What are you dressing for?


There is a reason behind most of what we do.  Today we will say  ‘traditions’ for lack of a better word.  Most started somewhere and there was a reason behind starting them.  This doesn’t mean the reason was valid nor does it mean the person who started the tradition was correct.  But, it certainly deserves some attention before completely casting it away with no regard for the purpose or plan.

My focus today is on clothing.  I’m not talking about the clothes you were to hang out at home (though the argument could be made that this applies there too).  I’m talking about dressing for the occasion or dressing to show respect for someone or something.

When I was a little girl and we were getting dressed for church I would complain and say “But, why do I have to wear a dress?  It’s hot!  I want to wear shorts!” or something similar.  My mom would say something like “If we went to visit the King of England we would dress in our best clothes to show we respected him.  We are going to the house of the King of Kings.  I think a dress is appropriate.”  It’s amazing what an impact that had on me.  It certainly sunk in.

People have always worn their best to show respect.  We do this for weddings, church, funerals, interviews, court dates, etc. and I can’t remember questioning it much.  However, now when I go to churches, weddings, and funerals I seldom see people in dresses or ties.  It doesn’t matter which church I attend – I don’t see that.  Instead, people are dressed for comfort or for whatever they plan to do after their obligation is filled.  I think that part of the issue is the reason for dressing up got lost.

Dressing up was not instituted to show who had the best clothes, who was the most beautiful, or as some sort of snob move.  Dressing up was instituted as a sign of respect.   The reason hasn’t been passed down and so the action has been tossed aside.    Of course, people care less about respect too, but I don’t find people dressing down in an effort to flaunt their rebellious spirits.  Most of the people I’ve asked about it simply don’t get the point.

My children attend a school that recently relaxed its dress code significantly.  Generally, I don’t have a problem with it.  I think it’s nice to basically buy one set of clothing instead of having my children have to change daily when they get home.  But, I miss the fact that they were being trained to dress for specific situations.  It’s an important lesson and it’s hard to teach when the majority of the world is changing the rules because they find the current ones outdated and pointless.  I think my boys should show respect for chapel speakers and for the subject.   I think a collared shirt is a socially accepted sign of respect.  Society may not get it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.  It’s the reason people still expect applicants to wear nice clothes to job interviews.  Most people don’t go in cut offs and tank tops.

Take sports as an example.  Athletes must wear uniforms.  The team does not show up willie nillie in whatever clothes are comfortable.  I have participated in teams (and so have my kids) that require a dress code even for practices.  The coaches believe that dressing appropriately shows respect to your team and to your coaches.  It shows something more too.  It shows unity.  Then, on game day the athletes are expected to wear a shirt and tie.  This rule is the same no matter what school or what the economic diversity of the school is.  In my experience the team members who do not follow the dress code do not play in games.  It’s taken seriously.

The same is true of businesses.  Obviously, people should dress for the job they have.  Some businesses require their employees to wear a uniform.  Showing up for work without the uniform tells the employer that the employee is not interested in working.  I used to work as a receptionist for a corporation and office attire (collared blouses, slacks or a skirt) were required.  Now, I work for the same corporation, but I work in the back and I need to have the ability to bend, move and generally do physical labor should the need arise.  So, my work attire has changed.  I still don’t show up to work in sweats and a old stained t-shirt.  I wear the nicest clothes I have that are fitting to the job I’m doing.

My least favorite complaint or excuse that people give in regards to their dressing nice, especially for things like church or court, is that they can’t afford it.   First, this assumes the rest of the world is full of idiots and do not understand that each person is at a different place in their finances nor do they understand that not everyone’s best is the same.  There is a difference between someone’s best clothes and expensive clothes.  The requirement for such places is not that people dress to my standards or some standard that is directly linked to some arbitrary dollar amount.  The requirement has been that people wear their best.  For some that is a suit and tie.  For some that is their nicest t-shirt and jeans.  But, I’ve heard from a couple people I know who work in the judicial system that it’s less about someone wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt into the court room and more about someone wearing jeans that are sagging down so far that we have to look at their underwear (or worse, their lack of underwear) or their wearing a shirt that says “I shoot cops” or something equally disrespectful.  Church is the same.  There is no fashion police.  If someone is truly wearing their best clothes and that includes a pair of pants and a t-shirt then great.  But, I know very few people who fall into the position of having only ripped, stained clothes.

And, now I’ll step off my soap box.

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