Miss Manners defines casual as "the state of not giving a hoot." In this, as in most other areas, I have to agree with her. Many corporations, having experimented with casual attire, have returned to a more formal style of dress. We just take our work more seriously when we're not wearing T-shirts and cut-offs. I found it very useful to "dress up" for exams in college. My mind was sharper and more focused. Our choice of clothing clearly affects our mood and attitude.
Outside of our workplace or our educational environment, there is somewhere else where "casual" can be destructive, the very place where we (mistakenly) think casual should reign -- our homes.
It is not that the relationship between husband and wife should be treated with excessive formality; rather that it should be treated with excessive dignity and attention. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt"l, used to say, "Who should be beautiful if not the Jewish woman?" Who else can sanctify the Almighty's name through her relationship with her husband? Who else does the world turn to for an example of a peaceful and successful home? Who else recognizes that her first responsibility is to her marriage? Who else is focused on and to determined to make her marriage great?
Dressing to look attractive for your husband should be a priority.
Casual has no place in a Jewish home. Casual is not an attitude for a Jewish woman. This applies to women who work outside the home and women who work inside the home. And women who do both. Women with numerous graduate degrees and high school dropouts. Women with many small children and empty-nesters. Dressing to look attractive for your husband should be a priority.
In a recent women's magazine, the editor wrote about how much the staff liked dressing up for each other. It wasn't a fashion magazine so the pronouncement was interesting for a few reasons. These bright, sophisticated women weren't afraid to acknowledge their preoccupation with their clothing. Yet instead of dressing for their spouses, they were dressing for their girlfriends, or their colleagues at work. It's not that they didn't care about their clothing; they weren't in any way casual about it. But they were searching for approval from the wrong source.
This is a well-known, whispered piece of wisdom about women: most women dress for other women. They're the ones that notice the subtle nuances of our style, our clever accessorizing, our trend-setting new look. But it is our husbands to whom we want to appeal. Even if we've worn that outfit three times before and they ask, "Is that new?", it's their appreciation that counts, not their fashion sense.
As anyone who has teenagers knows, their idea of what looks good may differ dramatically from our own. "Why did you give away that outfit we love and keep that awful dress?" moaned my daughters. But they already knew the answer. (No, it wasn't that I just have bad taste.) Their father disliked the outfit and liked the dress. And while I enjoy compliments from my girlfriends (who doesn't?) and looks of approval from my daughters (their rarity makes them an eagerly sought-after commodity!), it is his opinion that matters most.
Yes, it can be burdensome to feel compelled to dress up at home, to look nice when you want to lie around the house. But is that business deal more important than our marriage? Does that client's opinion carry more weight? Can our best friends never see us without make-up and our husbands never see us with it?
My kids might interject that I talk a good show. I've been known to indulge in casual attire at home, not always treating my marriage with the same attention as those long ago exams. But I know it's a mistake. And it doesn't always require a major effort. We don't need to change into "power" suits (my husband says I look like a linebacker in them anyway!) but how about putting on a little lipstick? Changing the shirt with the large stain down the front? Staying out of pajamas until it's actually bedtime? We will be teaching our children an invaluable lesson about the importance of marriage. And although we won't get any public accolades, we'll certainly receive many deeper benefits and pleasures. Because we don't really have a casual attitude towards our marriages. We really do give a hoot.