Never Knowingly Underdressed

Things you don’t want to hear from your husband: “Seriously, you are NOT going out in that, are you?”

To be fair to him, I was planning to walk the dog in a dress. (Me, I mean. Not the dog. The dog hardly EVER wears dresses.) This dress, in fact. Because I am nothing if not, er, a sailor.

In fairness to me, however, I was also planning to change into my “dog-walking” flats, and throw a jacket over the top: voila, now I just look like I’m wearing a skirt and a skanky old pair of shoes, no one will look twice! (And that dress looks much less “dressy” with a cardigan over it, which I was wearing due to it being a whole lot colder than it actually looked. Also, no, I didn’t put it on with the purpose of walking the dog, it’s what I was wearing anyway, and I was too lazy to want to go and get changed.)

However, Terry probably wins here, because the jacket? Was the only warm-ish jacket I didn’t put into storage a couple of weeks ago. And it was…dressy.

“No one walks their dog dressed like that,” pointed out Terry. And he was right. No one DOES walk their dog dressed like that round here, because the thing is, “round here” is pretty casual. In fact, make that “very casual”. Actually, scratch that: it’s the kind of place where if you’re not wearing jeans or sweat pants, people will look at you like you have horns. Dresses or skirts? Forget it. If you’re wearing a dress, you’re obviously going to a wedding: probably as the bride. If you’re wearing heels? There’s clearly something wrong with you, because why would ANYONE wear heels when there are sneakers in the world, WHY?

You can see why all of this is a problem for me, can’t you? There’s this inherent mistrust of people who look “dressed up”. They are regarded with suspicion, and when “dressed up” means simply “wearing anything other than jeans”, you can only imagine the reaction a dress and heels will get you.  This makes me sad. Over the past couple of years, I have somehow managed to move from wearing jeans all the time (acceptable), to my husband refusing to leave the house with me unless I go and get changed, and now I need to try and find my way back. It’ll be hard. I mean, just in case it wasn’t obvious, I like clothes. Specifically, I like dresses and heels, and I think in this respect I’ve managed to find the only downside to working from home: it gives me no excuse at all to wear them. Like, not EVER. Not even on the weekend, because on the weekends we like to do outdoorsy stuff, and that means dressing down. Meanwhile, most restaurants around here tend to be pretty casual, even the nicer ones.

With that said, my last couple of jobs had very conservative “business-attire” dress codes, so it’s not like they were a fun fashion free-for-all either.  Moving to the kind of place where people wouldn’t look twice at me waking the dog in a dress isn’t an option (moving anywhere isn’t an option, actually…), so what’s a girl to do? How to indulge my love of fashion while living in a small town?


25 Comments

  • Emmaj414 says:

    To put it bluntly, tell everyone else to stick their opinions where the sun don’t shine!!

    I live in an equally small town, and I have a panic attack everytime something very public comes up that I have to attend, worried I will look silly. Until last week, I had shockingly bright red hair, which always, ALWAYS got me noticed, regardless of what I was wearing. But I was always an alternative dresser anyway, so lets just say, I kinda stand out from the crowd!

    I wore a feathered cape to a wedding party in the local Masconic Lodge last week. It was safe to say no one else was wearing the same outfit ;)

    But I have found out recently, having been approached by two absolute strangers, that I am being admired from afar, by ladies on the school run every morning!! I walk the same way every day, and people are always looking at me to see what shoes I have, what colour my hair is. I was mortified when a friend of a friend commented that she always says to her husband ‘Oh look at the heels shes wearing today!’ every morning in the car. But I realised it was a real, honest compliment.

    So what I am trying to say is, dress up. Wear petticoats and fancy heels if you want. Don’t let your small town dictate to you what you can and cant wear, cos its ‘You’. And You are fabulous. xxx
    .-= Emmaj414´s last blog ..Wishlist Updates =-.

    • Amber says:

      Thanks Emma – it's good to know I'm not alone in the fashion wilderness! I read all these fashion blogs featuring photos of girls pracing around in Times Square wearing clothes straight off the catwalk, and it's hard to reconcile that with the fact that I live in a suburban housing estate and might occassionally go to the post office or library :) And I think the "heels" comment is a great compliment, too – I'd probably look to see what shoes you were wearing too every day if I lived near you!

  • Alex says:

    Either tell them all, Emma-style, to stick it, or just keep modelling this stuff for the Internet. ;)
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..Easter memories, cats and kids =-.

  • Andrea says:

    I completely commiserate Amber, as another work-at-homer in the suburbs. I end up “overdressing” for dinner or drinks at the bar, but luckily some of my friends like to dress up and also just understand me as well.

    The worst is that my husband’s family is very casual and also lives in an even more, erm, “casual” area than I do. So if I wear a dress, even for church, it’s like I think I’m the queen of England or something. (I can’t wear jeans to church, my Grandmother would roll over in her grave.) It’s particularly bad on summer vacations to the lake when, duh, I rely upon my capsule wardrobe of nautical fashion! I have one dress that is a purposely faded print, looks like it’s been on the swab of a deck for years, plain cotton, which I thought would HAVE to be casual enough for dinner and a tourist cruise thing. Nope. “A DRESS? Oh my. You’re so dressy.”

    It’s our plight, Amber.

    • Amber says:

      "I have one dress that is a purposely faded print, looks like it’s been on the swab of a deck for years, plain cotton, which I thought would HAVE to be casual enough for dinner and a tourist cruise thing. Nope. “A DRESS? Oh my. You’re so dressy.”

      This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about! And it can be the simplest cotton dress in the world – the kind of thing you just pull on in the morning because it's easy and it's comfortable, and people will STILL be all, "Ooh, you're all dressed up!" I always find it a bit odd, because it's not like there's something intrinsically difficult about wearing a dress: it doesn't take a long time to put one on, and I find them much more comfortable than jeans a lot of the time, but still they are deemed "too dressy" for just about everything!

  • Roisin says:

    Screw them, is what I say. They're jus' jellus. No, it's true though – I think this has come up in our discussions before, a lot of people dress to fit in, so that they don't get noticed, and then they find it weird when you wear something that makes you stand out. Even if that is something really simple like the most basic cotton shift dress, or whatever. The town I come from at home in Northern Ireland sounds like the town you live in – really basic casuals all the time, and people do look askance at you if you dress differently, and it can be tiring to be asked all the time why you're so dressed up. I just reply that I always dress like this, which is true anyway. The last few times I've been home, though, quite a few people have stopped me to tell me how nice I look, and my grandma keeps complimenting me on it too – she says that she wishes she was young enough to dress the way I do. Anyway – I've rambled too long here – if everyone else in your town wants to be all casual, let them. I'd walk the dog in a dress (if I had a dog) because I do almost everything else in a dress, because that's who I am. I don't care who thinks what about it, and nor should you.

    xx
    .-= Roisin´s last blog ..It may be an unwise man who doesn't learn from his own mistakes, but it's an absolute idiot that doesn't learn from other people's. =-.

  • Caroline says:

    I sympathise whole-heartedly – I love my dresses and would always far rather be over-dressed than underdressed for any occasion!

    Last week I went on a date with a gentleman who wore a shirt and cravat, waistcoat and suit, shoes and a hat. He was telling me how important it is to him to be well-dressed at all times, how he has ‘alternative attire’ for exercise or outdoorsy stuff, but doesn’t approve of the scarecrow look when out in public. Everywhere we went people seemed to treat him with respect, and, if I’m totally honest, it was really nice for me to find that I wasn’t centre of attention for once – my dress paled into insignificance beside his three piece suit!

    On the other hand, at the weekend a couple of my friends came to visit. As we were walking into town one said she had considered wearing a dress, but decided against it as it always seemed a bit pointless when going out with someone who could throw on any dress in her wardrobe and look so put together. It made me sad – if I had my way the whole (female) population would regularly wear frocks! The idea that someone might be PUT OFF wearing one because of me was quite upsetting.

    Clearly the world hasn’t yet discovered the joys of easy dressing – that there’s no art to it, the beauty is in the fact that a dress really is just throw-on-and-go!
    .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Summer cravings: Maxi dresses =-.

    • Roisin says:

      Aaaah, it's so good to find a man who makes an effort! Nic virtually always wears a shirt and tie and nice shoes, and he often wears a hat. It always makes me feel good to be on his arm because he looks so smart. He gets a lot of smart-aleck comments about it (as I expect your well dressed gentleman friend does as well) but I think this is just because he can wear those clothes and look smart, and lots of men don't have the werewithal to do the same.

      I think it's the same thing with women and dresses as well, but then my love affair with dresses has been well-documented by now!
      .-= Roisin´s last blog ..It may be an unwise man who doesn't learn from his own mistakes, but it's an absolute idiot that doesn't learn from other people's. =-.

    • Amber says:

      I like the sound of this guy already! It's so rare these days for men to be interested in style in that kind of way. My dad is like this: he worked for a tailor in his youth and all of his suits were besoke – he has an amazing amount of knowledge about how clothes should be cut and cared for, and was always interested in style. Nowadays, though, most people just seem to compete to see who can be most dressed down: the amount of Google searches I get from keywords like "Can I wear jeans to a wedding?" is proof of how far we've fallen!

  • Julia says:

    Where I'm from is one of those jeans-or-you're-a-freak places too. I had bright red short hair up until recently, and was greeted with open staring everytime I went home to visit my parents. Now my hair's platinum blonde, and 2 old ladies in church asked my mum how she dared let me out 'looking like that.' I swear, unless you have shoulder length, straight brown hair and wear only jeans, t-shirts, trainers and a Berghaus or North Face jacket, you couldn't get more verbal abuse if you had green skin!
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Low Wedge Boots =-.

  • Terry says:

    The dress in question…

    http://www.shoeperwoman.com/2010/04/ruby-shoesday-and-sh...

    Wearing it and a white dress coat (while walking the dog through the streets) is not good idea around here because people love an excuse excuse to shout abuse / chase you with sticks / try to run you down on bikes / asking you to get your boobies out.

    It's my job to protect you. The end.

    • jasmine says:

      LMAO get your boobies out! I must agree (very well said, Terry). Given that I wear a hospital uniform to work, I like to dress up. But there are some situations where it is best to dress in a way where you draw less attention to yourself (like when you're robbing a bank) for your own personal safety.

    • Rock Hyrax says:

      Aha, I get it. I once worked at a company situated in the sort of place where you dressed to minimise the probability of being mugged for crack-money if you had more than fifty yards to walk from your car to the door, and I quite understand the safety aspect.

      On the other hand, I recently worked at a company in a small town where you could usually tell at a glance whether someone was a local or a commuter. Oddly enough, local dress was either uggs/jeans/jogging bottoms or a matronly going-to-a-function-at-the-Marina outfit, so unless I was dressed to go for a walk on the hills I was quite happy not to fit in…

      • Rock Hyrax says:

        (Excuse my incorrect capitalisation of Marina – it's actually my name and it's hard to type it without a big M.)

    • Alexandra says:

      Pop 'em, Terry! Don't let the Internet's favorite redhead come to harm! ;-)

  • Delaney says:

    I wear dresses and skirts and nice blouses to school quite a bit, and I don't usually get comments unless I add jewelry…which, come to think of it, is every day. People ask me what I'm "all dressed up for." I don't get it; I participated in our speech and debate team for two years, where dressing up always meant a suit. So formal wear to me is far more than a dress or skirt! I wish that people in my town would take the time to dress up; seeing jeans and t-shirts gets old…

  • Sandy says:

    I LOVE your sailor dress…I would've worn it….but maybe not with a white dress coat….a different colour dress coat though….?! :D

    I'm always in full 50s style skirts and when the hubs wants to go for walks I always ponder if I could wear a skirt instead of jeans…usually it's a no and I'm secretly gutted. I've even had to wear jeans when it's too windy, otherwise too many people would be viewing my pants, I change back to a skirt when I get home though!

    I'm hoping the arrival of a new frothy 50s style petticoat helps with the windy problem (the weathers…not mine!) although I fear I really will be overdressed for the corner shop or Co-Op, where jogging bottoms and holey tees are de rigeur!

    "Overdressers" of the world unite!!

    • Amber says:

      The coat wasn’t supposed to “go” with the dress – as I said, it was the only warm coat that wasn’t in the attic at the time, and I just wanted to quickly throw something warm on rather than have to change into something completely different. And Terry exaggerates when he calls it as “dress coat” – it’s not really :)

  • Sonya says:

    I remember when I was a kid my mom would have me wear nice things just to school or whatever I was doing. When I saw the dress you put up, I thought, it's just our ideas of what's normal these days that makes this dress seem inappropriate.

    Just forget what people consider normal clothes these days – sweats are comfortable, but that dress looks comfortable too! Lots of stylish and fun looks are comfy and add some character, so why not? When I watch Mad Men, for instance, I also notice that people just like looking nice and putting on a swipe of lipstick just because. As long as you wear comfortable shoes and nothing is too tight, dressing up can just be normal and more interesting than not.

  • heidi says:

    I completely empathize with you! I wrote something on my blog (http://sojournerstorybook.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/splendid-summer-sandals/)

    about my distaste for a particular footwear and I swear half of my friends disowned me! Where I live people justify every horrid thing they wear, saying "but it's comfortable" or "I don't have time to get dressed up", as if putting on something nice somehow takes longer than putting on jeans and a t-shirt– or that a dress is somehow uncomfortable. A lot of my dresses are the most comfortable things I own! Okay now I'm ranting. I haven't posted on here before but I had to add my comment because I really relate to this. Cheers!

  • Selina says:

    I feel exactly the same way. Now I’ve developed a personal style, people keep saying to me ‘you’re always overdressed or ‘I’m not adventurous like you, I’m not going to wear purple tights’ and ‘I couldn’t thrift my clothes like you do.’ Yes you bloody well can! It’s really not difficult to inject a bit of personal style and wear a dress. Let everyone else be boring in jeans and t-shirt, even my jeans are spectacular in comparison, few people around me have grasped how to spark up an outfit with minimal effort and look at me weirdly whenever I wear platforms and big skirts and dark lipstick. I used to be scared of wearing what I wanted but now, sod them all. Maybe one day people will take the hint and start to make the effort and it will become normal to be well dressed again

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