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13-07-2012
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Should We Always Dress to Impress?
it seems in the 50's that most people dressed more formally. do you wish we did the same today?


Always Dress to Impress


You never know when you'll have a date with destiny. Annette Tapert argues in favor of an unrelentingly presentable wardrobe


"I CAN'T UNDERSTAND how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little, if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny and it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny," said Coco Chanel.
Chanel's words, I assume, had a romantic provenance. After all, a few of her affairs were fortuitous encounters that brought love plus fashion inspiration and career advancement. Destiny aside, I'm more interested in what she termed "politeness." In other words, respect for others.
The first time I realized it was disrespectful to make a public appearance of any kind without looking pulled together occurred in 1988. I was at home writing in sweatpants and a baggy sweater that I'd had on since taking my daughter, then 8, to school that morning. When it was time to pick her up in the afternoon, I didn't bother to change. I reached to take her hand as we exited the building, but she pushed it away and glared. "Why don't you dress nicely when you pick me up?" she asked. Kids do say the darndest things. She was simply embarrassed, but, in truth, my shoddy outfit exhibited disregard for her. Ironic when you consider that I was a stickler for making sure she was well-dressed and groomed when she went anywhere with me.
"Frankly, I couldn't go mail a letter if I didn't feel I looked right," the late Nan Kempner once told me. In the last two decades since that seminal moment with my daughter, I've often lapsed into the "Oh well, I'm just running out to do an errand" frame of mind. But recently, I've had Nan's dictum on my brain. A couple of months ago I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the Neiman Marcus shoe department. I'd taken a quick detour on my way home from the gym. I was trying on a pair of Prada platforms in workout clothes (and not Lululemon), no makeup and a baseball cap. I grimaced at my reflection. Never again, I promised myself.
I polled a few of my stylish friends and colleagues to hear what they had to say about looking good no matter what.
Sarah Gore Reeves, stylist and fashion editor for Vogue Latin America and Mexico said: "Looking good is important to me as a woman. As a child it was something never discussed but quietly observed. My mother was always, and still is, beautiful and stylish. She's the president of the Humane Society of New York and she looks as good going to work every day with all the dogs as she does out at night with humans."
For writer Susan Fales-Hill, it's a topic she's dissected for years, and not merely because she's a member of the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame. Her mother was the late Josephine Premice, a noted black actress and singer who crossed racial divides in her industry. "My mother, the chicest woman I've ever known, and her friends used sartorial splendor as their armor in an unjust and oppressive world," she said. Barrier-breaking black performers couldn't control their access to roles, but they could express artistic genius through unrelenting elegance. "Their motto could well have been 'We shall overcome, in couture,' " said Ms. Fales-Hill. "Though I never knew a 16th of the hardships my mother experienced, like many black women, I was raised to use elegance as a pre-emptive strike: Do not give people the opportunity to dismiss you or mistreat you by looking less than your best. That means everywhere, even to the grocery store."
“There I was trying on a pair of Prada platforms at Neiman Marcus in workout clothes, no makeup and a baseball cap. I grimaced at my reflection. Never again.”
Amy Fine Collins, fashion and style correspondent for Vanity Fair, observed: "I appear to be the only one in my Pilates studio who changes in and out of workout clothes. The other clients appear to wear theirs to and from the sessions. I just can't do that. There's a kind of decorum of the street I like to follow. It is, of course, a respect for other people as well as a form of self-respect. It's just wishful thinking that you won't run into anyone you know, or would like to know, when you're looking your worst. Also, it's quite amazing who you see even if you're gliding by in a taxi. I often receive emails and calls from friends telling me I was just spotted at X corner wearing Y outfit—people observe, comment, notice. Who wouldn't want to look good for those fishbowl moments?"
Gigi Mortimer, an accessories designer, believes "all of us wish we had the time to look our best when we leave the house. Even when there is no time I have two quick tricks: a tinted moisturizer from Laura Mercier does wonders for the face and a stylish coat can hide a multitude of sins. As a child I remember my mother throwing a fur coat over her nightie to drive me to school. Even though I've have been married for 23 years, I always want to look nice for a quiet dinner at home with my husband. The question is how to be comfortable and still look acceptable. In the summer, I love to wear caftans for dinner—they are a glorified nightgown, comfortable yet stylish.
And lastly, I asked Georgia Howe, an interior designer and co-founder of the furniture design and textile company Carolina George. She also happens to be the daughter who scolded me for my sloppy appearance all those years ago. She recently moved to Los Angeles, where it's perfectly acceptable to be seen in gym attire even at chic restaurants. "I wouldn't be caught dead on the street in workout gear," she said. "But in an attempt to blend into L.A. life, I purchased my first workout ensemble. On several occasions I have stayed in it and met a friend for lunch, but it certainly won't be a habit. I felt uncomfortable and even found myself apologizing to my husband for looking like a slob. To a degree I dress for my husband and make an effort to be put together, but more than anything it's for me."
Once again, my daughter is right. In any venue, public or private, making an effort makes you feel good. Now when I write, I dress as if I'm going to an office or a casual lunch date. Maybe it's a placebo effect, but I think I'm more efficient, more focused, and it adds a little spice to an otherwise lonely profession.
Someone once told me that "glamour has no alarm clock." I won't lie, trying to be consistently pulled together takes extra time and dedication. Which reminds me of a story Oscar de la Renta once told me about Daisy Fellowes, the stylish Singer sewing machine heiress. In the 1950s, she invited fashion designer Antonio Castillo to her house in the south of France. The two traveled together from Paris on the overnight luxury train, which was scheduled to arrive at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin shortly after dawn. Long before sunrise, Mr. Castillo was awakened by a commotion coming from the next cabin, where Daisy was ensconced. When she emerged from her quarters shortly before their arrival, he thought to ask why she awakened so early. Then he realized that Daisy was perfectly dressed and in full makeup.
"Is there a gentleman waiting for you at the station, Daisy?" Mr. Castillo asked.
"Only my driver," she replied
"Then why are you dressed up? Why not just a pair of sunglasses?"
"I did it for myself." Daisy explained. "It's a question of discipline, you see." (wsj.com)

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Last edited by lucy92; 13-07-2012 at 12:07 PM.
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14-07-2012
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The thought that every woman should always dress to impress or look her best is absolutely ludicrous to me. Don't get me wrong, I cringe when I see people at the grocery store in sweatpants or in their pajamas, but I do think it's completely unnecessary to do your hair and make up just to run errands. It's one thing to throw on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a baseball cap and maybe a little concealer--that's my minimum requirement for leaving the house--but to fuss about trying to look your "best" to go to Wal-Mart or Petco doesn't make any sense to me.

The idea that we should dress to impress out of courtesy for others really strikes a nerve with me. Again, I'm not saying it's appropriate to leave your house in your PJs--that's just lazy. But quite frankly, if you think strangers should always dress to impress you, I think you'd better lower your expectations.

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14-07-2012
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Ah, this has been brought up in family gatherings a couple times and it's always concluded that a) all people should look their best (which I agree) and b) that women want to look presentable (which I don't agree with).

I think that one wants to impress differently all the time, sometimes yeah, you want to impress a man, or women, or just feel like you look a lot better than normal, but even though it's probably going to sound overly positive and fake, I do think you should primarily dress to impress yourself and maybe not always, but at least practice it often.. celebrate what you have and I'm not talking about a specific silhouette or some special feature but the only object one truly possess- which is the body. More than vanity, for me it's like the article ends, about discipline.. self-respect, kind of clearing up all basic, physical 'ports' of good energy and let it all in.. cause feeling uncomfortable or invisible or dirty or like you just look 60% less of what you could always takes an emotional toll.. and looking the opposite (great) for me has nothing to do with wearing Chanel or workout clothes, but just knowing that whatever you're wearing, there was some thoughtfulness and dignity involved and you didn't treat yourself like a dumpster..

Perhaps I have an case of OCD but for me, waking up early, taking a shower with music, not seeing any dirty dishes, dressing up (to great music :p) and walking out of my house (with music too ) makes a huge difference on how I'll feel, even if I'm just going to the grocery store.. and I think people react to that with respect, or just positively, or they just leave you alone.

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14-07-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MulletProof View Post
Ah, this has been brought up in family gatherings a couple times and it's always concluded that a) all people should look their best (which I agree) and b) that women want to look presentable (which I don't agree with).

I think that one wants to impress differently all the time, sometimes yeah, you want to impress a man, or women, or just feel like you look a lot better than normal, but even though it's probably going to sound overly positive and fake, I do think you should primarily dress to impress yourself and maybe not always, but at least practice it often.. celebrate what you have and I'm not talking about a specific silhouette or some special feature but the only object one truly possess- which is the body. More than vanity, for me it's like the article ends, about discipline.. self-respect, kind of clearing up all basic, physical 'ports' of good energy and let it all in.. cause feeling uncomfortable or invisible or dirty or like you just look 60% less of what you could always takes an emotional toll.. and looking the opposite (great) for me has nothing to do with wearing Chanel or workout clothes, but just knowing that whatever you're wearing, there was some thoughtfulness and dignity involved and you didn't treat yourself like a dumpster..

Perhaps I have an case of OCD but for me, waking up early, taking a shower with music, not seeing any dirty dishes, dressing up (to great music :p) and walking out of my house (with music too ) makes a huge difference on how I'll feel, even if I'm just going to the grocery store.. and I think people react to that with respect, or just positively, or they just leave you alone.
Totally. No outfit could ever be perfect enough to make me forget about unfulfilled household duties, the feeling would chase me all day.

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14-07-2012
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^ hey, dirty home = nowhere to go back to.

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14-07-2012
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I've spent too much time living near farmers to subscribe to this view; they don't dress to impress, they dress to get the job done, around the clock, but just because they're using twine as a belt doesn't mean they aren't rich - or attentive to the details that matter to them.

And in terms of simple humanity, it's a great shame to dismiss someone on the basis of their attire. Certainly, when it comes to women, their existence is what should attract respect, not their ornamental value.
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14-07-2012
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^ those are cool farmers!.

The ranchers/cowboys/peasants/etc I've seen (not that far from where I live) seem very conscious of how others will perceive their clothing so maybe they dress with functionality in mind, or what their budget allows (used clothes, clothes passed on to them, or new clothes every two years) but I would argue there is compliance with the atmosphere and people they will work with at the time of the acquisition, and always tradition (to respect it or honor it or celebrate it), and it's the third world, it's not like they're oblivious to what their life pends from. Their dress-to-impress motives couldn't be more obvious at fairs by the end of summer, proving that how people communicate with clothes regularly isn't always a response to their 'function' assigned in a social structure..

I hope I'm not taking things out of context but I don't think occupation drastically modifies how we interact with others as long as traditions/culture/habits are shared and people feel the need to express some individuality.. or reproduction potential .. I actually think that every occupation or activity in society eventually pushes its own sartorial vocabulary, either by minimizing it on purpose or making it seem like it's all about it when it isn't (office environment for example).

As much as fashion/clothing in general is usually kept in the box of frivolity only people with no much better to do bother to open, I find it a complex subject.. obviously (in case I misunderstood something or just totally rambled here!).

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15-07-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MulletProof View Post
.. cause feeling uncomfortable or invisible or dirty or like you just look 60% less of what you could always takes an emotional toll.. and looking the opposite (great) for me has nothing to do with wearing Chanel or workout clothes, but just knowing that whatever you're wearing, there was some thoughtfulness and dignity involved and you didn't treat yourself like a dumpster..
Totally agree, it's the emotional aspect. I don't think we should "dress to impress" ever, except maybe where there is a particular mission involved...workwise, date-wise, etc. But dress to "feel nice and feel like we look nice", yes absolutely, always, as much as possible. I always wear red lipstick, and while well aware that it may make me look overdressed at times when people are lounging about, for me red lipstick is like an essential vitamin which gives me a jolt of energy no matter who's looking. Ditto decent hair and nails and shoes (within reason) reflect, for me, a good state of mind. So no, I never leave the house without making sure I feel presentable.

I don't mind sweats as long as they are decent, but it happened once that I absolutely had to go to an embassy reception on my way back from Feldenkrais class. I went in sweats and sneakers, but luckily I was wearing a glamorous long coat and red lipstick...hoped nobody looked down, and winged it, lol!

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16-07-2012
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I've been guilty of dressing to "get the job done" way too many times And 99% of those times I wish I could've spent five more minutes to look more presentable.

Sometimes you head is wrapped around a problem or whatever or you just don't pay attention to what you are wearing and throw on the very first thing you see. But you see, it doesn't take that much time to look nice (or even decent sometimes). It's just a matter of priorities, I guess.

Back when I started college, there were some girls at a 7am class that were always impeccable, perfect blow dried hair, makeup done, high heels and all. I couldn't bear the idea of getting up an hour earlier just to blow dry my hair BUT I made an effort not to be the girl in sweatpants. Full on makeup was never a thing for me so I came up with a quick mu routine that covered all the basics --concealer, mascara, little blush and lip gloss. Didn't take more than 6 mins, that I could afford.

I had to take like a zillion stairs to get to my classes, plus college was on a hill area so wearing heels not only seemed stupid, but dangerous at times. So I made sure I wore flats that were not only comfy but polished. In the end I didn't have to sacrifice comfort in order to look good, and get the job done. I lived alone and time management was the most important thing I learnt back then. And when someone says that he/she would like to dress up but just doesn't have the time I don't buy it.

Not to say that I dress up all the time, but it's probably bc i don't feel like it , I'm lazy, depressed, whatever, which is different than making up an excuse and blame time over it. It's like you wouldn't want to take responsability for how you present yourself to the world. And in the end, if you give it a thought, it's a much deeper issue than what to wear.


Last edited by daniellat; 16-07-2012 at 05:31 PM.
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16-07-2012
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Dressing to get the job done doesn't necessarily mean self-neglect, it means realising when your hair is a hazard in the workplace, or when its not the moment to wear make-up because you'll be spending the day with your face in the rain. It comes from common sense rather than slacking off, because there are times when an insistence on dressing up can be to the detriment of what you're doing.

And sometimes, a true sense of confidence is expressed when someone no longer needs to dress up, because they have reached a place where they can really connect with people beyond the superficiality of life. Was Gandhi wearing a Gucci watch? There are people who care deeply about the impression they make on people, but they want to express something other than their ownership of a range of lipglosses and a hairdryer.
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16-07-2012
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To paraphrase what some of you already said, I don't think that looking good needs to mean you are dressed up or wearing "fancy" clothing. It has more to do with dressing deliberately and carrying yourself with confidence and dignity.

There's a guy I sometimes see when I am walking home from work. He is a landscape gardner and is sunburned and dressed in clothing appropriate for his job, jeans, work shirt and boots. His clothes fit him well and he always looks neat and dignified, even if he has gardening dirt on him.

Maybe this has nothing to do with the writer's intentions, but I would at least consult with this guy if I needed landscape gardening, so in that sense, he impresses me.

Another thing is whether what you are wearing looks "right" or like you are in costume. There is a trend of women wearing head-to-toe lululemon everywhere and I don't care how well it fits, if you are wearing specialized technical clothing as streetwear it just looks poseurish to me.

I don't see any excuse for going out in public in sloppy sweats, ever, but that's a pet peeve of mine.

Last thought, I think having clothing that fits properly is probably about 90% of the battle. Too loose or too tight clothing makes any outfit look bad, IMO.

...oh, and I can't leave the house without washing the dishes. The last thing I want to come home to is dirty dishes.

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Last edited by tangerine; 16-07-2012 at 06:17 PM. Reason: added PS
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18-07-2012
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Dress to impress all the time? Not necessarily. Dress respectably so that one doesn't look like a slob? Yes.

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18-07-2012
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Gauging how impressive you are to others is really too subjective to define exactly. I do think however that each culture has an unwritten standard that spells out what is acceptable, but of course not everyone will agree with it.

In my public speaking class at school I was given a sheet of guidelines on how to dress 'respectfully'. Even though it was geared for business environments specifically, it was the first time I've seen such unspoken rules written down. It was incredibly in-depth, even paying attention to such details as insisting you make sure your nail polish isn't too loud. I think every society has a list of guidelines as to what is 'respectable' and 'safe' with others. If you wear this, nobody will think ill of you kind of rules.

Maybe I'm not getting the point exactly, but I've seen plenty of 'well dressed' people that were not impressive. I think its more a confidence thing. Something that radiates out and makes people look at you admiringly no matter what you wear. It's just that conforming to those guidelines will help you get a better chance of not ending up on someone's radar for negative reasons.

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19-07-2012
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No, I guess, not for most tof the time at least

Personally, I don't dress to impress. I only wear clothes that I think they are beautiful or comfortable on me. Besides, I don't have a chance to impress since I spend most of my time at school, home and shopping malls anyway.

But I think when you have some big, important events like, your wedding, of course you should dress to impress!

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19-07-2012
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My point of view :
According to me , it would be great to try to improve our world at all points of view ; i t would be great to manage ourselves to create beauty constantely, everywhere !

With everything, with clothings too, so....not to impress others, but to spread some kind of joy all around us.

Plus ...didn't you notice we feel better when we are well dressed ?

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