CFN – My two favorite shows right now are Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire.
I’m behind on both of them – I’m up to the third season in Downton and the second in Boardwalk – so as usual, I’m behind the trends.
Anyway, for those of you even more behind than I am, both of these shows take place around the World War I and Prohibition-era.
Downton takes place in England and follows the upper-crusty Crawley family and their servants;Boardwalk is much seedier, with tons of nudity and swearing, and follows gangsters and corrupt politicians in Atlantic City.
What these two seemingly disparate shows have in common is their fabulously-dressed characters. I cannot imagine a group of people more fashionable, clean cut or fancy than these characters –men and women both. I yearn for this era in history, when people actually looked nice morning till night, even if they were only going for a walk in the gardens or popping off a nark in a dark alley.
When I was in college, I was disgusted to see students in class – and not even morning classes, the afternoon ones, too – with dirty hair and greasy faces, wearing pajamas. If I’d gotten a bit closer to them, I’m sure they would have smelled bad, too.
What gives? What is so hard about dressing nice?
In my old job – stereotypical secretary – I wore a nice dress every day. I often got comments about how cute they were (and some from women who were actually saying: “well, don’t you think you’re something special.”) But I liked looking nice and put together.
Fast forward to today – I work at home by day and in a pizza joint by night. In one job I wear sweats, in the other jeans and a t-shirt. And as I get older, I don’t much care about looking fashionable or think it’s a good use of my hard-earned money to buy trendy outfits and perfectly matched accessories. Besides, who accessorizes sweatpants?
It’s a shame. I really do believe in the merits of dressing up. Wearing something nice – and washing your hair, face and body – is a form of respect to others. It’s something a lady or a gentleman does, like Mary Crawley or Nucky Thompson (back to my TV shows, the guideposts for living my life). After all, everyone likes to look at something attractive. And it’s nice to be pleasing to the eye, and even nicer to others when you smell like soap and not armpits.
By dressing like a dirty vagrant, you’re broadcasting your apathy and telling others they’re not worth the five minutes it would take for you to put on real pants.
In my pizza-rolling job, I waited on a group of 15-year-olds recently, who were wearing pajamas – again, in public! They were the cutest girls; if I looked like that, I would have rocked it with dolled up hair, makeup and a really nice outfit. Instead, they looked like hobos.
Then there is this scenario, which I fear I am headed towards: The grown woman who wears a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt and mom jeans to the grocery store and is holding on to her 90s hairstyle with a death grip.
My God, please don’t let that happen to me. Maybe I should upgrade to fancier sweatpants.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.