when did we lose the art of dressing up?

I t was my wedding anniversary recently. Hubby booked a table at a smart Thai restaurant in the centre of Birmingham which gave me the opportunity to have a nice night out without being covered in chocolate and baked beans courtesy of baba.

So I dressed the part.  channelling the spirit of Audrey Hepburn with a touch of Michelle Obama for good measure, I chose a lovely fifties style monochrome floral print dress with a full skirt and tie waistband ( a charity shop bargain for £6), and accessorised with my favourite red office peep toes and red bow clutch bag that was a present from my sister. Chandelier earrings and a loose bun in my hair completed the look. And even though I say it myself, I was looking good.

So imagine my horror on arriving at the restaurant (please note I said restaurant and not truckers rest) to see so many of my fellow diners so blatantly and completely underdressed. After all, it was friday night, it was a smart restaurant, so since when did tatty jeans, trainers and t-shirts become acceptable for a night out? When had the lines blurred of what could be worn and when? When had we lost the art of dressing up?

We used to know what to wear and when.  Our clothes fitted into neat categories;- workwear for every day,  casual for the weekend, sportswear for the gym, Sunday best for weddings, christenings and special occasions, and finally your going out clothing – the glittery, lacy, flamboyant, opulent clothing that you wore when dressing to impress.

But at some point in the not too distant past, the clothing rules have changed. Maybe it was Sharon Stone‘s fault, wearing white mens shirts and gap turtlenecks to the Oscars. Maybe it was the fault of the Miranda in skinny jeans episode of Sex and the City, where Miranda found she could fit into her pre pregnancy jeans and suddenly became foxy. Maybe it was the fault of the more minimal 1990’s, when glittery evening tops suddenly had to be dressed down with jeans. We could even blame the male population, who suddenly started wearing t-shirts with smart suit jackets, and trainers with everything. Whenever it happened, whatever caused it, the art of dressing up is slowly disappearing, with people feeling overdressed due to being surrounded by the underdressed. The red carpet has become the perfect example of this fashion malaise, from Sharon Stone picking up her husbands shirt from the bedroom floor, we now have the incredible sulk that is Kristen Stewart in Converse, Alexa Chung in heavy boots suitable for hod carriers but worn with pretty mini dresses, and the serial offender that is Fearne Cotton wearing socks with everything.

It seems such a shame that dress codes have disappeared.  In my first nightclubbing days in the early 1990’s, the nightclub doormen were almost Gestapo like in enforcing the dress rules. I can clearly remember a male friend of mine almost refused entry to a club because his tie was too loose! Jeans were a no-no, trainers were a definite no-no, almost all girls wore glam dresses and most men had a suit on. All men wore a tie. It felt like people had made an effort, everyone was dressed to impress.

It was all so different the last time I had the opportunity to hit the clubs. This was just before I became pregnant with baba, for a celebration of my sister’s 30th birthday. She had planned a whole Sex and The City style night; food at smart restaurant, followed by cosmos, ending with dancing. We all certainly dressed the part, slinky dresses, spiky heels, glittery clutches, but unfortunately no-one else did, and we ended up feeling distinctly overdressed, both figuratively(where was the glamour?) and literally (so much flesh on display…and in January!!!)

Wouldn’t it be great if this was the season that all this changed, where the glamour and the art of dressing up was rediscovered.  Designers like Prada and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton are embracing the style of 1950’s/early 60’s – the last great era of dressing up. How fabulous would it be if we embraced it also. I’m not saying that we need to be wearing ladylike, white gloves before we leave the house, but we could all try to dress up occasionally, or at least dress to fit the occasion.  We can still be original, we can still be individual, and maybe this Autumn we can be a bit Grace Kelly too.

Ladylike red clutch bag

My favourite Office heels

Great Michelle Obama/Audrey Hepburn style dress - a steal £6 from charity shop.