“OK young lady — you just march right up stairs and change into something more appropriate to go to Aunt Jane’s — and while you are there take off all that ridiculous makeup!!”
OK let’s wake up from the 50s and 60s. Even if we could bring ourselves to say something this archaic, it would have zero impact on the “listener”.
Let’s start with the concept of “appropriate”. This word has disappeared from the language — very few people think there is such a thing as “being appropriately dressed”. From what I observe at airports, restaurants, religious events, concerts, graduations, family parties in the suburbs, and other venues is that many people – especially, but not limited to younger ones – do not grasp the concept of appropriate dressing.
Being appropriate means you choose and wear clothes not just because you like something or are comfortable in it, but to present yourself in a way that communicates to others. More specifically, presenting yourself to those hosting events, or owning establishments that work hard to please, that shows you care, appreciate the time and effort others put in, and want to celebrate or observe something important to others. Unless it is your own birthday party or wedding, one should spend some time thinking of how what you are wearing is perceived by others.
This of course is counter-cultural – the notion of ‘grab all the attention you can whenever you can’ seems to be the norm. “Being sexy is always a great look — man or woman — anytime, anyplace. If others don’t like it they are likely just jealous.” Or, at the other end, “I can’t be bothered to try to look a little pulled together — sure people used to care — but now — If I am OK with my ‘look’ the heck with anyone else.”
Is there a nice way for us to explain that neither extreme is appropriate? That both the “worship of sexy” look as well as the “I give up and will wear the same thing every day/year” look are EQUALLY inappropriate in most situations?
Let’s try to explain to some with the “hooker look” that it isn’t that the look is bad – it’s just that often times it is inappropriate; not thoughtful of how others see or perceive you given the setting. And, at the other end of the spectrum, let’s consider raising the standard a bit and trying a little harder to dress with care about yourself and others. Just being comfortable is not a universal rule that lets you off the hook from having standards about how you present yourself.
In the modern age the term “appropriate” does not comprise a list of arbitrary dos and don’ts that went out with hoop skirts. It is not a moral command to resist being sexy. It is not being a prude or being a fancy pants person that should “chill out”. It is thinking and acting as if others’ sensibilities are valuable and important and should be respected. That’s really modern and fresh – paying some attention to what others think. OMG … really?