Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is to look your very best, whether you’re single, in a relationship, a mom, or childless. This is something I believe so strongly in that I never set foot in the gym without at least a coat of mascara on. That’s because the way I look on the outside correlates to the way I feel on the inside. Making sure I’m groomed and put-together gives me my mojo. It’s that simple.
Now I can be rough-and-tumble on occasion, wash my own car, get dirty, etc., but at heart I feel best when I know my undergarments match, I have 20 perfectly-painted nails, and there’s a pair of towering heels on my feet. Consequently, I’ve been called vain and self-centered, and that’s fine. Maybe there is a little truth in that.
But you know what I’ve never been called?
Slovenly. Sloppy. Haggard. Washed up. Because I take pride in myself, and that’s something that society on the whole is missing.
I crack up whenever I’m invited to a party or dinner and the hostess (or friend or acquaintance) always prefaces it with an emphatic “it’s casual.” This is something I’ve heard many times over the years. I suppose because I don’t wear jeans everyday, that even my casual wear is considered dressed up. That’s the travesty of modern life; it’s a great time to be alive, but propriety and integrity are all but dead (one need only watch a single episode of Jersey Shore to see this). It seems that these days, sloppy passes as casual, casual is dressy casual, dressy casual is cocktail, and cocktail is formal. And formal…black tie? Doesn’t exist beyond the socialite stratosphere. There is a clear distinction between levels of formality, but these days no one knows the actual differences, only a watered down version of what they once were.
It’s true that beauty is only skin deep, but that doesn’t mean we should brush off appearances so quickly. After all, our clothing, our civility, are what differentiate us from the animals. And how many studies do we really need to do to prove that the polished, attractive, well-groomed people get the job almost every time? It’s true.
Today I happened to open the paper to a great article about this very topic: Pretty is as pretty does, by Meredith Trusty. The article begins,
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” Coco Chanel said. She has a point: When did women stop fixing themselves up?
In the age of leggings as pants (a sin I’m guilty of, wearing them as I write), Ugg boots and college sweatshirts, and wearing pajamas to go grocery shopping, I think Coco would be rolling over in her grave if she knew the state of women’s wardrobes today.”
Exactly my question, Meredith. When did women stop fixing themselves up? Because in June Cleaver’s time, the women were stay-at-home moms (with larger families, I might add), and they still did their hair, put on a dress and lipstick and pumps, and retained their femininity and self-love. What the hell happened?
Don’t we have more conveniences these days? More help? More shortcuts? How did those women manage to look like ladies in a world where juice boxes, DVD players, and microwave ovens didn’t exist? Try cloth nappies, massive prams, and glass bottles instead. How did they do it?
You know how? They did it because they had to. They had no other choice. That’s what was expected. And I think they managed it all because they took some time for themselves. They retained their identities first as women, then as wives, then as mothers. Good for the woman, good for the man, good for the kids.
In her article, Meredith closes with these thoughts, and she sums up my thoughts exactly:
There’s a reason why women love Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, and I’m guessing it’s because they always looked like ladies. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jackie and Audrey would never have been caught in sweats.
So what to do, what to do?
Small steps are key, of course. And to be completely fair, the way of the world and the average lifestyle of women today hardly allow for a full skirt-blouse-heels combo every day.
But what’s wrong with interpreting the ladylike looks of bygone days into something modern, and easy for that matter?
Throw on skinny black pants, a boat-neck and ballet flats, and boom—you’re Audrey in “Funny Face.” All-American jeans and a white button-down will make you Lauren Hutton’s doppelganger. The point is, it’s not hard to make it look like you tried hard. A first impression is all you get; shouldn’t you look your best?
So to end this one-sided debate, I think it’s fitting, if only for symmetry, to end with another pearl of wisdom from our dear Coco:
“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.”
Amen, Coco, amen.