long, long ago, in a universe far away: an inspiration to the ill-clad masses

The question "Who thinks this stuff UP?" is often heard around here, and unsurprisingly often preceded by an expletive. Now, honestly, most people have no idea how to dress. Go to any Panera (in the interests of research I did, twice, and the lobster salad sandwich - seasonal only - is not bad). While you are standing on line, look around. You will find yourself saying the Panera Grace, or the MickeyD Grace, or the Boston Chicken Grace: you will wonder how so many people could have left the house like that, and then you will find yourself giving thanks to a gentle and merciful heaven that at least they are not bare screamin nekkid. Although if you do your research at or near lunch time, you will no doubt wonder just what these folk are taking a lunch break from.

I feel entitled to speak, well, write, thus, because in a past life I was asked to participate in a panel hosted by a women's group at an old school of mine. The topic was "Dressing for Interviews, Dressing for the Call-Back." Catchy title. I made the mistake of telling my boss about the invitation, and how I shrank from that kind of stuff, and he said, "But we interview there. You should go. You look OK."

Actually that was a good opener, because as I explained to the 2d and 3d-years, you don't want to be remembered for your clothes. This was helpful advice, because many of these kids didn't own anything you'd wear to a job that included daytime hours, and in the context of these interviews, being remembered as the girl with the thighs would not get you far. We discussed the not-tight black pants with plain-ish top, me helpfully pointing out that if you are unhappy about wearing work clothes to work, you have wasted 2 years of your life and should have gone to fashion school. My personal mission succeeded: I was not asked back.

Some odd trends are "trending" these days. First, naturally, is that sneaky word morph where nouns become verbs.

Next up is the thing where "day clothes" and "office wear" are confused with what teenagers wore to pajama parties in old Sandra Dee movies. Here, despite the best efforts I made in that past life, I regret to say that I may have to own up to a share of the blame.

close-up of some of the flowers
Look! these are my pajama bottoms, snatched from the markdown rack at Anthropologie a couple of years ago and freshened up by being run through the washing machine at Flintstone Towers. The background is a much more emphatic green than I was able to photograph, and some of the flowers are really cute. I haven't worn them out of the house, but I did wear them on the terrace, with t-shirt in solid color, to drink coffee and read the papers. The print reminded me of old-lady-housedresses.

Hold that thought, as we fast-forward to:
the J.Crew show, Spring 2013
I imagine, from the jacket, that someone thought these pants should be worn out of doors. I on the other hand think they'd be perfect for lunch at Panera, extra bread and dressing please. And I'm planning to use the money I don't spend on clothes to get a medium-range telescope so I can track down whoever likes to watch grumpy old ladies read newspapers. And to replace my pajama pants, now that they're going to be all over the place.

Recently I wore this tee, not to an office but out of doors. I was asked if it was available through any of the Star Trek sites, and if I was a trekkie. With respect, no and no.

But the intergalactic influence over at J.Crew is definitely getting more pronounced. Trending, as they say.

Update: I am so impressed by the comments that have been posted that I'm updating the main post rather than say, yeah, you right, yeah, momma, you right, all those times. You are all thoughtful, and you are all right. It is a kindness to others to avoid looking ugly, it is a sign of respect to one's upbringing to avoid the look of staggering home after having been dressed by slutty elves and woodland creatures.✳ No matter what went on between you and your mom, in your junior high, in your house when your awful aunt was visiting, that's between you and your therapist. When you come to work for me, tuck your shirt in, don't get your clothes caught on the binder clips, stand up straight and pick your feet up when you walk.

Now to the wonderful comments! xoxo and cate rightly point out that one of the reasons people "dress funny" is to attract attention. Of course noone likes being ignored: but what kind of attention are these people seeking? Who wants to meet a potential employer who likes the sight of you in bedwear? Didn't think so. Who wants to meet a guy who thinks it's cute that you voluntarily dress like a confused hooker? Probably nobody. And yet... there's a continuum that runs from the legible t-shirt to the Enterprise uniform to the sequin business suit (with shorts and tank) that should not be considered clothes.

Getting dressed in the dark: well, I've always been very careful about what I do or don't do with or without my clothes in the dark. I was raised with that superstition about inside-out clothes, you know:  it is lucky to put on an item of clothing inside out by accident, although you must not change it until the time you would normally take it off, for the luck to hold.  To avoid teachers making ethnic cracks about belligerent attitudes, and detention for playground fights, I risked the loss of that potential good luck by carefully shaking out clothes before airing them for the night. The superstition doesn't seem to care about wearing Mardi Gras colors - purple, gold, green - on Veterans' Day, or Easter egg colors as we trudge towards December. So if we accidently put on too many pops of color, we should feel free to start over.

The pajama party: FFM has noticed it at the mall, I've noticed it on Madison Avenue, we've all noticed it in the media. Friends who live in LA tell me PJ's are replacing yoga pants at evening gatherings. Well, in LA, it's all about the body, not the clothes. Our friends go to great pains to take us to interesting restaurants when we visit, as a consequence I can tell you that we saw Brooke Shields at dinner in very casual attire and there's still nothing between her and her Calvins. True. 

The pajama party, part deux: My sister supervised a department that included 2 dozen or more clericals. They spent their money on make-up, not clothes. I picked her up at the office once and met a number of ladies who were wearing those nylon dresses that close with snaps, or tracksuits. Backless footwear. When her office introduced Casual Fridays, they switched to shorts and the kind of sweatshirts that come for free with every 10th fill-up. Then the department was moved to another part of the building and the clericals were told they had to pack the contents of  their own desks for the move. With unprecedented initiative, a delegation approached my sister and complained that (1) this was not in the job description (surprise!), (2) they would ruin their good clothes putting their desk stuff into boxes, and (3) they should get half a day off in compensation. Sister suggested referring all of the issues upstairs, and pointed out that they didn't really want the movers going through their desk drawers, now, did they? I was astounded by her patience, and then her motivation became clear : she wanted to see what they'd wear when they weren't wearing their "good" clothes. You got it - pajamas and slippers.

WMM has inadvertently revealed a secret pleasure: PeopleofWalmart.com. Every time you don't feel like taking up a hem, every time you feel like another brownie or maple bar, go there! fast!

And everyone else is just as puzzled as I am. Cheap American pj's are popular street wear FOR MEN in certain parts of the world because they are CHEAP and comfortable. Please don't let it happen here.
✳I figured out why I'm entranced with this expression. It reminds me of the "Robin Hood meets Edie Beale" catalog from a few years ago. I hope I get tired of it before you do.


  1. I often wonder if people:
    a) got dressed in the dark;
    b) see colors and patterns differently than I do;
    c) are really that starved for attention.

    I'll admit I thought of star trek when I saw the colorblock tee but that may be because one of my staff is hosting a star trek/steampunk party next month. She's a costume-maker in her personal time and very talented but I'm so bloody uptight I can't dress up weird with work people. Anyhoo, I digress...

    The lounge wear as out-of-the-house wear is a disturbing trend. I interview on a regular basis and there are some interesting getups out there. As you say, the clothing should not be memorable, which is a good recipe for success in business beyond the interview.

    1. I completely agree with you about the lounge wear as out-of-the-house wear now. I have seen too many people out shopping for groceries, and sometimes even at the local mall in pajama pants and even slippers. I kid you not. It's the 'Slobification of America' that Tim Gunn describes...so sad.

  2. xoxo has a point about starved for attention. J. Crew seems starved for attention lately. They seem more interested in being noticed than they are in selling clothes. I suppose we are supposed to notice the crazy pants and then buy the normal stuff? I don't know, I don't get it...

  3. It took me a few seconds to recognize the trekkie look reference-- too funny! The numbers of those who seem to make no effort at ALL are growing, correlating with zero effort in other arenas, like diet.

    OT, except for the ill clad part, NYT covered our organic fair today in Home section! These are my peeps.

  4. I agree about the "look at me" factor going in at J Crew and other retailers lately.
    xoxo-I ask the same questions-especially about getting dressed in the dark. Though once I did get dressed in the dark - many years ago and ended up at work in the same shoes, but one was black and one was navy-obvious by the light of day. An honest mistake that never happened again :-))

  5. Well I am desperate for some new sleepwear and I can;t hang on for the green floral pants! Damn! I do not pretend to be a gorgeous creature or the most well-dressed creature, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do wonder what people are thinking of.. ANd when I am feeling really bad about myself, I drop into the Walmart at 9 pm on a Saturday night and all is well with my world. And now i am going to pray for forgiveness! :-)

    1. We are both terrible people,but you are spot on.

  6. I can't believe that someone thought you were dressing like a trekkie! So funny. I loved Star Trek as a kid.
    I completely agree with your pajama doctrine. I love to linger over a cup of coffee in my J Crew Critter baggy pajama pants AT HOME.
    The green J Crew 1960's flower power inspired pants and their current bedazzled creations are very unfortunate. I really thought that they were going to return to classics with a twist, not classics over the top.

  7. I love your Star Trek comment most of all. So unexpected.The pajama pants spring 2013 styling made me envision an escaped convict stealing someone's pants from a clothesline. Not my favorite inspiration/aspiration.

  8. I loved this post and the comments and the update! I see plenty of pyjamas on the street, and yes just as often on men. I do live in a University town but many of them look too old to be going there. It is incredibly distressing.

  9. I've often wondered when I'd hit the wall with my crazy pants collection ... think I just did.


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