Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

Why are we Americans dressing more casually these days than did our parents or grandparents before us?

Some would say we’ve become a nation of slobs.

This isn’t just a result of the pandemic keeping us at home and working in front of our computer screens. I believe this trend has been going on for years in U.S. society.

I admit, attending Zoom meetings at home wearing makeup and a nice blouse that could be seen on screen, while also wearing shorts or comfy yoga pants that could not, made for more relaxed workdays. Not to mention my cat and dog often kept me company when I worked from home in 2020. They made their adorable selves known from time to time, with the cat hopping onto the desk to haughtily stroll across my keyboard, or my dog jumping into my lap to demand attention.

When I began going back into the physical office again, I had to give more thought and time to my wardrobe selections. So my husband and I made numerous shopping trips to area department stores, hitting the sales and putting clothing as a necessary line item back into the household budget.

I understand everyone’s workplace is different and the job dictates what employees should wear. Working with the public, as we do at a newspaper office, casual business attire is acceptable. I’ve been told I dress “like a teacher,” or even like folks who work at a bank.

What concerns me is that a lot of young people aren’t taught to dress for success. I’ve seen a few show up to job interviews wearing an outfit one would wear to the gym or skateboard park.

And what’s with people wearing pajamas and slippers when they shop at Walmart? I get that it’s Walmart, but geez, clean shorts and a decent top (please, not too much cleavage or bare belly) and flip-flops would be better. Actually, we’ve all seen a lot worse on some individuals who frequent Walmart late at night. I’ve seen photos of Walmart fashion faux pas posted to multiple online platforms. Scary…)

Growing up in the dark ages, we had clothes for school, clothes for play, and clothes to wear to religious services. What used to be called “wearing your Sunday best.” I’m not saying teenagers have to show up to worship services in a fancy dress or suit and tie, but a decent shirt and clean pair of jeans would suffice. The point is to get them there. Young people’s attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques has greatly declined, according to news.gallup.com.

Gallup tracks trends, and found that Americans’ membership in houses of worship has been declining since the 1940s. Last year, according to Gallup, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a religious institution. That number has dwindled since 2018, which was at 50%, and fell even further since 1999 when 70% of Americans belonged to a house of worship. But this is another topic for another day…

When my husband and I were stationed in Europe, we spent a lot of time with his German Oma. Mathilda was old fashioned in many ways, but I agreed with her on her insistence that when we left the house we dressed neatly and in our nicer clothes.

Even small towns in Europe are walkable communities with the bakery, butchery and other shops nearby. So, if we were helping Oma in the garden early in the morning, she directed us to quickly freshen up, change from jeans to slacks before walking to the bakery for that morning’s brochen (breakfast rolls).

I’m not saying people need to spend a fortune on clothes, or become a slave to fashion trends. My kids, thankfully, were never seduced by popular brand labels, nor were they fans of “influencers” like the Kardashians or whoever sways the masses on social media today.

I’m just saying we can all take a little more care with our wardrobes when presenting our best selves to others.

And while we should dress well enough to please our Omas, may we also follow the example our loving grandmothers set for many of us: be kind, be patient and be humble.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The

Walton Tribune. Her email address is denise.etheridge@waltontribune.com.

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