Does anybody dress for success anymore?
A nun was at a recent Friday morning Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church. How did I know she was a nun? Because she was dressed like one, wearing a full habit, consisting of a floor-length tunic and a long veil, which even included a wimple.
You don’t see that much anymore. And it’s not just nuns. What began as “Casual Friday” sometime in the early 1990s has infiltrated American society to such a degree that there is no longer any occasion for which Americans feel they must dress up, Friday notwithstanding.
Weddings, graduations and funerals used to be the three milestone events people would honor with respectable dress: suits or at least dress shirts and ties for the men and dresses or nice slacks and a blouse for the women.
Sadly, the dressing down trend continued to gain momentum, and people’s attire slid downhill right along with it. It appears most people today put very little (if any) thought into what they wear for what used to be special occasions, and, boy, does it show.
Job interview? A night at the theater? Wedding? Jeans and T-shirts, it seems, are the new little black dress. Only they aren’t. Not even close.
Our clothes make statements. They tell others what we think of ourselves. They make the first impression for us. They convey the value we place on an event. They show respect. Or, not so much.
For decades, there were standards of dress that were closely followed. When I attended Corydon Central High School in the mid-’80s, I don’t remember a teacher wearing a T-shirt and jeans, ever. I remember Mrs. Fluhr in her business attire, Mr. Robertson in his suit and Mr. Eastridge in a shirt (sleeves usually rolled up) and a tie.
Students had a much stricter dress code than today. Shorts were not on the list. Except for that one August, 1984, I believe it was. This was when we were in the old high school (now Corydon Intermediate School). There was no central air conditioning. It was stifling hot, and the administration allowed us to wear shorts for about three days, with warnings they’d better pass the fingertip test.
Back in those days, there were dress codes that went along with certain professions. People who worked in offices dressed up every day. Nuns wore habits. Priests and other clergy wore backwards collars. Nurses wore uniforms. We all dressed up for church and, to a certain degree, to travel, go shopping, out to eat or to the movies.
I remember my mom bleaching and starching her nurse’s cap every Saturday morning. She earned the right to wear that cap. It set her apart. She wore it, along with her white uniform (almost always a dress), with pride. I remember the first time I encountered an RN wearing scrubs. She was dressed exactly like the nurse’s aides and the cast of ER, which was in its early years. Her scrubs did nothing to set her apart as a professional.
Our appearance makes the first impression others have of us, but it goes deeper than that. How we clothe our bodies on the outside can impact how we feel about ourselves on the inside. Folks, there is no such thing as “power pajama pants.” Oh, how I wish I would never, ever have to encounter anyone outside of my immediate family in pajamas. Sigh.
Despite the permeation of “business casual,” there is something still to be said for “dressing for success.”
A 2015 study by the Association for Psychological Science found that dressing to impress led to people more easily engaging in abstract thought; dressing more formally resulted in more “big-picture” thinking.
Can dressing up, then, be said to make you smarter?
That might be a bit of a stretch but, if you’re dressing to impress, at least your outfit couldn’t possibly include stretch pants.