Welcome to Dressed for My Day, where I’ve either stepped into something I shouldn’t have gone near (LOL!) or hit on something big! You decide. Today I simply want to discuss what it means to dress “appropriately” and how to do it consistently. I also want to share a few tips for building an appropriate wardrobe – that’s a wardrobe stocked with a few elements that will ensure you always have at your ready the appropriate, perfect, suitable outfit…for the occasion.
Oh, and this post is part of the Building a Wardrobe that Works for You style series.
What do we mean by “dressing appropriately?”
When we were raising our kids, appropriate became quite the catch word around our house. I frequently asked my children things like, “Is that an appropriate way to talk to your father?” or “Is this an appropriate television show to be watching?”
As my kids got older they even started throwing that word back at me in shocking but appropriate questions. “Mom, is that really an appropriate book for you to be reading?” Hahaha!
Of course what my kids and I were really asking each other was if our choices were wise. And that’s exactly what I mean by dressing appropriately, too.
While I’m all for wearing whatever suits us most of the time, I believe there are certainly occasions when additional cues should help form our decisions about how we dress. And I know you agree with me. That’s why we care about what we wear to a wedding, a job interview or a funeral, for instance. We know, in those situations and others, there’s more at stake than simply expressing ourselves or wearing our favorite things.
How can I know what’s appropriate?
The appropriateness of our clothing is based on several factors:
- culture – By culture I mean the social behavior, norms and traditions of a group of people. For instance, think about the culture of your church or workplace.
- event or occasion – think weddings, baby showers, company picnics, job interviews, memorial services, graduations, performances, Sunday church services, court hearings, family reunions, etc.
- location – Is the wedding in a cathedral or chapel? Is the company picnic at the home of the CEO or a local park? Is the graduation inside or outside? Is the bridal shower in the South or California?
- dress code – Sometimes there is an expressed dress code…for work, restaurants or events.
- weather – Well that’s self-explanatory.
- the region of the country – People who live in the Pacific northwest dress quite differently from folks in the South, etc.
- age – Even if we’d like to think there are no such rules, something in us knows that we’ve aged out of certain clothing styles.
- activity – What will you be doing? Sitting and watching? Working at a desk or in a field? Or hiking, dancing, tending to patients, baking, painting, playing games with children?
- your role – Perhaps this factor trumps all the others. Regardless of the situation, location or activity, your role largely determines what would be the most appropriate attire for you. Especially if you are in a position of leadership or authority.
Ok, so we got all that. We understand the components, but how do we factor them?
Here’s the key.
- Consider the first 8 components above – culture, occasion, location, dress code (if any), weather, region of the country, your age and the activity.
- Consider your role in the situation for which you’re dressing. If you’re leading, teaching, selling, conducting, presenting, hosting, being celebrated, etc. take it up a notch. In any of those roles you can’t afford to dress inappropriately. Likewise, if you’re a guest and not the center of attention, take that role into consideration.
- Consider and respect the other people involved. Ultimately, dressing appropriately boils down to choosing to be more considerate of others and less wrapped up in self. Wear something that shows due respect to your host, your teacher, your dinner partners, your date, the bride and groom, the feted guest of honor, your students, etc.
Building a Wardrobe that is Appropriate for Any Occasion
An appropriate wardrobe is simply a versatile wardrobe. When assembling your wardrobe make sure you don’t leave out a few essentials that will help you be appropriately dressed for any occasion.
- A classic blazer – I suggest starting with a black blazer, but additional blazers in white, navy or your signature colors will help you have more versatility, too. You can add a blazer to almost any outfit and immediately raise the level of dressiness.
- nude pumps – Add a pair of classic nude pumps to anything and you automatically raise the bar. If you can’t wear high heels, go with lower kitten heels. And if you absolutely can’t wear heels at all, make sure you have a pair of neutral, pointy toe (if at all possible) dress flats in your closet.
- a neutral colored solid classic cardigan – There are simply times when a woman needs to have her shoulders and arms covered. The easiest and least expensive way to be prepared is to have a classic cardigan in black, white or other neutral in your closet.
- simple, chic black dress – I’m not necessarily talking about a “little black dress.” I suggest you have a black or other neutral solid dress with clean, simple lines that can be dressed up or down with the right accessories and shoes. Pick the right dress and you’ll be able to wear it to a full range of occasions. I shared the benefits of a powerful black dress in this post.
- white sneakers – On the other end of the spectrum, it’s wise to have a pair of go-anywhere sneakers in your arsenal. If you have only one pair, I suggest you make them white so they’ll be the most versatile.
I shared other spring wardrobe essentials in this post, and I’ll be sharing the wardrobe essentials for each of the other seasons as we encounter them. Having those essentials in your closet will keep your wardrobe versatile so that you can dress appropriately for each situation and each day.
One more FAQ…
So when in doubt, is it better to be overdressed or underdressed? Common wisdom actually says its better to be dressed slightly too casually than to be dressed too formally. I would add that it’s better to be slightly underdressed but with a chic, classic, pared down vibe. That’s why the essentials I shared above work so well. They’re all classic with clean, simple lines.
Posts to come…
What do you think about dressing appropriately? Remember, I’m all for self-expression through our clothing, but there are times in life when it is wisest to consider others above our own need for self-expression.
To that end I’ll be publishing some posts in the near future about What to Wear to… you name it! In fact, tomorrow I’m kicking off the series with What to Wear to a Funeral. I hope you’ll swing by to check out the post.
Meanwhile, if you have other scenarios about which you are curious as to how to dress appropriately, let me know. I’m game for anything…pretty much. *wink* I’m always up for researching and asking questions so that I can help us all get…Dressed for Our (unique) Days!
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Blessed for My Day
When I was looking for scriptures for today’s blessing, I was a little surprised to find Exodus 28:3. Isn’t it interesting that God chose people with “the spirit of wisdom” to make the priest’s garments? I love that!
Let’s remember today that while it is perfectly acceptable to dress in colors and styles that express our personality and preferences, it’s not all about us. We are wise when we dress in a way that shows respect to those around us. That may mean we put on something fresh and pretty for our husband, wear something professional to work, lace up our sneakers to play with our grandkids or put on our jeans to help our elderly neighbors work in their yard. How will you communicate love and honor through your appearance and dress today?
You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. ~ Exodus 28:3