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Dressing Up at Home
Mom with a View

Dressing Up at Home

Casual is not an attitude for a Jewish woman.


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.

March 11, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 27

(27) P.H., July 13, 2007 1:50 PM

Say this louder and more often.

To some men,I being one of them, the way his wife dresses at home, either to please or not,is the visual equivalant of SCREAMING either "Ilove you ,respect you and desire you" or "You are meaningless,insignificant and completely undesirable" A constant in your face SCREAMING reminder of one or the other. Esp. when we see the effort put into dressing/makeup etc. for what seems like everyone else but us.

(26) Tova, June 20, 2006 12:00 AM

very interesting

(25) Anna, April 6, 2006 12:00 AM

Casual certainly need not mean sloppy

I don't see this as a return to the 50s (which I don't think were as different to today as some people think); looking nice is for yourself as much as for anyone else. If you look good, you'll feel good (in ordinary circumstances) and if you look the part, you'll feel the part.

In a school I worked in, one of the new teachers wore a university sweatshirt, jeans, hair pulled straight back & no make-up; she looked like one of the kids and had as much authority as one.

One of the older male teachers wears shorts and polo shirts ( we live in the upper half of New Zealand, where the summer heat can be extreme), but his shorts and shirts are obviously expensive (NOT what anyone would wear in the garden),and he still looks professional and well-dressed, although cool and comfortable-you would never take him for one of the gardening staff ! And he has no trouble getting respect from the kids.

I have been suffering from depression, and sometimes have great trouble even getting the energy to get dressed,going sometimes for days without doing so. When I finally do, it doesn't cure the depression, but it makes me feel a bit better about myself.

Casual need not be synonymous with sloppy. Even sweats can look nice, if you wear attractively coloured ones that fit well ( I don't like skin-tight ones on a body my size !) and give them to a charity shop when they begin to look shabby. Either someone will want them for painting clothes or the shop can cut them up and sell them as rags for mechanics-they can always find a use for them.

I don't think that you need to be 'dressed up' all the time, but you can look nice even in a t-shirt and jeans. With clothes being so cheap now, almost anyone can look good.The young mother next door to me dresses casually, but she always looks attractive even in a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans, and ready to go almost anywhere at a moment's notice. I wouldn't expect her to wear office-type clothes with a small child and a baby, but she never looks as if she would be embarassed to be caught by unexpected visitors.Her clothes are always fresh & spoltless and she looks fresh and pretty, even with no make-up on and her hair in a pony-tail-she's one of those annoying people who are like that !

I guess that it's not so much the type of clothes you wear, as the way you wear them, as my neighbour demonstrates. And where you wear them.The girl who was such a failure as a teacher never seemed to ask herself if her sloppy image was a contributing factor. The teachers whom I have seen on Oprah who are doing great things in tougher schools than our local one have one thing in common; they all dress well and look professional .

Looking as good as you can, even in casual clothes, makes you feell good, and when you feel good about yourself, it will be reflected in other people's attitude towards you.

(24) Barbara, April 2, 2006 12:00 AM

At the age of 19, I feel as though this article is so true. I often feel lazy when I fail to get dressed during the day. Even as a college student, I make sure I do not wear pajama's outside my dorm room. Even on a day when I do not have work or class, I dress respectively.
Life should be fun and also comfortable. My style seems to reflect this, even with the formality aspect.
I look forward to have one more reason to get dressed each morning- a husband.

(23) Chaya Cohen, March 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Sounds fair

AS I read this, it really sounded fair. I'm surprised that some of the comments say that it doesn't. The closing paragraph simply says make yourself presentable. When my spouse was the stay at home dad, he did. I also disagree that it was implied that you are obligated in wearing something your spouse likes. I make a point of dressing after my husband comes home before Shabbat so he KNOWS it is for him. It has made a big difference in our home. He sees me a mess and then a beauty JUST FOR HIM. I don't always put on make-up. I usually just put on a clean new outfit. During the week, I don't dress nice but if I was working in the garden, I try not to be found wearing dirty clothes. After 22 years of marriage, I can still wear a suit of armor and my spouse adores me. It isn't just the clothes that make you.>^,,^<

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