The art of dressing for success

Standing in line at a local department store, I noticed that the salesclerk was quite agitated. I’d never seen Miss Martha so ill-at-ease before. When my turn came to check out, I laid my shirt on the counter and said to her, “Miss Martha, you seem out-of-sorts today. Is something wrong?”

“Didn’t you see the customer who just left?” she asked.

“No, I wasn’t paying any attention.”

“Well, look at the woman going out the door right this minute. I said woman, mind you. No lady would dress like that. Her shirt sure doesn’t cover much. When I was counting out her change, I could see all the way to her navel,” said the middle-aged clerk, as she bagged my shirt without ringing it up. “I was so embarrassed I didn’t know how to behave. This country has no morals left.”

“Uh, Miss Martha, you didn’t ring up my shirt yet,” I said as I pulled out my wallet.

I wonder if the fashions today embarrass only the older generation. I had occasion to be in Waycross this weekend, and of course I had to do some serious browsing. Feminine readers will understand. I went from store to store. I really did want a few new items, but today’s styles discouraged me. The necklines plunge too deeply for my tastes, and everything is “fitted,” which means too tight. So, I bought nothing.

I frequently hear salespeople complain about the disappearing decorum in clothing.

“I’ll be glad when all the schools go to uniforms,” one clerk said this weekend. “I can’t believe some of the stuff these kids buy to wear to school. I don’t understand why the parents let them buy it or wear it.”

I myself went through a fashion phase when I was in college. It was the day of the mini-skirt, and I wore one home one weekend.

After carefully studying my short royal blue corduroy jumper, Daddy said to me, “Mary Ann, I’d have gladly given you the money to buy the rest of that dress if you’d told me you didn’t have enough. The little piece you have on looks pretty good on you though. Is it too late to go back for the rest of it? I especially like that dark blue color on you. It brings out the blue in your eyes.”

I quickly gave up the short skirts, but not necessarily because of Daddy’s opinion. They were too uncomfortable. I’d pull at them constantly. I was scared to stand up and scared to sit down. I didn’t dare bend over. The pressure to return to my modest upbringing was just too much to endure, so I caved in.

I don’t consider myself a prude, and I truly don’t notice styles unless they are extreme. Once while trying to enforce our dress code at school, I sent a student to the office to ask an administrator if her shorts were too short. She came back later in a different shirt.

“Mrs. Ellis, she said my shorts are okay, but my shirt was cut too low,” she reported.

Some of the styles just don’t look very comfortable to me. Take for example the sagging pants of the young males. How could you wear pants about to fall off without pulling at them every minute? This fashion must be terribly uncomfortable. At my age I have found that comfort, not fashion, is the main consideration for anything I wear. Granted, I’m not twenty anymore, but if I must constantly adjust it, then it must go. I know that attitude shows my age. Young ladies will suffer great pain to look good. Look at their feet in those sharp-toed, high heeled shoes. Yes, they’re back. And I remember how my feet used to hurt in them.

More and more schools are moving to uniforms, and I understand why. I think it may be the fashion of the future—the near future. When I see some students in town, I wonder if their parents know how they are dressed. We never allowed them to come to school in the attire they wear downtown these days. Sometimes though, the parents come around the corner, and I know immediately where the students get their fashion ideas.

I’m ready for the fashion pendulum to swing the other way, back to more modest clothing. If uniforms can accomplish this change among our youngsters, then I’m all for them. Let’s start today.

You may reach me at maryann@baxnews.com.