February 1, 2011 10:46:00 AM
Ever since Eve was forced to vacate the Garden of Eden and give up her wardrobe of leaves, the question of what to wear has been foremost on women''s minds.
At one time the answers were fairly easy. There were expected modes for certain occasions. Choices were often made easier because some clothes had names like "cocktail hat," or "after five," or "riding pants." There were even rules for gloves. We had "driving gloves," and the lengths had tags like "opera length." In my mother''s day there was something called a "house dress." That says it all.
In my pre-Katrina life I understood the tenets of dress, but only by New Orleans standards. Going out to dinner meant a jacket and tie for my husband and something elegant for me. There was always an excuse to don sparkly jewelry and carry an evening bag. (See, the term "evening bag" tells you when to use it.)
But, New Orleans is an island. For the last few decades a casual culture has taken over. The rest of the country seems to think there are never any good reasons to dress up. Jeans are acceptable for almost any event. If brides are wearing tennis shoes for their march down the aisle, then what can we expect from the guests?
On a recent Saturday night Chris and I dined at a very nice local restaurant. Seated at a table just inside the front door was a young man in a camouflage jacket and matching duck-billed cap (which he never removed).
Why would someone need to camouflage himself in a restaurant? Was he hiding from the waiter, or sneaking up on wild animals? Granted there were no wild animals around, so maybe the camo was effective. I may have been the only one confused. I realize that camo attire is always in fashion here. But, really, he must have had something else to wear. I just know it.
It appears the clientele of our biggest big-box store feel that pajamas are de rigueur for shopping. I''m a bit weary of seeing people in PJs and bedroom slippers. Did these folks just wake up and realize they desperately needed a pre-cooked chicken and a box of Ding-Dongs? Was the craving so urgent that they didn''t have time to throw on some real clothes?
Not long ago I went into a professional office downtown. Both secretaries wore college football jerseys. (I doubt that either was on a state team.) In my opinion, they were only dressed well enough to go wash the car. This inspired no confidence or respect for the practice. I never returned.
In some ways I have contributed to the lowering of dress standards. I totally embrace comfort. My days of extreme high-heels and girdles are long over. (Lord bless the designers of the swing-coat and tunic.) A girl can look quite lovely in flat pumps and flowing fabrics.
(I am certainly not suggesting that we all find reasons to wear tiaras just because I do.)
Clothes should be site-appropriate. Some folks understand that Harvey''s is a step up from Wal-Mart. Some just don''t get it. But, no matter where we go, pajamas are only acceptable in the bedroom and around the tree on Christmas morning.
Perhaps we should all just start all over by wearing leaves again. We could let fashion evolve naturally so that the rules are less confusing. And anyway, I really like green.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at [email protected]
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.