its so much fun!! People say ‘Where will you wear that?’ I say ‘Everywhere!!’

    .-= Emmaj414´s last blog ..Wishlist Updates =-.

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      I’m with you. It’s such a shame that people feel that being too dressed up is worse than being not dressed up enough!

  • Cate
    April 21, 2010

    Amen sister!!

    I’ve seen so many people pop to the shops in their pajamas (I’ve even seen them get on airplanes in their dressing gowns!) and it says a lot when you can’t even be bothered to put on a simple pair of jeans and a t-shirt to go out the house!

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      It really astonishes me when people feel no need to even try and hide the fact they’ve gone out in their pyjamas!

  • Helen Cruse
    April 21, 2010

    oh heavens! Tell me about it! I’ve just gone from one extreme to the other… Hourstons, a real “Are you being served type shop”. Full of smartly dressed personnel, and ladies with proper shoes and shampoo and sets, (and me),and then turned a corner in to shell suit hell. Schools had emptied for lunch. I swear some of these children are wearing their blankets!
    .-= Helen Cruse´s last blog ..Sunday Stealing =-.

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      Mmm, it is tempting sometimes to go out in my blanket though…..

  • Fiona - Notorious Kitsch
    April 21, 2010

    Such an interesting topic, I’m all for getting dressed up, and it does make me feel better! I confess though as a work at home person it’s made me less dressy up and honestly that saddens me, having said that clearly I know it’s in my power to change!!

    I’m fortunate never to have seen people board planes or go to the shop in PJs, really do people board planes like that? Really?!! I cannot even imagine, that is that kind of thing I have a nightmare about!!

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      Ah, working from home has made me more dressy! At first I gloried in pyjama heaven. Then I got depressed and since then I’ve revelled in being my own boss who understands that I can start work half an hour later and work through my lunch, just because I need extra time to do my hair!

  • Becca Sibley
    April 21, 2010

    I think you are totally right, it makes a real difference to your mood too.

    • Retro Chick
      April 21, 2010

      Absolutely. I work from home and I always make the effort to get dressed properly even if I don’t need to leave the house. I get depressed and miserable if I don’t

  • Maddy
    April 21, 2010

    Lol! Unfortunately, I’m one of those guilty paties…though I admit I’m getting better 🙂 Especially once I started gaining weight, I just wanted to bum around in track suits all day. I realize that was all part of the depression at having gained weight. Now that I’m starting to lose it again, I feel physically better and I’m seeing my interests in clothes and appearance increase exponentially.

  • Julie
    April 21, 2010

    I love this post! Thinking about it, I find that I appoligise or make some excuse when dressing up a little bit. I find that phrases like “oh this old thing?” or “I only got it in the bargain rack” seem to blurt out of my mouth to cover up how suprised people are about what I am wearing.
    I will no longer cover up and be proud about being smart and dressed up! Thank you 🙂

  • Kelly
    April 21, 2010

    I totally agree. I can’t pretend I’m perfectly coiffed and made up every day, but I don’t leave the house unless I’m clean, groomed, and feeling presentable. Last weekend after leaving the gym, I remembered that I was out of milk. I almost didn’t go into the store because I was wearing a tank top and yoga pants. I felt so under-dressed and inappropriate – even though tons of people in that store were in similar getups anyway.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..I think we can all agree =-.

  • Intrinsically Florrie
    April 21, 2010

    Oh I agree- I think it’s part of the charm of why I love watching Poirot so much. No lady would have gone out without a hat and lipstick- just fabulous.

    Florrie x
    .-= Intrinsically Florrie´s last blog ..The day it all went dark =-.

  • eyeliah
    April 22, 2010

    haha. Great post! I saw two gals walking with a group of friends the other day, and these two were in pajama pants, very messy hair and I just sighed. No one gives them a double take but me in a vintage inspired look and everyone seems confused.
    .-= eyeliah´s last blog ..The Challenge Of It =-.

  • LandGirl1980
    April 22, 2010

    You truly are a woman after my own heart! People assume that because I am well dressed everyday and put thought into my outfits (well -I try!) I must get up at 5am. WTF? I leave the house at 645 – i get up at about 6.20! I love my bed too much to drag myself forth into the day any earlier than neccesary! However – that does not mean that I would ever DREAM of leaving the house looking like I should still be in it! What IS it with PJ bottoms in the street??? I put the blame firmly at the feet of Jack Wills. Their lounge wear range looks exactly like PJs. And for people who can’t afford £50 for a pair of bottoms, but still want to have the look? (why would you??) It seems to me they make do with the alternatives availiable to them in places like Primark & Asda. And the hair-piled-on-top-of-the-head-back-combed-to-death look? EUGH!
    There was a time when pride in ones appearence was the natural order of things. Just like NOT having a job and living off of benefits was something to be ashamed of. Now it seems to me that it is a career choice.

    Sorry. I have ranted. I shall shut up now.

    Aside from above rant – “Blitz Street” was TOP NOTCH! I really affected me and I am still thinking about it now.

  • Rachel
    April 22, 2010

    I live in the US, and people are absolute slobs here. I’m sure you’ve heard Tim Gunn call it the “slobification of America.” I couldn’t agree more. I get lots of compliments when I wear dresses to work, but people are always asking if I have a special date with my husband or somesuch afterward.

    Not only do people go to the grocery store in their sweats/PJs; they actually go out to eat in them. And not just at fast food places. My husband and I go to sit-down restaurants and girls walk in wearing ripped sweat pants. The other funny thing is that these same girls in their awful clothing will take the time to go tanning and put on too much make-up. It’s bizarre.

  • Leanne Wright
    April 23, 2010

    Exactly, lets face it, how many of us have got even half way through a ‘lazy day’ and feel absolutely bleugh? Just a little bit of effort makes the world of difference.
    Plus I agree..so much fun :o)
    I was just having a drink in the house with my husband the other saturday and wondering what would be nice to wear. The cocktails called for nothing less than a tiara and pearls so thats what was worn :o)

  • Laura Connell
    April 23, 2010

    Yes, yes, yes. I loved being in London where people cared about fashion. Toronto is pretty bad in that respect. North Americans aren’t taught the value of dressing well, sadly.

  • Make Do Style
    April 29, 2010

    I completely agree – effort is required xx

  • Gazel
    April 29, 2010

    Couldn’t agree more with this article. I hate that I decide to dress “decent” in my standards then my mom goes, “Where are you going? We’re just going groceries…” I mean really.


  • Jessu
    April 29, 2010

    Exactly ^^
    And I do think it depends on where you come from, but where I live now (california) there definitely should be some restraint. It seems the norm here are flipflops and whatever is most comfy (juicy couture, shorts & tank, t shirt & jeans) and people actually stare at me if I wear “more”. They think I’m going to a job interview. O.o;


  • Jonell M
    April 30, 2010

    Hallelujah!! There are sane people still left!! I cringe when I see people in pajamas in public. I’m tired of the t-shirt & jeans, I’m too busy to dress myself mentality that soooo many have turned to. Good for youfor posting this. I am a fan.

  • elena daciuk
    April 30, 2010

    hooray! fabulous post my dear…so good in fact…that i had to share it on my facebook business fan page… (www.facebook.com/fabufinds) it really isn’t hard to look nice & put together…and you don’t need a lot of money to do so…

  • Ella Mode
    May 3, 2010

    My problem is overdressing. I lost my comment, I think because I left this page open all weekend. Too early to retype it.

    Summary: I too much dress like I’m going for a blog photoshoot (all fabulous and possibly ruffley etc.) but I never do.
    Need to simplify and go back to wearing more “circle” skirts. Working on that. So me.

    Of course your co-worker thinks that’s super dressy. It’s dressing casually for me.

  • Rings90
    May 4, 2010

    My New Years Resolutions for the last 2 years, was to dress up more. I have done pretty well with it. You are so correct that it’s about respect for yourself. I feel better about myself, when I feel that I am put together. That’s not to say I dont’ have a few Scruffy days here & there cuz sometimes you really do just need to be in your PJ pants & a t-shirt for a bit.

  • nessbow
    May 5, 2010

    Hear hear! I totally agree with you. I dress up most days, not because I feel that I have to, but because I enjoy it. Making sure that my outfit matches, my lippy is on straight and my hair is combed makes me feel good about myself, which is as good a reason as any, if you ask me.

    My housemate never much bothers with what she wears. When we first moved in together, she used to look at me each morning and say “well, where are you off to?” and when I would reply “just uni” or “shopping” she would look utterly puzzled.

    Then, a few months ago, she told me that she loves seeing me emerge from my room each morning, because she always looks forward to seeing what I’ll be wearing! Ha ha! I’ve even talked her into helping me with my daily outfit photos a few times.

  • Katy
    May 6, 2010

    I’m a little late to this post… but this is great! I totally agree with you. So many people do not understand the great value of dressing up.

  • vickie
    May 10, 2010

    i agree. im not always dressed fantastic (due to a lack of money to buy decent clothes) but i try to look like iv at least made a bit of an effort,i make sure my hair looks presentable, that im wearing clean clothes that go together and if i am out for a meal or somewhere special i try to dress appropriately for where we are going and like to keep my makeup to a minimum as i hate wearing a lot of makeup so just use it to enhance my eyes, which i like but can get lost behind my glasses so like to accentuate them when possible.unfortunately at the moment im having a bit of a clothing crisis and wanna go shopping for something a bit more grown up and feminine than my usual jeans and a t-shirt, especially as im starting uni in september so wanna change my style a bit to mirror the change i am making with growing up and leaving home. i will be 21 in august and wanna change my look. so am planning to chuck everything out that is crap and me and my sister (who will be brutally honest about what suits me and knows what kind of style im looking to try soon) are gonna go shopping in august to try to find a good balance between things that are a bit more suited to my shape and are girly and slightly more grown up while still having a slightly young and quirky feel to them.

    in response to your wedding comment my mum got married a year or so ago. my cousins boyfriend was invited to the reception part and turned up in scruffy jeans and a footy shirt. while he wasnt invited to the really formal part of the day, the general view was that it was really quite disrespectful of him to put in no effort at all.

  • Style Eyes
    May 28, 2010

    Here here. I love getting dressed up. I also sued to work in a call centre and used to try and dress quite smart for work.

    Now I work from home, I try to make an effort although can sometimes be difficult when I am hardly leaving the house.

  • Jay Bailey
    July 23, 2010

    I dress up everyday and people are ALWAYS asking me where I am off to! Home to look after the kids!

  • marie palmer
    August 5, 2010

    i totally agree,it is amazing to think that people would dress up beautifully everyday with floral dresses and their hair all pinned back perfectly and that now when you walk into town you hardly walk for a minute without seeing someone in scruffy jeans, tracksuits, or huddies.we need to bring britain back its class!!!