# fashion # look presentable always

What We Wear Matters

What we wear matters. For some reason, this statement has become a controversial topic of late. Many of us believe that what we wear is important— that dressing is a form of both self-respect and respect for others. But there is an opposing argument to everything. Those who disagree state that what we wear does not matter. That it is none of our business how other people dress and there should not be a dress code for anything. We are living in a world of "anything goes" anyway so why fight it?

Standards of dress have slipped rather dramatically over the past few decades. It didn't happen suddenly, it happened gradually, so much so that we didn't notice it, until now. We are starting to see a backlash in the news, like with the British headmistress who sent a letter home to parents asking them to not wear their pajamas to school. Or the San Diego judge who posted a notice on his courtroom wall stating that pajamas are not appropriate attire for district court. This is how bad it's become: adults need to be told to not wear their pajamas in public.

In my life I have been on both sides of the dressing experience. As a college student, I would have thought nothing of wearing sweatpants and dressing sloppily in public. Hey, we all did it! (Or, at least that was my excuse.) But after living in Paris with Madame Chic and her family, I was awakened to the power and dignity of dress. Now, I do my best to look presentable and dress appropriately on a daily basis, and it's safe to say you won't see me in my nightgown on the street, unless there is a fire or earthquake. (That's my goal, anyway.)

Many of the people opposed to the idea that what we we wear matters claim that it is an elitist thing. That we are saying you need to be dressed in the latest brand name or the most expensive items. This could not be further from the truth. People can dress with dignity at any price point, from the smallest to the largest budget.

What we wear matters.
I firmly believe this and in this week's video I state my case for why. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur (and be sure to subscribe!)

Here are some articles of interest that are mentioned in the video:

Business Insider article on what to wear to work.

Wall Street Journal article on badly dressed museum visitors

Judge asks people to stop wearing pajamas in court.

Headmistress in the United Kingdom sends a letter home to parents urging them to not wear pajamas to school.

Check out my interview with Germany's Alyona Klameth, from What's Up online magazine, about Paris, Madame Chic and the ten-item wardrobe.

Tala Ocampo gets inspiration from At Home With Madame Chic when upping her everyday game.

7 Mouths 2 Feed ponders the ten-item wardrobe in her post called, Brave New Wardrobe.

Comments of the Week
Alison T. writes:

Oh my goodness, I came across this at the right time. I'm a teacher and had parent-teacher conferences last week. Many mothers came to our conference in workout clothes. I make an effort to look professional every day, and it made me feel disrespected that they did not care enough to change before these meetings. Unless you are a personal trainer, make an effort when meeting with your child's teacher!

Hi Alison, thank you for giving us one teacher's perspective. We so often only think of ourselves, it's good to wonder how the other party feels. I'm sure you are an excellent example for your students.

Lynne writes:

Hi Jennifer,
I just wanted to let you know how much I have appreciated your blog and books. Like many people I have been captivated by the 10 item wardrobe and I'm finally implementing it. I was thrilled to discover how much money I can save when I stay true to my style, and don't feel pulled (too much :) ) by trends. Now I can take advantage of the end of season sales and buy quality pieces for very little. I bought a beautiful winter dress and blouse yesterday for 50% off and will get a bit of wear out of them this season and for many years to come. Thank you and congratulations on your pregnancy!

Hi Lynne, thank you for your comment. I loved hearing how the ten-item wardrobe has worked wonders for you. Many people tell me they have read my blog for years and are just now implementing the ten-item wardrobe in their lives. It's never too late!

This week I would love to know what you think. Does what we wear matter? If so, why? If not, why not? Please leave your comments in the comment section below and you could be chosen as comment of the week!

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Julia Goryun said...

I agree with you that it's much nicer to put a thought in everything you wear, or do, for that matter.
I think the people disagree often because of the way it's told. "You should dress nicely, it's the matter of respect" and so on.
Also, the posts about royal families on Facebook are not helping with embracing the idea of dressing nicely (royal families are getting everything just because they are born this way). I hope you understand what I mean.
The way of Marie Kondo is actually brilliant. She speaks about joy, not shoulds or musts.
Pyjama in public, does that give you joy? Not really. It just doesn't feel good.

Rebekah Hamon said...

I think Alison needs to lighten up. I think it's an accomplishment, a discipline and a challenge as a mom to fit in excercise, and if those moms fit it in around the teacher conference, so be it.
That said, I know lots of people wear workout clothes non-stop nowadays, but how does she know? She'd be a happier person if she changed her thinking about these women, and instead thought, "Wow! Little Tommy's mom is so inspiring...she fits working out into her busy day!" One problem with puttingbrain power into judging what other are wearing is that it leads you down the path of being a judgy unpleasant person. It seems more lady-like to me to choose graciousness towards others, in the way we act, and the way we think.

Rebekah Hamon said...

I think Alison needs to lighten up. I think it's an accomplishment, a discipline and a challenge as a mom to fit in excercise, and if those moms fit it in around the teacher conference, so be it.
That said, I know lots of people wear workout clothes non-stop nowadays, but how does she know? She'd be a happier person if she changed her thinking about these women, and instead thought, "Wow! Little Tommy's mom is so inspiring...she fits working out into her busy day!" One problem with puttingbrain power into judging what other are wearing is that it leads you down the path of being a judgy unpleasant person. It seems more lady-like to me to choose graciousness towards others, in the way we act, and the way we think.

Jill said...

Interesting post and I agree with much that you wrote in it. The public school my 3rd grade daughter attends here in Brooklyn hosts pajama days on occasion as a special treat for kids and it will make you laugh to know that I despise that practice! I know the kids love it but I think it is so distracting in the classroom, not to mention disconcerting to see the kids strolling into school wearing their PJs. Ugh. It doesn't happen that often, and I know I am in the minority in my community, but I wish they'd end it.

Christina Paul said...

It's so refreshing to hear someone voice these ideas. We have a choice in how we present ourselves to the world and it takes the same amount of time to put on something neat and polished, as it does sweats and a pajama top.
I know the stereotype of Europeans dressing so much better is a bit played out but there is truth to it- we have relatives overseas and when we visit you do notice the care people put into how they dress on a daily basis- not fancy- often simple modestly priced classics that they re-wear in different ways- And expensive designer labels or flashy vulgar logos doesn't translate to well dressed- (just note any real housewife for example- ugh) but as Jennifer said clothes appropriate to the occassion- if you take an hour yoga class you don't have to tell the world by wearing your workout clothes the entire day-I admit, I'm often guilty of this!- especially on a late night cat food run etc- but kudos to the author for putting the idea and a reminder out there of how a little dignity and self respect can go a long way!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hi Rebekah, I don't think Alison needs to lighten up at all. I think she is brave for voicing her very valid opinion from her perspective as a hard working teacher. I'm grateful she shared with us.

Hi Julia, Interesting point on joy! Although for us pajamas in public might not bring joy, it might for others. I'm assuming it does, which is why they wear them. This brings up another interesting topic: should we only do things because they feel good?

Hi Jill, The kids sure do love pajama day don't they? I don't see harm in it because it is a "novelty" and the implication is that it is not normal to wear pajamas on a daily basis, making that day "special".

Ai Mizuta said...

I respect you for being so brave.
Your philosophy has been really working well for me. When I look presentable, I feel more confident, and I can be more engaging with others when I interact...I can look straight into their eyes rather than avoiding eyecontacts. And yes my daughter loves it when I'm a bit dressed up. I think it's a good thing to brighten up the space we live.
I know there are people out there who can do all these things (i.e be confident, engaging with others, brighten up the space) with yoga clothes and no makeup, and I think that is okay as well.
P.s I started Instagram inspired by Madame chic lifestyle.

ML at Home said...

Thank you Jennifer for what you do and who you are! You have been an inspiration to me for the last few years, and have literally changed my life. I look forward to more instructional and inspirational videos! As far as this topic goes, you have nothing to prove and nothing to defend. Just being yourself is setting an example for the people that are ready to hear it.

Michelle Bush said...

Hello! I couldn't agree more, that what we wear matters. After all, if it truly didn't matter, ever, why WOULDN'T you wear your sweats to a job interview (that doesn't involve being a personal trainer)? Why NOT wear your pajamas to the opera? Why bother wearing anything BUT pajamas? I think this is the question that should be asked of those who don't think it matters. Doesn't it matter, at least sometimes?

I watched a video by The Glamorous Housewife, where she addressed a comment made by Eva Mendes in an interview. In the interview, Eva said she never wears sweatpants, and adds, "Number one cause of divorce in America," as a joke. Apparently she received a lot of flack for that comment? I'd love to hear your take on it, if you've ever watched that clip!

Why do working women dress beautifully for work, and then wear sweats all day when they're off? Because they want to relax completely, and I can understand that (as an outsider - I'm a stay-at-home mom). But why dress nicely for work? Because it's important. Because they care about their job (or at least, they care to keep it). But to dress nicely for one's boss/clients/customers, and then dress poorly for oneself and/or one's family, is to say without words that the latter are less important than the former.

I know from personal experience the difference it can make. The same cashier at Aldi, always friendly and polite no matter what, seemed to behave a little more awkwardly around me a few weeks ago when I just threw something on and went grocery shopping (without showering - bad hair. Not a proud moment for me). The next week, I went grocery shopping after showering, putting a little more thought into my outfit, and wearing mascara and lip-gloss. She seemed to have an easier time looking at me, to be honest! She wasn't rude the week before, but I made myself less of an eyesore, and my appearance was more welcoming and inviting. She even complimented my signature scent - Tea Rose. ;) Just like a home can be either messy or inviting, so can we be.

"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." -Proverbs 22:1

Sharlynn JK Cochran said...

Definitely, what we wear is a matter of respect. I'm a high school teacher and my students are constantly remarking on my clothes and how "dressy" and hip I always look. They also wonder why I never wear pants. Now, I am nearly 60 years old, so to be called hip and nicely dressed in the same sentence, from a teen, is quite a compliment! As for never wearing pants, I explain to them that at some time
in their life, they will reach a point where they know what it means to be true to themselves, no matter what everyone else around them is doing. For me, dresses and tights are totally me and comfortable.
So back to respect. When I explain that they are the ones looking at me all day and that I want to give them something nice to look at, that, to me, is what respect is all about. This really gives them something to think and reflect on.

Jill Foley said...

I'm going to chime in from a homeschooling mama's perspective. I know many homeschooling moms who let their kids wear their pajamas all day, and they themselves either wear yoga pants or pajamas. Not in my house...I think making my kids dress for the day, and wearing presentable clothes myself helps us all take our homeschooling a bit more seriously. I see it as a way to honor those I'm in contact with, and most days that is my own children and husband. Why would I not present my best to them, but save it for others that I see less regularly? That doesn't make any sense. I don't want my husband to have to look outside the home for well-dressed women.

Lollyg said...

As someone who works in a high school, I have to agree with Alison. It is so important to set the example for our children that school is a place that parents dress carefully for, out of respect for their kids! Like it or not, we give an impression of how much we care about something based on how we prepare for it, and that includes our dress.
I write as someone who grew up without much money, yet we dressed for an occasion - always clean, brushed, and pressed. Modesty was also important, so as not to call attention to ourselves, which we were brought up to believe is not polite.
It's good for kids to get the message that their progress is so important to the parents that they have taken the time to get ready for the visit. This does not mean expensive clothes. If the parents wear clean jeans, a pressed shirt, and clean shoes, (I work in a rural school)that is great. Workout clothes are not as dignified.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think that what you wear sends a message about who you are, what matters to you, and how you want others to see you - which is why it bugs me when some women claim they should be able to wear provocative clothing in public without eliciting a response (unless of course they happen to want one).
This is not to suggest that women who dress provocatively are 'asking for it' - what you say with your words should always trump what you say with your clothes - but claiming that what a person wears means nothing seems naive at best. Humans just don't work that way.

Maja said...

I find, for me, it comes down to respect, for myself. I learned a long time ago to dress well when going out and about if you want better service from salespeople, wait staff, etc... If I don't respect myself, why should they.
I work with traumatized teenage girls with psychological disorders. Some days you end up up rolling on the floor in "combat" to protect them from hurting themselves or others. Most of the staff wear sweats and t-shirts. I choose pants, a nice shirt/sweater or a dress/skirt (with leggings underneath) as I was told once,if you want to move up, you should dress at least as well as your boss. I find the kids respect me more as well because I look like a grownup.
Money has NOTHING to do with it. I buy things at thrift stores, big box stores, etc. I'm not silly enough to wear higher end clothes to work with possible damage, but I don't have to look like I could care less either. And it takes less time to put on a skirt than a pair of jeans, you can do both legs at once.
Work out moms, I applaud you, but with the work out wear they make these days, you can't throw on a wrap skirt and sweater, or a nice pair of yoga pants and a pullover.
People look at you first and make a decision in 30 seconds about you. Fair, no but true just the same. They can be judgemental, biased and mean,but you don't have to give then ammunition. If you truly don't care what they think, then yay for you.

Maja said...

I find, for me, it comes down to respect, for myself. I learned a long time ago to dress well when going out and about if you want better service from salespeople, wait staff, etc... If I don't respect myself, why should they.
I work with traumatized teenage girls with psychological disorders. Some days you end up up rolling on the floor in "combat" to protect them from hurting themselves or others. Most of the staff wear sweats and t-shirts. I choose pants, a nice shirt/sweater or a dress/skirt (with leggings underneath) as I was told once,if you want to move up, you should dress at least as well as your boss. I find the kids respect me more as well because I look like a grownup.
Money has NOTHING to do with it. I buy things at thrift stores, big box stores, etc. I'm not silly enough to wear higher end clothes to work with possible damage, but I don't have to look like I could care less either. And it takes less time to put on a skirt than a pair of jeans, you can do both legs at once.
Work out moms, I applaud you, but with the work out wear they make these days, you can't throw on a wrap skirt and sweater, or a nice pair of yoga pants and a pullover.
People look at you first and make a decision in 30 seconds about you. Fair, no but true just the same. They can be judgemental, biased and mean,but you don't have to give then ammunition. If you truly don't care what they think, then yay for you.

Pammie said...

It does indeed matter how we present ourselves to the world. Our clothes should be clean and fit the occasion. Reasonably clean hair and nails, teeth brushed, these are basics and show respect to self and others. I think you're on-target. I have a daily "uniform" for work and my capsule wardrobe. Good clothes that are tasteful, classic, and that last. Keep up the good work, Jennifer!

Marija Charlton said...

Hi Jennifer,

I completely agree with you. What we wear shows respect, both towards ourselves and others. We do not live as islands in the middle of the ocean, but are part of a wider community - and how we present ourselves, both in terms of our clothes, and our manners, does matter.

In 'Almost French', a book by an Australian author Sarah Turnbull, she recounts an A-ha moment she experienced while living in Paris with her French partner. She was going down the street to buy their morning croissants and threw on a pair of sweats and an old baggy jumper. Her partner, somewhat taken aback, asked her if she was going down dressed like that. She said, of course, I'm just grabbing breakfast! What's the problem? He then asked if she appreciated the beautifully made, flaky and buttery croissants the baker made every day. Of course! she replied. Well, you see, he puts his time, his skill, his passion and pride into the pastries he makes, showing appreciation for his customers. By dressing appropriately while purchasing our croissants shows your respect and appreciation for him in return. She says, a light went on, and she began to understand why the French always put an effort into their presentation. It wasn't only for some sense of being fashionable, but as an extension of the Please and Thank you that we teach our children.
And I couldn't agree more.

With the warmest regards,

Vickie Zarifopoulos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B said...

I think presenting yourself well with how you dress matters and is important. However it's not so easy as just deciding to do it, which is what your video seems to imply.

Why would organizations such as dress for success exist if people didn't have resources to look presentable at a job interview? Even for the youth there are organizations that help with prom dresses.

I know you said that you are not trying to come across as elitist but I think socioeconomic background does play a role.

I would love to go to work everyday with my hair presentable (ie quick 7 min blow dry) and make up on. However my 3 kids and I are out the door by 7 am. My commute is an hour. I won't be late to work because I'm doing my hair. Getting 3 kids out the door in one piece by 7 am is a miracle everyday. I don't have time to prep the night before. I don't even have time for laundry. Presentable for us means having clean clothes on. I wish I had the time you had in your morning routine for all those mindful things.

Vickie Zarifopoulos said...

Hi Jennifer. First of all, congratulations on baby number 3! I am excited for you and your family. Secondly, this is a topic that I am completely behind. I live in Melbourne Australia (which is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city known for food, culture and fashion), but I realised recently that I hadn't heard Melbourne be called "chic" in quite a while. Years actually, which is so sad. Melbourne can basically be divided into 2 sides of the river. On the south side we have the "old money" and "new wealthy" population, which simply means going out for brunch or shopping in this area tends to equal one horrible trend. Designer Active Wear! (The Active Wear video clip you posted on your blog recently was filmed in that part of town). Then, on the other side of the river (the north) we have trendy hipsters in cool suburbs, and this is where I see people having coffee and doing the school run in their pyjamas, as well as going to farmers markets looking and smelling like they didn't shower this week. It's really disappointing as is bringing down the tone of our once stylish city. And I'm sorry to say it, but it is generally the younger crowd. I don't know if they are lazy or simply don't care, but this sloppy attitude to one's presentation is starting to go viral. How do we stop it? At this rate, where will we be in 20 years time?

But I do have to sing the stylish praises of one particular group of people, and that is the 60+ baby boomer's. These people (and I don't want to call them "elderly", so instead I will call them "matured and worldly ") always catch my eye for the right reasons. It can be in the supermarket, on the train or even at the movies, but they are always so well dressed, hair styled nicely, perfume and lipstick for women, ties and leather shoes for gentleman. I really admire these people! Some of them may even need the assistance of cane or a walking frame to get around, and yet they still manage to look presentable. And as you always say, it has nothing to do with money. This group of our population would have probably come to Australia with nothing after World War 2, and built new lives for themselves from the ground up. And maybe they are retired from the work force and living off their pensions? But they still manage to dress well and have good manners. I hope the younger generation of Melbourne start taking notice. I firmly believe that everyday we set an example to others. We do this with our presentation, our dress and our behaviour. What we must ask ourselves everyday is "what type of an example do I want to set" If I encounter a stranger, what will be their initial though of me"? I am certainly not perfect, but everyday I do my absolute best that I can do. I try to remain in the present and put in a conscious effort. And from there, everything improves.

Jane said...

It absolutely matters. I don't find pajama pants to be all that comfortable, not to mention far too cold for New England weather, though I see it continually and year-round. I'd say leggings and proper shoes and a well fitting dress looks lightyears better and is more comfortable- at home or out and about. I think one of your youtube comments on the video hit the nail on the head... This is a completely egocentric culture and the 30 and under crowd are the biggest offenders of this lowbrow "do whatever feels good" mentality... Btw I am in that age group. I live in a low income neighborhood, accross from a convenience store, so let's say I get quite the people watching experience. 70-90% of the people here dress like they rolled out of bed and smell like it too. Some people who have lived here for decades (my family included) are pretty broke but take pride in our homes and appearance. Being "fancy" is not the point. I see young adults and senior citizens alike in designer bags, designer sweats (ugh), late model vehicles and salon-fresh hair and nails, all spitting on the ground and throwing trash everywhere. You cannot by class! There is defintely a divide in culture:casual me me me and me now! Vs. Respectful modest and thoughtful cleanliness. If people don't speak out one is left to wonder "am I a snob? Should I even bother?" let's not ever drop our standards because it's the easy comfortable way! It doesn't take much effort. I will forever be shaking my head at the kids who would show up to my college classes in pjs with makeup on! And seriously some of them smelled rank. There is a reason people judge your clothing & people need to accept it. The excercise gear as clothes is gross. Who can know if you are covered in post workout sweat or on your way to a workout? It should not be one's modus operandi... It is unsanitary!

Brandi Holcomb said...

Hi Jennifer! Thank you for today's topic. I am actually writing a blog tonight that has a similiar topic. I had an experience recently that I thought you'd appreciate. I work in a pharmacy for my day job and by night I am a blogger and personal stylist. One day at work, a man came in wanting to buy a small pack of insulin syringes. Our store policy is anyone over 18 can purchase them but it has to be the whole box of 100, not a small pack. My coworker explained this and he became irate. He accused my coworker of judging him based on his appearance. In his words "you won't sell them to me because I look like a crack head." All I could think, is this is why I do my blog and personal styling. It was a prime example. If he didn't want to be treated like a "crack head" (not my words) then he shouldn't act or look like one. Pull the hoodie off your head, pull up your pants and act like a respectable human being. Even street style can be respectable. Clean, covered and the right size does not mean stripping you of your personal style. Again, thank you. I enjoyed this one so much that I will put a link to it in my blog.

Brandi Holcomb said...

I love how you point out that you can be classy and have pride regardless of age or income status. Thank you!

Bonnie said...

I'm a fellow homeschooling mom who completely agrees!

Susie said...

Thanks for mentioning my little blogpost @7mouths2feed. S xx

My Fair Lady said...

Preach it! Love this post! It is so true that dressing appropriately shows respect for others and causes others to respect you. I love to "royal watch" and have noticed that while we have forsaken the habit, royals wear black to funerals,even yet. I think it is such a small thing to do that still shows respect for the deceased and their families - a sign that their passing is noticed, and reflected in the clothing choices at least for that day. We have become so self-centered as a society that our attitude is that people should love and respect us no matter how disrespectful we may choose to be, and that is ridiculous. I know that my family loves and respects me no matter what I wear, but I choose to return that respect by dressing in a way that NO ONE need be ashamed of. I want my husband to be proud to call me his wife, even if he is not with me. I want my children to be happy to be seen with me - not unkempt and disheveled in public. I want to look like a person worth respect, and not just expect respect because I demand it.

The Bron said...

I'm not 100% where you are on this issue: maybe 90% (I have definitely been in gym attire in the store, on the way home or to the gym and gotten funny looks. I'm not going home to change - it's a waste of gas and time given where I live) But I agree the cost of clothing is not directly related to the appropriateness or niceness of an outfit. I thrift regularly and my recent purchases were $2 dark jeans and a $2 striped top, both in great condition and wonderful fabric. I rarely buy anything thrifted over $6 and anything new over $15 (unless its 1. quality and 2. something I already identified I needed like good trousers) There's just so many cheap options out there. I am almost always complimented on my sartorial choices and I think, although my style is a little out-there, it's because I put in the effort and that comes across as being respectful. I am not trying to show off, I feel like I am saying my friends and acquaintances are worth getting "dressed-up" for, just like they are worth being polite towards, and doing favours or giving a compliment to.

Stuff_Stories said...

Thank you, Jennifer! In " Polish your Poise" you point out, that you dont have to be the conservative type of woman to look presentable always. Thats not the point. Its all about respect and get ready to deal with the day. Spread the word and ├╝lease keep talking about this topic. Its very motivtaing for me.
I face one of the biggest challenges today: I'm ill and going to stay at home all day. Should I take a shower? Put on some light make up? Get into my most comfortable yet lovely dress? I definitly shoul and I will, And I'm looking forward to ist, because it's going to make me feel much better!

Thank you again, Lisa

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Anonymous said...

I do most of my clothes shopping in consignment shops, thrift stores, and garage sales. (Heck -- even my shopping for home items, for that matter!) Yet people are always telling me how nicely dressed I am. It's not a matter of money. As you say, quality clothing can be found at every price level.

Polly said...

I had to laugh at pajamas in court: when I was in law school, a professor singled out a student who came to class in her pajamas--and told her to never wear pajamas in his class again. When candidates for the bar take the state bar exam, they are required to wear a suit. The exam lasts two days and the dress code is strict. I loved this because it elevated the occasion--to look around and see my colleagues-to-be in the clothing they would wear on a daily basis (rather than the sloppy attire of law students!).

It doesn't take me any more time in the morning to put in a skirt v. putting on yoga pants. I have a winter "uniform" that I love to wear. It takes 5 mins to apply makeup. Then that's it! (And insofar as price goes, I love to shop at thrift stores, and make most of the rest of my clothes. I indulge in great jeans once a year, though!)

I will say that I don't hyper-focus on other people's attire. I love to dress. It's something that makes me feel great. But a few years ago I remember becoming acquainted with a woman who was obviously blissfully unaware of style. Everything about her was dated. But she was the sweetest person I had ever met. She didn't dress in a sloppy way, or shabbily, or even remotely disrespectfully (so, she'd never wear pajamas to church or court!)--she was just still dressed like she was in the late 80s! (Mom jeans, keds....) Once I got to know her I realized that for her, clothing simply wasn't a focus. She had bigger and better things to do. And it was a good focus, because she died of cancer a couple years ago, leaving four young children. I have thought a lot about how her investment in her children surely trumped any style points she had missed! It's all about priorities. And grace.

Polly said...

I just saw the other homeschooling comments--yes! My children are dressed, showered, and in street clothes by the time we open our books, regardless of whether we are leaving the house that day. It simply puts them in the right frame of mind and establishes good habits. Plus--then we're ready for anything!

Nana said...

I do agree with you. Great post!

Kisses and God Bless you

Erin said...

I work at a very large corporation in AZ. You wouldn't believe how the men and women dress! They take business casual to the extreme, with just barely staying in the boundaries of the code. Many people look like they roll out of bed, throw comfortable clothes on and come to work. Tennis shoes, ill fitting clothes, no make up, hair barely brushed, etc. It takes me 10 minutes to do my makeup, 15 to do my hair, and no longer than anyone else to put my clothes on. I just put a nice outfit on! I can honestly say I am bothered by the lack of effort. If we don't even get dressed up for work, what other reason would we possibly have?! I could go on and on...but I am on my lunch break and can't! :) The other day we were in a meeting and I am new, but got called up randomly do lead a new group. I can't help but think it was because I stuck out looking polished and professional. Keep it up madame chic followers. We may not change the world, but we stand out - in a good way!

Amanda Garcia said...

Jennifer, I am a huge fan and I couldn't agree with you more. I teach 7th graders and although my students have a uniform, some of the clothes I see their parents in are downright embarrassing. I feel for the students who are walking next to their parent decked out in pajamas or super trendy spandex with their midriff showing. I actually teach a lesson to my students on dressing professionally and they are always utterly fascinated by the truth that what you wear tells people about you before you ever open your mouth. We live in a society that often makes snap judges about people on the basis of their skin color, religion, background, neighborhood, etc. Especially if you are already marginalized by society, what better way to give yourself a chance to be heard than to wear clothes that say, "I am a professional!" "I am educated!" "I am confident!" We are hurting ourselves when we insist that we should dress however we feel or that what we look like shouldn't dictate what people think about us. As much as some of us want that statement to be true, the truth is that we are judged by how we look and if we want people to judge us for who we are, the best thing we can do is to look presentable enough that people will judge us favorably while they get to know the real us.

One quick story. My little brother was a really awful person when he was younger (he's better now). He frequently shoplifted and always got away with it. The reason was that he understood that people judged you on the basis of how you present yourself and he used that to his advantage. Starting in junior high, he would dress in nice slacks and a collared shirt. His hair was always cut and combed nicely. He wore nicer dressy casual shoes and would carry a professional looking messenger bag. When he walked into a store, he was instantly judged as a responsible kid. He was always greeted and helped and no one ever suspected that he was filling his bag with stolen merchandise. Granted, this is an example of how presenting yourself well can be used in terrible ways, but it does show that the way you dress is the way the world perceives you.

Anonymous said...

I love this discussion! Whenever I see someone in public dressed in pajamas, workout clothes in a non- workout environment, showing the world their under garments or gluteal fold, I go to a place of gratitude for having made the choice of attire that reflects the respect I have for myself and those I will come in contact with during any given day. I am grateful these folks have given me a visual reminder of how I (with emphasis!) do not wish to dress. After a silent, heartfelt thank you, I wish them well on their journey in this life. To those who compliment or make notice of my attire, I use it as a teaching opportunity for living a Madame Chic lifestyle and recommend your books.

Ladylike said...

Carry on, courageous crusader! You look wonderfully presentable in this video, as always. Slovenliness has become the "fashion", not just in clothing but in many areas of life, such as housekeeping. An acquaintance once said to me that her children will not remember, when they are older, that the house was messy. Unfortunately, the truth is the children will remember, and even worse, the children will come to believe messy and dirty is normal, and they may continue to live that way when they are adults. All of our choices will impact future generations. Thank you.
Warm best,

B.J. Chiarucci said...

Hi Jennifer, I really enjoy your videos and your blog. I do think what we wear and how we present ourselves matters so much. It makes such a difference in our lives. I like how you talk about poise being an internal state of self-respect and respect for others, and how our self-presentation comes from that state.

One thing I have become concerned about is ethical manufacturing. As a result, I have been more particular about purchasing only those things that are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way, and I have also been trying to reduce my purchases to what I really need and like. Your focus on the capsule wardrobe and on taking care of and valuing our things has been quite helpful to me in these efforts. So, thank you. I hope that little by little we can get there, that is, to a better world for all.

Also, this is a little off-topic, but in your videos you have such great comportment and presence. If you ever put together a video on public speaking tips for those of us who find it at times intimidating that would be wonderful.

B said...

I wish we lived in a world where how we present ourselves with respect will garner the same respect from others. Unfortunately in my experience I have found this is not the case. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary once at a popular restaurant. We dressed our best and had good manners. We ordered expensive things from the menu. However the customer service was lacking. We were pretty much ignored largely because of our ethic background.

Another time I went shopping at nordstrom. I wore my best clothes and put make up and everything to go shopping there. Yet it's true sales associates judge you. My best clothes regardless of how happy and put together I feel probably don't scream money to SA's. Now I go to nordstrom in sweats. When I ring up my purchase and get asked who helped me? I tell them no one.

kara said...

I love your example of the mother with four children. I'm not focusing on "in style" and I don't believe anyone here is either. You nailed it; she was clean, nicely clothed, presentable, respectable. That is the whole point.

galant said...

Having been brought up in the much-smarter 1950s, I have always attempted to dress appropriately. It's second nature to me, just clean clothes, tidy clothes, even for housework/cooking/gardening. I find that if you are smartly dressed people WILL treat you differently - I remember once, many years ago, going into a shop on my way to a wedding. I was dressed in a matching dress and coat and a pretty hat (people wore hats to weddings years ago, not just hair any how, or those frightful things called fascinators) and I was, for the first time in my life, addressed as "Madam," and not in a nasty way, but in a very polite way. And as Helene Hanff once said to Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Road, Madam in England doesn't mean what it does in America! Madam is a formal term of address over here!
You are right in what you say; dressing appropriately, regardless of cost. Being clean, tidy, presentable, with or without makeup, matters. It is not only respectful of others, it shows that we respect ourselves.
Margaret P

Judy said...

Fantastic advice, Jennifer! Just last week, I published a little post on my blog called "Words of Wisdom from Anne of Green Gables." One of the things I discussed was Marilla's admonition, "You don't make an important call in kitchen clothes." Yes, it is a matter of respect. And looking good gives a person confidence. I remember a commercial from back in the 60's or 70's for some kind of soap (I think). The line that really stuck with me from that advertisement is, "When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good."


Kathryn Bechen said...

Congrats on your Japan books Jennifer and kudos to you for keeping on keeping on with this dress-better topic! As a former public school teacher, 57 years-old me agrees with the nearly-60 years-old Sherlynn commenter here that it does indeed count what you wear in front of your students and you should be an example to them of being a positive adult role model. They do notice! It might take years for teens to make a change in their own slouchy ways, but somewhere down the road they just may remember you as a positive role model and nice dresser, as you did your original Madame Chic Paris role model. Also as someone who has also worked in the legal field when I was young, I am horrified that people would wear their PJs to court and the judge would have to take their precious professional time to ask them to not do so. How disrespectful indeed, not to mention lacking in common sense. I totally agree with you and some others here Jennifer that dressing well is not about being elitist and buying designer clothing or going into debt for purchasing clothing and accessories. I am adamantly against debt for things like that, as well as the over-marketing to young people to buy buy buy too. Anyone can find great deals on stylish clothes at Goodwill if that's your small budget! (You should see the window clothing displays in the Goodwill near where I live in San Diego: FAB clean stylish clothing and accessories! The outfits they had in there for Valentine's Day for both his and hers were adorable and pristine-clean.) Also, as a former teacher, I can tell you that while many moms (sometimes legitimately) struggle with raising children and all that goes with that huge responsibility, others do present themselves in a poised and caring (not meaning always perfect) manner and neatly dressed too at their kids' schools, over-busy single parents included. Buy cute knits that move while you tidy the house yet have a bit of style; Target has many! I have also had many friends who came from large families and their busy busy mothers managed to be neatly dressed as were their kids because the moms TAUGHT THEM that skill and pride of self-respect. The bottom line for me on this topic is both self-respect AND respect for how others feel when they must look at you as a fellow human! Cute story: Just last night my husband of nearly 36 years told me he enjoyed that I wear nice robes in the eve and since we have been watching all the Downton Abbey episodes on DVD he now calls me "Lady Kathryn" which I find too cute for words after over 35 years of marriage. I LOVE taking pride in how I look, always have, and I always will make an effort at it! Keep sharing your important message and being a role model! Kathryn :)

Hayley Richardson said...

I agree too, Jennifer. I believe the way you dress sends a message to yourself about who you are and how you interact with the world. Regardless of budget, if you can manage to put some level of thought behind what you wear and groom yourself a little, your own self-perception elevates versus if you don't. I don't think it's a great practice to judge other people on an individual basis for their grooming (especially when you don't know if it's usual for them), but at a larger scale, it is a shame to see so many people slip into the habit of 'slopping' by all the time (I have definitely done this in the past, so I'm throwing myself in that basket too). If anything, to me grooming demonstrates a certain level of self love and respect, and the confidence from that is then projected out into the world. I know from experience that when I make more of an effort, I feel better facing the day. Others can't help but notice the confidence this brings too, it's magnetic.

Colleen Logie said...

I agree with this, and it is good to see so many people are in accord! Even when I was a single mum and did not have a lot of spare cash, I would buy classic pieces from second-hand shops and dress them up with some scarves, tights and other accessories. I love the smaller wardrobe idea, too. As a very elegant lady I met the first time I travelled through Europe in winter explained to me, it is easier to pack a smaller suitcase with quality clothing, then if you want to shop overseas, you can just choose one or two new 'signature' items to add to the collection.
I believe that depression and anxiety can be relieved by actually putting in the effort to look good, too. I know when I am having a bad morning, the ritual of preparing to leave the house actually clears my head and puts me in a better frame of mind to face the world.
And yes, as many others here have said, it sends a clear message to the rest of the world that we actually have self esteem and care about ourselves. This can lead to being treated better by others, and also helps us carry ourselves even taller.
Thanks for this timely reminder!

Sarah said...

In Rachel Zoe's book, she has a quote that "dressing well is a sign of commitment to yourself and others." I love that, because it's true. It takes effort and energy and also a sense of passion - that it all does actually matter.

Bill Cunningham (an amazing New York Times fashion photographer - watch his videos - they will always perk up your day, he is truly passionate about what he does) once said that the clothes people wear are a kind of "shield" and protection when we're out in the world. I think that's true. It's a costume in a certain sense - that's how we define the role we play.

When I was at a really stressful job, putting thought into my appearance made me feel like I had more control over my day and that I wasn't at the mercy of everyone else. I felt more grounded in who I wanted to be by dressing well. But the flip side of that, is that maybe some of these people who wear baggy clothes, pants hanging down to their knees, and street style, are also "shielding" themselves, but just in a way that works differently, for better or worse. By having that nonchalance of casual dress, they are fitting in and avoiding standing out and flying under the radar in their own way. When you stand out by dressing differently than the community around you, you can also face bullying and backlash. I think it's important to think about why people might do things, before labeling them right or wrong. There is a lot of psychology behind it, because the way we dress also indicates what "tribe" we identify with in the world. It goes deep.

Some of the nicest dressed people in my urban neighborhood are Hispanic and black families on their way to church on Sundays. They definitely care about their appearance and make an effort more than some of the mostly white congregations at other churches full of younger 20-30s yuppies.

Ashley Diaz said...

Dear Jennifer,

I had the perfect instance last week of why it is so important to always dress presentable. I will admit, 90% of the time, I drop my daughter off at school in work out clothes, because I plan on going to the gym. I always shower and dress before picking her up. On the days I am not going to the gym, it would be so easy to throw on the gym clothes for the morning drop-off, but I generally try to dress for the day on those mornings. Last week, I got up and got dressed, knowing I would not be going to the gym that particular morning. While dropping my daughter off in carpool, the music director of the school (who happens to be a friend and who also happens to NEVER be out at carpool), caught me and invited me back that morning to an Atlanta Opera performance! Since I was dressed for the day, I was ready for whatever the day brought my way, including an impromptu Opera performance! Had I been in my gym clothes, there is no way I would have felt comfortable attending the performance.
While the Atlanta Opera is not my destiny, I do love this quote by Chanel that I believe perfectly encapsulates the importance of why what we wear matters:
“I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” Coco Chanel

Elizabeth said...

Hi Jennifer,

I came across your blog today and just had to comment on this post. I have heard about your first book, but have not had the opportunity to read it yet. Anyway, I love this post! I am in my early twenties and a recent college grad. All throughout college I felt more dressed up than my peers even when I wasn't dressing up - now I realize I was dress appropriately and presentable. I haven't owned sweatpants in years but in college I saw many of my classmates come to class in sweats and pjs. I completely agree that what we wear matters and I wish more people would put it into practice. Great post!

S Pantelias said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,

I always love your blog and was recently watching a BBC documentary on Amazon Prime called "Tales from the Royal Wardrobe". And it really reminded me of your message here. Clothes do matter and royal kingdoms were made or broken by what the royals wore. It just reminded me of how important dress is. Even though we are not royal, proper dress is an expression of who we are and how much we care. Also, as a mother of five children, it is important to me to be an example for my children. Anyway, I just though you might enjoy the documentary too; especially the part about Queen Victoria and Prince of Wales Henry the 8th and his inappropriateness of dress (even though it seems laughable today).

Mommy {T} said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tala said...

Wow thank you Jennifer for the blog mention! Fan girl moment for me! Hugs all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was again re-energized to wear other than a dressy shorts ensemble to school pick-ups (we are in a humid country). Dressing up is one of the things I missed about going to work (now a housewife). And one of my fellow moms who normally wore something chic now wore something office-y. So I told her she was looking great and asked if she started lecturing (a thing she wanted to do). She said no and she just wanted to wear something like it that day. I was struck by how she described it, "It felt like she was going to do something meaningful." And that's really it right? We dress up when we do something meaningful and that I hope includes our everyday life! She was already saying, her son will ask if they're going somewhere and she's right he did ask. I have a daughter and she always notices when I am dressed up. She's more of a fashionista than myself actually and because she notices, I vow to set a good example everyday no matter what we do and where we go :-)

Humaun Kabir said...

What a great post. I’m really like it! Very, very dgdeeac good!
workout clothing

Little Miss Know-it-all said...

I live in central Europe, in Switzerland, and spend time in France, Germany, Italy, Austria... and the UK. Well, I don't know about the UK, since it has become so Americanised, but I have NEVER seen anyone in pyjamas in public (maybe in the hospital!) here. Neither adults, teens nor children. It just doesn't happen, nobody would do it. Nobody would dream of doing it. It simply wouldn't cross their minds to exit the home wearing nightwear, you may just as well be naked :o
So I'm pretty amazed to hear that anyone would!

The majority of people don't want to stand out so although there is rarely anything very glamourous or trendy going on here, all ages dress appropriately for the weather and the everyday doings of life and almost everybody is well-dressed. This means various levels of casual (or maybe work clothes/overalls), but even sweats are only de rigeur on a hip-hop-loving teen. Surely if you exercise you shower and change before leaving the gym? Well, that is what happens here, anyway. Whether it's jeans or a smart pair of pants, a denim skirt or a comfortable jersey dress and tights, it really isn't difficult to look decent. Where I live there is no such thing as a school run, as children are expected to walk to kindergarten/school and go to the one nearest their home, never more than a few minutes walk or bike. Why would they have pyjama days? My kids had the occasional sleepover at school but they did not go in pyjamas or spend the time other than sleeping in pyjamas! I have never seen a mom who wasn't dressed respectably, either, no matter how many or how young her kids were.

Medda Beam said...

Carrying oneself with dignity must start somewhere--why not with the simple, universal act of how we dress? Of course there is more to a person than what is on the outside, but why are we so quick to try and separate outside and inside? Are we not still one whole person from surface to core? It strikes me as both absurd and dishonoring to dismiss a very real part of ourselves--the bodily image--for the sake of being nonjudgmental. I think some folks are afraid to admit that they care because it is a form of vulnerability, which isn't ideal in a proud society; we don't even want to admit that we are afraid. However, I think it is precisely because we matter that our appearance matters, not the other way around. When someone invests the time, effort, and yes perhaps a bit of money (let's be honest--most of us spend plenty of money anyway) on his or her appearance, there is a good chance that that person recognizes the part played by the proverbial book cover. For that matter, in what state would all the pages be without it?

Medda Beam said...

I also would like to leave a comment expressing my general gratitude to this blog. Not only do I enjoy and benefit from the actual videos/articles/demonstrations, but Jennifer, you really are blessed with wonderful readers. I glean a great deal of pleasure, insight, encouragement and good ideas from their comments (most recently, littlelarksite's recommendation for the BBC documentary about royal garb and Hayley Richardson's eloquent and respectful take on the main subject of this article). Those are just fresh off the top, but there have been many others. I count it an honor and a privilege to be among your stand-up community of powerful ladies. Thank you all!

Sarah said...

I agree, completely, on all levels. I've missed you! I took a break over the past year from YouTube and it's been great to reconnect with the "Madame Chic Tribe."
It embarrasses and frustrates me that parents at my children's schools wear outfits that do not fit the dress code for the students in terms of fit and modesty. Their mature adult bodies in short shorts, tight workout pants, or revealing tank tops is infinitely more inappropriate than on a child. It's quite bothersome to me.
My husband and I wake up at 5am, so we can exercise and groom ourselves for the day before our children wake up at 6:30am and we have to serve breakfast and finish packing their lunches.
I'm a little confused by the commenters who do not have time to present themselves well. There's time, if you want to make time. For example, I do not surf the internet or watch YouTube videos, if I do not have time to brush my hair. Priorities.