The Lost Art of Dressing Well

By Tabitha R Harris, Opinion Editor

First impressions, while not always correct, certainly go a long way in establishing a rapport. Although we are told  to place a premium on character and not label people based on outward appearance, we inevitably make assumptions or generate truths according to what we see.

For example, if I see someone fumbling with the front door of a house at three in the morning, I’ll probably figure that individual is a thief. However, I may come to discover that the person in question actually lived in the house and just couldn’t find their keys in the dark.

While this scenario is a far cry from my actual topic, it serves to illustrate the danger of jumping to conclusions. We should strive to furnish our fellow man with little to no material for jumping to conclusions. One way in which we can do this is the manner in which we dress.

At risk of sounding like a bitterly nostalgic Baby Boomer, I would like to point out that in decades gone by, people knew how to dress and how to dress well. One has only to watch a “black-and-white” movie from the thirties, forties, and fifties to be convinced of my assertion. Men wore suits even when there wasn’t a so-called “special occasion”.

Women wore skirts and dresses which many would label patriarchal bondage but I would term graceful femininity.

Now I’m not advocating that women need always wear dresses and skirts and never slip into a pair of jeans or other pants, but I believe we all, men and women alike, must re-evaluate our mode and manner of dressing.

Your clothes send a message whether you like it or not. Protest to high heaven that you’re wearing those sweatpants to class because they’re comfortable but honestly, they make one appear sloppy and unkempt. While this next trend appears to mercifully be fading out of existence, pants below the rear end don’t make a guy look tough; they make a guy look shabby. As a passerby, I really couldn’t care less what colour underwear a guy is wearing neither should I know.

The recent “leggings craze” has also left me shaking my head in confusion. Leggings are not pants and so should not be worn as pants. I asked a friend in one of my classes if her leggings were actually keeping her warm and she shook her head with a small smile on her face.

The times I’ve worn leggings around my house I’ve realized she was right. One would probably be better off in a pair of jeans than in a pair of leggings. They look cute with a short dress or skirt or even a tunic but by themselves they are a sorry excuse for pants.

Dressing well doesn’t mean expensive apparel, make-up, or cologne. One can look nice and presentable and shop at Kohl’s or even Wal-Mart instead of Nordstrom.

Coco Chanel said “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little—if only out of politeness”.

I concur with her statement whole-heartedly and it applies to men just as well. Out of a regard for your fellow humans, one should dress well. It is not a matter of showing off or of attempting to be someone you are not; it’s a matter of having enough dignity to say to the rest of the world “you’re worth a little extra time and effort”.

Instead of focusing on ourselves and how we feel, we need to get dressed and show up for life. Like Coco Chanel said, “you never know, maybe [today’s] the day [you have] a date with destiny…and it’s best to be as pretty as possibly for destiny”.   


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.

Contact Tabitha at


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