is it okay: to go to the shops in your pyjamas?
It seems as though life is really a costume party. There is set appropriate attire for specific occasions, and deviation from these norms will be met with raised eyebrows and questions about your ability to understand what is ‘good and proper’. While to a degree this might seem all very 1800s-oh-Mr-Darcy-please-hold-my-parasol, the underlying ideals that led to people ‘dressing for dinner’ and wearing smoking jackets still exist today.
To put this in to context, for an extreme example I have to revisit my school formal. What might now seem like one night, one dress, one partner and one hundred dollars worth of a microscopic meal, back then it was viewed as something as comparable in awesomeness and importance as the upcoming Radiohead concert. Everyone couldn’t stop talking about it, or flinging money in its direction.
You were doing well if you made it through half an hour of school without someone asking you to first describe your dress then run the mental gauntlet of matching shoes, handbags and accessories. Oh, and your partner’s tie had to complement the shade of your gown. Most people were a nervous wreck by the time the actual week of the event rolled around. Being super cool as I was, I made a documentary about the month leading up to the event. This revealed that most of my classmates, myself included, had even started to have their sleep invaded, as we were all experiencing ‘formal nightmares.’
Excluding the ones about shootings, where the event was stampeded by elephants, and the baffling scene involving swimming to a ‘formal boat’ that emerged from my own mind, most of these nightmares centred around dress disasters and appearance. They ranged from things like being weighed at the entrance, to turning up in track pants.
It’s all a bit ridiculous really. You couldn’t show up in anything less than a dress. It can’t be a summer dress though, because that’s too casual. Ball gowns are a no, because that’s too formal. It’s okay to have either a two piece or a one piece, however be careful because then your photos might look dated. Beware also the possibility of turning up in an identical dress to someone else! This above all else was at least 20% of the reason for all the mental dress comparing in the weeks prior. Thinking back on it, we essentially all looked the same. Sure, you might have a ruffle, a bow, or one shoulder strap rather than two, but the real aim was to conform…but slightly uniquely.
I think it is this ideal that underlies most of the costume attitude to clothes in the day to day setting. You just can’t go to the shops in your pyjamas, you can’t wear bathers to a dinner party, and I suspect it would be strongly frowned upon to wear a three piece suit to a lecture. Unless it was a lecture titled ‘How to be dapper’.
With clothes I think it is basically a balance between practicality and symbolism. It is impractical to ride a motorbike in a bikini. Wearing a zoot suit to partake in some welding also probably isn’t an ace idea. I also doubt that I will be dressing as Edward Scissorhands before going for a run. But outside the realms of practicality, we stamp clothes with all sorts of societal ideals which frankly, if you take a step back, seem just a little bit weird and out of left field.
Hmm, having a dinner party? Better wear something shiny and long whilst your husband ties a wide piece of string around his neck. Going to a function? Time to increase your height by four inches. Netball o’clock? Okay, I’ll crack out my really short skirt and leave my shorts in the drawer. WHY? Who decided this? Is there some kind of handbook that I missed out on? Can I purchase it from The Book Depository?
Why can I wear one thing to the sporting pitch, but not to the shops? Why is it okay to flash your undies during ballet and at the beach, but not at work? Why can’t I wear legwarmers to a dinner party?
Please. Fashion police. Enlighten me.
(Image credit: 1.)