Sunday, January 28, 2018

Etiquette and Casual Attire

Style icons earn their status by using a bit of careful consideration and forethought when buying their clothes, (regardless of price) and by dressing appropriately for an occasion. Looking well groomed and stylish does not require a lot of money. In many cases, it merely requires common sense.
‘Casual Look’ Goes Too Far
“Her dresses always looked as though they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest... she tried to look picturesque but only succeeded in being untidy... like a bird of paradise that had been out all night in the rain.” Those words were written in 1890-91 by Oscar Wilde in "The Picture of Dorian Gray.” They could just as well be a commentary today on the way so many women are dressing. That “casual” look in clothes, in other words, has gone just too far it’s time for a return to some sanity, some semblance of elegance, clothes to make men’s eyes turn in admiration instead of astonishment. My suggestion is that we start spring by dressing up again. Why not begin with Easter Sunday?

Remember when it meant a special new bonnet, something to inspire an Irving Berlin song? Remember when you looked forward to the special new outfit to be worn on that day and when you’d not dream of going to church without hat and gloves? What changed it all? You could blame, or credit, everything from a general letdown in our requirements for etiquette, to rebellion against the “older generation” standards, to a new lifestyle that simply left no time for daily grooming requirements, such as washing white gloves and shining one’s shoes. You can say it all happened because we no longer had our fashion image makers constantly before us. White-gloved Princess Grace went off to royal duties and bringing up a family in Monaco. The Duchess of Windsor, a supreme example of elegance, went almost into seclusion after the death of the Duke, Britain’s former King.

Even Jacqueline Kennedy changed. When she was First Lady, Women’s Wear Daily gave her another title—“Her Elegance.” Then, women copied everything from the now Mrs. Aristotle Onassis pillbox hats, to her smart, lower-heeled shoes, and admired or envied her regal look when she entertained heads of state. Now, more often than not, we catch pictures of Mrs. Onassis windblown, wearing the eternal dark glasses, in pants and “poor boy” pullover tops. (Or, in the case of one Italian magazine’s claim, in the altogether). Somewhere we traded in neatness for carelessness and I think acceptance of pants everywhere —office, shopping, even the most elegant restaurants —helped pull down the barriers. 

I’m not anti-pantsuits so much as pro-skirts. Trousers have a definite place on the modern scene and I confess that I'm wearing them even as I write this at the office. But often, there is some feminine rebellion that says, “Put on a dress today,” and immediately I feel more like a woman. I take no strong stand one way or another on hats. They go handsomely with some faces, terribly with others. Apparently, the young are helping to bring them back, for the millinery industry reports a thriving business this spring. One of my earliest childhood memories, however, is of my mother in a new hat —an Easter one of pale gray straw, its wide “picture” brim covered with big flowers in assorted pinks, the whole thing a frame for her blonde Gibson Girl hair style. – By Gay Pauley, UPI Women’s Editor, New York, 1973

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia