What impact does fashion have on civility?


15 Jun

The advent of leggings took fashion in a whole new direction. I can find a direct correlation in the decline of conscience style and society’s dismissal of respect and dignity with the afterthought that is given way to fashion these days. For individuals to allow themselves to be mean-spirited and show little respect toward others, I believe they have to do so in sloppy attire. I find it almost impossible to curse while impeccably dressed. What is twerking today was, as my grandmother states the “hully-gully” of yesteryear, but in neither case could either be executed while dressed tastefully.

I believe it can be said that as fashion changed, so has society’s civility. From the explosion of stretch pants, the ripped jeans, to pajama day at my children’s school, with each loosening of the corset pin, and belt buckle came a pop and break in how people treated one another and acted in public.

When women wore gloves to luncheons, and men wore ties, in general, there was an air of politeness and dignity in how one would conduct themselves in public. Back then, you actually had clothes for work, school, church, and play. Now you have clothes that designers boast “can take you from day to night effortlessly.” When once people took time and care in getting dressed, now everything is rush, rush, rush, soon there will be an App for the “fashion conscious person who doesn’t have time to.... fill in the blank.”

As African-Americans, my parents, grandparents, and all those before me took pride in how they looked. Whether it was a March, a Sit-in, a baseball game or church, Black people took pride in the “rags” they sported. It was more about a sign of dignity than about fashion itself. It gave a sense of pride and importance. And it didn’t mean you had to have on the most expensive garb or furs and jewels, but simply washed, and pressed went a long way in the difference between being taken seriously and being dismissed.

Even at the level of the White House, a barometer for fashion and a dictator of dignity and conduct; when the Kennedy’s presided over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue society had a far gentler approach to decorum and civility. Even when President Obama rolled up his shirt sleeves, or Michelle wore a sleeveless dress, there was still dignity in how they looked.

When men stopped wearing belts and allowed their pants to fall, and women decided the tighter, the better and the notion of bare it all became a fashion-forward statement, so fell the consciousness of treating people with respect and acting with dignified decorum. It is a simple parallel that some might call a coincidence, but whatever it might be I'd like to see the pendulum swing back in the other direction on both fronts. “Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue.”

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