The Emperor Is Wearing Pajamas: The Decline of Dress

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“What one wears definitely has an effect on what one does or how one performs.”

The modern attitude toward dress is that it has little effect on the way people function. In fact, people are advised that the more comfortable they are, the more efficient and happy they will be. People generally respond to such advice by collectively retreating into a shabby array of blue jeans or shorts, T-shirts or sweatshirts, and sneakers. It really does not make any difference what you wear. It is all a matter of personal preference.

Such conclusions do not coincide with those who study attire. They have always affirmed that clothes are more than just covering. What one wears definitely has an effect on what one does or how one performs. Educators notice a change in performance when students wear uniforms. Soldiers fight better when they know how to maintain the sharpness of their dress uniforms. Businessmen get better results when in formal attire. Clothes express one’s personality and individuality; they communicate who the person is.

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A recent study co-authored by Prof. Michael Kraus of the Yale School of Management provided a noteworthy proof of the effect of clothes in the business world. He found that wearing clothes of high social status greatly influenced job performance and communicated a note of dominance and mastery to those engaged in negotiations.

Prof. Kraus compared the results of two groups of men, one wearing business suits and dress shoes and another in sweatpants, T-shirts, and plastic sandals. Those in the two groups were told to negotiate the sale of a hypothetical factory and were given leeway to make concessions. The men in suits conceded an average of $860,000 off the list price of the factory as compared with concession of $2.81 million for those in the sweatpants. The researchers found that those better-dressed behaved with more control; they elicited more respect and exuded more confidence.

Similar results were reported in a study last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. People in formal business attire proved more capable of high levels of abstract thinking. They tended to see the big picture more easily than casual dressers. This made them more successful in their business decisions since they did not get bogged down in useless detail.

The moral of the story is not that everyone should always wear formal business attire on all occasions. The real moral is that each type of clothing is suited for a purpose for which it is designed. Sweat-panted executives and suited runners are signs of a world gone awry. When people ignore purpose in clothes, it has consequences.

Everyone knows that clothes make a difference. The evidence is irrefutable. Yet so many bizarre fashions still dominate.

Part of the blame for this disregard of function in clothes can be laid on the fashion world. Designers make it a point to overturn every taboo and convention in their search for novelty, excitement, and frivolity. The fashion world creates great pressure on people to follow the fads or else be ostracized.

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“It leads to a corresponding desire to destroy propriety and modesty.”

The result is fashions that contradict common sense. In what might be called the frenetic intemperance of wearing whatever fashion dictates, there is a callous disregard for function in clothes. It leads to a corresponding desire to destroy propriety and modesty. People become self-absorbed by their own comfort and unconcerned about how they might appear to others.

To cite yet one more example, there is a new high fashion trend now invading public spaces and social life. It is the wearing of pajamas as a form of social attire. Man-style bottom and top pajamas are finding their way into places outside the bedroom. Fashion houses are now selling out of designer pajamas made to replace evening gowns and cocktail dresses at formal social gatherings. Well-known celebrities have been appearing publicly in pajamas and even bedroom slippers to give yet more prestige to the trend.

The problem is pajamas look like… well, pajamas. They project the untidy image of people who are ready for sleep or who have just awoken. Pajamas presuppose an intimacy with loved ones that cannot be shared by the general public. But the fashion world has decreed that pajamas are chic, and people must therefore obey.

Even the fashion designers have a hard time overcoming the bizarreness of sleepwear in Subscription8.11 The Emperor Is Wearing Pajamas: The Decline of Dressthe public square. They recommend that their striped pajamas be paired with other fashion accessories like dressy shoes, belts or blazers, perhaps to blunt the shocking impression of one being a prison escapee. Pajama pants on the street are marketed as “sleep pants,” so as to appear more like a distant and laid-back cousin of sweat pants. Designers admit that daytime pajamas represent a “rebellious spirit” that is not for the faint-hearted.

All this is part of a general disorder in fashion in which suits are belittled and pajamas exalted. A day will come when people will be freed from the chains of the fashionistas. When that return to order happens, people will dress once again with purpose, modesty and beauty. Until then, people will continue to appear in an embarrassing and bizarre array of clothes (or lack of clothes), awaiting the eureka moment when some innocent child will cry: The emperor is wearing the wrong clothes!

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  • Ana

    Ever go to Walmart? You’d be amazed the attire some people wear outside. Most looked like they jumped into a charity clothing box and scrambled around for something to wear. Really disgraceful.

    • pat duran

      Sometimes there are clips what you see people wearing at WM. They are something else.

      • Cole

  • Arsenal Gunner

    The first time I saw people wearing pajamas in public was around 2002. I went to visit my daughter at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I saw all these students – men and women – walking around campus in pajama bottoms. I asked my daughter what was going on and she said this was standard attire around campus. Just get out of your room and walk to class. I thought it was a fad. Apparently, it’s caught on.

    • SheilaF

      All is not lost – taking my daughter to Franciscan Univ. at Steubenville, OH, January 2016, was pleasantly surprised to see the decent dress code, even while moving into the dorms, and put to shame that these college kids dress their very best when it comes to going to Mass on Sunday. Reflects highly on their upbringing.

  • Ann Hessenius

    I so agree…We have become a nation of outrageously sloppy dressers…I have actually been thinking about this frequently lately, as it seems to be getting worse every day.

  • Kmbold

    My own sensibilities rebel at the ubiquitous cleavage sported by ninety percent of the female sex, and often accompanied by a tattoo. That most of the population is obese does not help. No modesty, no self control.

  • Edward Koestner

    We are made in the image and likeness of God, and should dress as such. Dignity and modesty in dress is key to help keep the commandments. I’ve noticed, also, over the years, how those who adopt worldly thinking also adopt the dress-down of the day. The real shockers are those who dress up for Sunday Mass, and then dress down in shorts and t-shirts when Mass is over.

    • Legoge47

      Some folks don’t even bother to dress up for Mass. Instead they go to receive the Eucharist in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops! 🙁

      • Edward Koestner

        I know. Where is the respect for God?

  • Marcia Weisz

    I so agree! It depresses me to go out in public to see our country go down every time. It really m akes me concerned about the future. I always pray, God please have mercy on us!

  • Cecilia Beauregard

    Hello I would like to speak on behalf of blue collar workers and ladies who guarden or work physically. Suits and elegant clothing are out! Most of the time accept for Mass and weddings . Work clothes cost a lot of money and therefore can get alittle shabby before being replaced. Pyjamas are not allowed on a construction site. The boys like to relax and wear long shorts and a shirt on Sunday after Mass. I think this is fine so they don’t ruin their Sunday clothes while they play.
    I wear a dress everyday, though it can be a sacrifice, when doing my chores I require some sort of pants under it. My Grand mother was a continuous dress wearer and used coveralls while working outside. No need for ladies jeans here!
    God Bless you all

  • disqus_mizoRXqv2L

    Our schools sponsor ‘pajama day’ for the students. I think this is ill-advised.

  • Cole

    I can see that sometimes if someone needs to make a quick morning or late evening run to the store to get some essential item that they forgot maybe putting on a more respectable top and running in to get the item and right back out again. I am ok with that.

    What I am not OK with is the extremely relaxed dress codes in offices. As a software developer, I see the trend that especially occurs at start-ups of wearing shorts and t-shirts, and I think it is very unprofessional. In any office environment there should be some sense of professionalism, but it is all thrown away in an attempt to make employees as happy as can be.

  • Jo Ann Henderson

    In biblical times, the tearing or rending of clothes among the Jewish people was a sign of distress and consternation. Perhaps those who wear pajamas to a department store may be distressed or confused. I would expect to see all types of people who may live in poverty, misery, or in a painful situation. And some, just don’t care. But, I would not expect to see anybody come into Macy’s wearing pajamas.

  • Frank Mountbatton

    In N-Korea they will not allow these nonsense fahionists

    • John Horvat II

      But they all wear the same clothes…

  • Susan

    I agree with this post. I also agree that you need to dress for the occasion though. Of course if you are gardening you would wear something different than going to Mass! However, the overall fashion of our day out in public places is very revealing, and puts pressure on girls and women to dress to show off our body! I have an 8 year old daughter and have a hard time finding appropriate clothing that is “little girl.” The dresses and outfits remind me of the Price is Right Girls dresses. Sadly, I often see many Christians dressing the latest fashions that are immodest. I stay at home with my kids so I am usually very casual. However, I would love to see more modest, functional and beautiful clothing for girls and women. There is pressure to dress a certain way and look a certain way in our country.

  • Jennifer DeFillippo

    While watching an old black & white movie (probably made in the ’40s) my late husband made a remark, “See how well people dressed back then? What ever happened to that?!?” This was while it was showing a scene from inside a home, the wife wearing a lovely dress & the husband in a suit & tie, sitting at the table…
    People were so modest & yet, so fashionable back then…now we see teens crossing the street, holding up their pants *usually falling down around their knees*, youngsters in tight-fitting short shorts, w/e mood they crawled out of bed that morning….
    They think it doesn’t matter!? ah….but it DOES.
    So silly, so sad…..