Ask A Woman: Getting to the bottom of “Why are you so dressed up?”
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Editor’s Note: Beth is taking a well deserved break this week. So while she’s off with her feet up and a glass of Syrah in each hand, feel free to chew on this old column till next Thursday..
I frequently get the “Why are you so dressed up?” question. Even if I’m just wearing chino shorts, boat shoes, and a tucked casual oxford. My standard answer: “I’m not.”
– Andrew (via the comments last week)
Hello faithful readers,
Last week’s comments section was chock-full of interesting observations. I plucked the one from Andrew seen above to write on this week, since it’s especially relevant to my own experience.
I get that question a lot, too. It sounds very accusatory, doesn’t it? WHY are you so dressed up? WHY didn’t you take out the trash? WHY are you standing over Grandma holding a pillow?
It’s an odd question. And I don’t think there’s a perfect response. Even saying, “I’m not,” as Andrew suggests above, invites argument–“Yes, you are, your shirt has buttons!” Plus, you’re probably MORE dressed up than whoever is pointing the finger at you, so it’s a losing battle. This is one explanation for such a question: relativity. If your brother arrives at a family graduation party in old Nikes, basketball shorts, and a t-shirt he got free from his cable provider, and you’re wearing Andrew’s aforementioned chinos, boat shoes, and Oxford shirt, then yes, relative to your brother, you’re dressed up. But it’s not like you’ve arrived in a tux. Your outfit is still appropriate for the occasion.
But relativity is not the only explanation for someone accusing you of having excellent taste. To show this, it will require a bit of leg work here on my end, but anything for you Dappered loyalists. You see, along with my writing, advice-giving, and math skills, I also speak several different languages. Allow me to translate the language of sartorial disparagers:
The Ask a Woman Translatatron 5000 – Patent Pending
I didn’t want to make this column about how we stylish few routinely take abuse from our slovenly-attired peers who secretly envy our good fashion sense. But that feeling passed quickly and now I’m just going to be honest. Unless you’re wearing a tux to a graduation party, or a ball gown to the ball game, when people ask “why are you so dressed up,” what they’re really conveying is a sudden loss of self-confidence about what they themselves chose to wear that day. Maybe they considered wearing a nice pair of pants but changed their mind at the last minute, and then when they saw your styling self walk through the door, they kicked themselves. Maybe they’ve been looking for a tie that precise color for months. Maybe they’ve always admired wingtips but haven’t had the guts to wear them, and your fearless footing has shown them their weakness! Maybe I’m going overboard. Anyway, my point is, such comments are not about you, they’re about the person saying them.
Forgive the stylishly meek. They know not what they do.
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