Casual dress is not sloppy dress, a lesson many American women have yet to understand. Our standard of dress has been in continuous decline since the 60s and every year our appearance seems to grow worse. I took perhaps my last trip to mid-America last month, specifically to Indiana and to Muncie (home of Ball State University) and Indianapolis. My wife and I were sitting in a Red Lobster restaurant and she made this telling comment. “the women are beginning to all look like men”. This is not new and it certainly is not complimentary. James Laver, a renowned historian of dress, told a group of fashion industry executives in 1966, “Clothes of the sexes are beginning to overlap and coincide.”
There were six couples in tables around us. Four of the women were wearing jeans closely resembling “Mom jeans” and I’ve never gotten what fashion statement there is with jeans with holes in them, and the other two women wore black slacks, Not a heel in sight. Nike must be making a killing in Indiana. Tops were a mix of T’s and blouses and the hair, well, you know, that natural look. Hairdressers must be having a hard time making a buck in Indiana or the women don’t like the pink combs at Walmart. If only I could have taken some photos.
Least you think that Indiana is a lost state, I posted my comments on my Yahoo group, The TG Woman, and received comments back from girls from New Jersey to southern California and places in between so this is not just Middle America where we are seeing poorly-dressed women
For comparison, I can go to any of the six major malls within 20 minutes of my home here in Merida and people watch. About 40-50% of the women will be wearing dresses or skirt sets and the rest in jeans, leggings, or pants. But the difference, the jeans are well tailored and fit well (tightly) and look well cared for. Dresses are most often above the knee shift dresses in a bright print, or perhaps a maxi. An embroidered Mexican style blouse is very popular. Shoes are a mix of low heels, wedges, sandals, and flats, most of them with colorful decoration.
It has been a struggle for me to understand why women in America dress so poorly so I did some research. These extracts from a Time magazine article help explain the phenomena.
“Americans dress casually because clothes are freedom—freedom to choose how we present ourselves to the world; freedom to blur the lines between man and woman, old and young, rich and poor. The rise of casual style directly undermined millennia-old rules that dictated noticeable luxury for the rich and functioning work clothes for the poor. Until a little more than a century ago, there were very few ways to disguise your social class. You wore it—literally—on your sleeve… to dress casually is quintessentially to dress as an American and to live, or to dream of living, fast and loose and carefree and It feels good.”
The problem is that Americans have taken the casual look to the extreme and this sense that we are expressing our freedom is just so much hot air…why, because you end up with less rather than more. I won’t even go into the many studies that show that how you dress (are perceived) reflects how you are treated. Perhaps Claire Beerman in her article on “Why I’m Done With Dressing Down” expresses more rational thinking.
“My mother used to tell me that one should always buy clothes that make one look “dressed.” I didn’t get what she meant. How was I not “dressed” in my worn-out Dr. Martens boots and oversized men’s parka that hid most of my body? I was 15 years old, a Vogue subscriber and firm believer that being fashionable equaled breaking my mother’s boring style rules. It took me years to understand that by “looking dressed,” she did not simply mean “not being naked.
For many seasons, appearing dressy was the biggest faux pas in fashion. Looking like you didn’t care was the new dressing up. It probably all started with the coat-over-shoulder-look, also known as the armless-fashion-editor-move. From there, things got messy. People started knotting their jackets’ sleeves around their waists. Handbag handles became useless as bags were crammed under armpits. Jeans looked like they had scarcely survived a violent encounter with a bulldozer. With Vetements arriving on the fashion stage, your postman suddenly looked chicer than your Parisian grandma, and an ill-fitting flower dress that initially was meant to end up in the bin became the bestseller of the season.
The rise of don’t-care-gear surely also had something to do with the reality of our busy lives. While a polished exterior indicates that one spent at least an hour getting ready, dressing down makes you look like you are too occupied with actually important things. The irony in this is that looking sloppy can, in fact, be very time-consuming.
I know this because I’ve tried it. I wore T-shirts under and XL shirts over slip dresses. I pulled ripped jeans over fishnets. I spent mornings carefully disheveling my hair. I tried a heavy-metal logo-print hoodie with extra-long sleeves even though I hate heavy-metal music. I wore my boyfriend’s jeans. I bought a fake Nirvana tee on eBay, ignoring the fact that I was born the year Kurt Cobain died. I spent an entire day at Paris Fashion Week with one side of my blazer sliding down my shoulder. It had taken me 15 minutes to securely drape it that way and annoyed me for 10 hours straight. I observed the other people outside the shows: everyone was so extraordinarily slouchy in their oversized puffer jackets, sweatshirts worn under slip dresses and heavy hiking boots peeking out from under tulle skirts. People looked cool, wild and definitely not dressed. But whenever I tried to copy them, I felt like a walking question mark.
It was that day in Paris, when my painfully arranged blazer kept on going its own ways, that I realized that I was done. Done with trying so hard only to end up looking like I’d failed tragically. Done with looking like I didn’t care, because I do. I like to iron my shirts, I like to wear a coat that actually fits. I recently discovered long leather gloves! Have you tried gloves? The truth is that I’m the opposite of relaxed. I don’t own one piece of leisure wear. I’d rather sit on my couch naked than in a pair of sweatpants. All I ever buy is occasion wear – dramatic earrings, flashy high heels, suit pants, silk midi dresses – which I then end up wearing to the dentist because I don’t have that many occasions in my life. But why not make life the occasion?”
Well, as a crossdresser, I can certainly relate to those last thoughts. With all too few occasions to dress, why would I not strive to look like a “well put together” woman. As a trans woman, you need to make the extra effort anyway least your masculine side become too obvious. It really takes a little extra effort effort to go from sloppy casual to chic casual and enjoy that femininity inside each of us.
If i am to believe my own eyes and those of my friends, then you are all too aware of women who dress like slobs in public. Don’t be one of them. Here are some excellent examples of casually chic dressing in jeans, skirts, and dresses and if I’m going for the very comfortable Bohemian look, then panties, bra, blouse and skirt are all I need (and of course well done makeup and lots of bling) and comfortable shoes.