Save. Spend. Splurge.

Why does everyone keep asking me why I am so dressed up!?

A problem I have faced with my style my entire life, is being asked this question:

Why are you so dressed up?

I’ve been asked this while in college, out with friends and the most unbelievable one of all, on a date BY MY DATE!

I had worn a simple red jersey knit dress with ballet flats, and the first thing he says to me is: Whoa, you’re really dressed up.

All I could think was: This does not bode well for our future if you consider this dressy because this is what I wear every day.

As far back as I can remember, I have never been someone who has been comfortable with wearing sweatpants outside of the house unless it was to a gym.

I just feel.. strange.

Clothes that are very shapeless, soft and comfortable, are things that I associate with wearing at home to lounge and relax in, least of all in school where you are under pressure to study and do well.

My friends actually know this is a “weird” quirk of mine, and the ONE TIME my good friend saw me in casual jersey pants with a hoodie, she fell over in mock horror and pretended to have a heart attack.

I told her I was trying it out for a day to see how people did it, and felt psychologically uncomfortable, despite being physically comfortable.


In contrast, being outside of the home is not where I want to lounge and laze around, and how can you really relax with strangers around you anyway?

For me, there is no real superhuman effort between putting on a t-shirt, hoodie and sweatpants, versus a t-shirt, jeans and a jacket or a blazer. It takes the same amount of time, and it reminds me that I am not at home, I am in public and presentable to anyone who may cross my path (you never know who you’re going to meet).

Even if I don’t wear makeup, and throw my hair into a ponytail, I am physically uncomfortable not wearing proper attire outside of the house.

Perhaps I get this from my mother.

She too, does not own a single pair of sweatpants or sweat-anything, and before she leaves the house, she dresses up; when she comes back home, she undresses and changes into house clothes.

I have comfortable clothes for the house that I could never imagine wearing outside. It’s not that it’s dirty, stained, or full of holes (I own absolutely nothing that fits these categories in any way shape or form), it is more than they are too casual to be ‘outside clothes’.

For special events, I get even more dressed up — makeup is carefully applied (not just some slapped on concealer and lip balm), my hair is combed and I put on heels which is the #1 indicator of being “dressed up”.


I can’t imagine doing anything else and to me, women who wear heels every day, even to the grocery store, are “dressed up”.


My idea of “casual wear” when going out, is a cotton dress and ballet flats, or a t-shirt and jeans. It is the MINIMUM I can stand.

Over to you.

Are you of the same sensibility as I am?




    Glad I found this article. I am in graduate school and I get this question all of the time. I feel really uncomfortable (psychologically) with dressing in sweats and hoodie unless I am going to the gym, and even then I like everything matching, form-fitting, and pretty. Still learning to be comfortable with others’ reactions to me at 27 years old, but I digress…

  • Nyx

    I ended up here after a bunch of weekends where I was doing normal things, yet people kept asking if I was going to a wedding. The last time I was wearing a nice yet $15 Walmart dress with a $10 cardigan with puff sleeves and calf boots. I have a problem with my leg so it’s been skater or peasant dresses with calf boots. But people act like I am spending major coin on my outfits where their sweatpants probably cost more. Even when I dress down, I wear nice jeans, ankle boots and a nice sweater…but when I meet friends for dinner, they say, “Why are you so dressed up?” I get confused but then realize my one friend is wearing a wrinkled Sherpa pullover with her company logo on it and baggy sweats with dirty sneakers. I mean, if I was working out at the gym or going for a run, I’d wear sweats, but not out to eat. It is called taking pride in one’s appearance. I would never go out to run errands in pajamas. Ugh. Also tend to like Victorian or steampunk stuff so people in that subculture tend to dress classy.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You are in good company. I can’t go out looking like a slob. Unless it is a specific STYLE like boyfriend jeans, a tighter tank top, and some sandals… it has to be a look. Not just I threw it on and didn’t care.

  • Terri

    I am the same way except that when I come home I don’t change into lounge clothes, whatever I’m wearing I’m wearing for the day. I’m very girly and have more dresses and skirts then jeans and pants. I live in a small town where everyone wears jeans and a hoodie, even when they go out! So I am constantly asked why am I so dressed up. I wish I knew the exact perfect thing to say that would make them feel bad for asking me that. So. Annoying. I mean, I don’t ask them why they are so dressed down. Ugh.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Just say: This isn’t dressed up to me, it’s how I like to dress.

      Honestly, some people admire you for it. Others are just saying that because they feel bad about what they’re wearing. I see every opportunity when I go out, as a chance to try a new outfit.

  • Lou

    My sympathy to you all. To me is incredible. I was told every day that I was overdressed in LAW SCHOOL!!. We have come to a point in society where not even lawyers want to dress appropriately. I worked all my college years, so yes I was wearing a suit for night school, and yes I do wear dresses, and yes I love my clothes, and I work very hard to stay in shape so yes I will wear nice tailored outfits as long as nature allows me to.

    Even in my workplace one of the young associates is uncomfortable by the fact that I dress formally. But I think some professions are expected to do so, besides you never know when you will be required to go to court. I consider to dress appropriately as an act of care, you are telling your client that his situation is serious to you.

  • LPWall

    Once I accepted the fact that I am in the minority in 21st century America, the self-consciousness disappeared. I think perhaps the change came from no longer looking for validation from a culture that will never provide it. Gertrude Stein wrote: “there’s just no ‘there’ there.” So apropos.

    Once one understands why one is doing something, it becomes far easier to maintain the courage of one’s convictions. I know why I dress the way I do and I know why I hold the values that I hold. What other people think about those things really has very little bearing on my life. As they say, only a dead fish swims with the current- and as long as that current entails undignified behavior and slovenly dress I will happily leave those fish to it. I’ll be waiting in my loafers and button down shirts when they come to their senses.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Elegantly put. I cannot wear less than what I feel comfortable in, and if that means dressing up in whatever way I see fit and not throwing on leggings and a tee, that’s what I will be doing.

      Comfort shouldn’t be the sole factor in deciding what to wear. I wear comfortable items, but they also look good.

  • Sandra

    I just read your post and had to add that I 100% agree with you. Even when I’m dressed casually, I always wear a completer piece such as a blazer. Your post reminds of when my husband and I went grocery shopping after work five or six years. We were approached by a sales assistant asking if we wanted to sign up for an in store promotion. She commented that I obviously worked in a professional work environment by the way I was dressed. I thanked her for her compliment, but then said to my husband “This is casual for me,” after we walked away. I was wearing a striped cotton blazer, a shell and a pair of city shorts. My motto has always been that when you look good, you feel good. I don’t feel good when I’m dressed sloppily. I agree that it takes the same amount of time to put together a dressed up outfit as it does what I a call a “sloppy” outfit.

  • Gabriela Tremblini

    I know I’m late to the party, but this topic reminds me of when I used to work at a doctor’s office. I had one of the few jobs that didn’t require scrubs. I dressed up in heels and skirts daily, and was asked by several techs if I even owned a pair of sneakers or flats or did I wear heels every day? I responded by saying no, I don’t dress like this every day, but I was wondering if you ever wear anything other than scrubs. They seemed to get the message. My wardrobe reflects the occasion!

  • Val

    oh my goodness! You wrote this quite a while ago, but this was the first result of a Google search that I did. Because, yes I share your sensibility, and I’m glad to see that so many of us do. I would never dream of commenting on somebody else’s casual attire. It’s probably already been said in the comments, but if my clothing makes somebody else uncomfortable, the problem is not me! Thank you so much for posting.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      *high five* 🙂 Great posts stand the test of time.

    • Susan

      I too, am uncomfortable ‘dressing down’ and prefer a more formal lifestyle in general. It is beyond my comprehension how people can go out the door without a care as to how they are representing themselves. When my sister sent formal invitations to a dinner party and people came in jeans carrying six-packs, I knew something of quality had been lost.

  • Becka

    I’m so happy I found this site. I’m an older women ( I have grandchildren ) and I’ve always made an effort to look ” presentable “, as my mother would have called it. In my case I think it comes from my parents and the era I was raised in. Although my childhood was largely in the swinging sixties , my parents and their friends were very conservative and their taste in clothes influenced how I imagined I would dress when I became an adult. I still dress that way. I wear ( nice) house clothes around the house and what my friends call ” outfits ” when I go out, even if it’s just to the grocery store. By ” outfits ” I mean, clean, pressed items of clothing that actually match and complement each other. I come from the era where the shoes have to match the purse. If I have several appointments in a day I’ll leave my nice clothes on and just wear an apron around the house if I have any chores to attend to. My problem is that while I haven’t changed this fashion mindset I’m in, the world around me has changed. Greatly. My friends have long ago given up on asking me why I’m so “dressed up” ( there’s that nastily term again ). My only worry is that others around me might assume that I’m trying to show them up with my sheath dresses and flats or jeans, blouse and blazer. I’m not and it would make me sad to think that the way I chose to present myself could be misinterpreted in this way. Does anyone else experience this ? I’ll end this conversation with a conversation I had with my daughter some time ago. She was grown up and married with a small son and during a talk over the phone one day she suddenly changed the subject to clothes and fashions and out of the blue thanked me for always looking so nice when I would pick her up from school, especially on days when she had a dentist or doctor appointment. On those days it was required that the parent go into the school office to sign their child out. My daughter appreciated that I took the time to “fix myself up” and not show up in lounge clothes and hair rollers. And I’ve always remembered that conversation. It called to mind that how we view ourselves and the image we create has an affect on those around us and we can choose to manipulate that image for either positive or negative results. Pretty powerful stuff if you ask me.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I 100% agree with you.

      I like to dress up. I am even now, as we speak, in heeled boots, and a blazer with jeans, just running errands trying to get stuff done. That is JUST WHO I AM.

      I can’t wear sweatpants and be a slob. I can, if I really must, but I do feel very sad and depressed when I do it, and it sounds like a tiny little thing, but dressing up really does make a difference in my attitude and my mood.

      We have gotten so casual that it is now a bad thing to be “dressed up”.

    • Cynthia Green

      Well, a year later I read this post. It is refreshing to have someone I can relate to. I like to dress up and look my best. I moved from Dallas, where when I was a child you dressed up to go to town for sure, to the extremely laid back Pacific Northwest. After years of wearing blue jeans, athletic shoes and fleece vests I just got sick of the PNW uniform! People wear I live even dress that way to go to church. I started buying new dresses and heels. “I get those looks – the why are you all dressed up?” looks. I have been wearing a dress every week to church. I was hoping to start a trend, but doesn’t seem to be happening. I am fine with it becoming my personal quirk. It’s my style. People used to think that the blue jeans look was bucking conformity. News Flash: the blue jeans look IS conformity!

  • Fionnuala

    I’m a 25 year old woman who enjoys putting together nice outfits and doing my hair and make up… My 2 best friends on the other hand are quite happy to wear minimal or no make up, denim jeans and a loose top or ‘boyfriend style’ shirt even if we’re going out for drinks.

    Let’s say we’re going out to dinner together followed by a couple of cocktails or something – I’ll be wearing something like black skinny jeans with ankle boots that have a bit of a heel, a nice top that flatters my figure (because I’m curvy) and my ‘going out’ make up on – in case we decide to have more drinks or go to a bar. I’ll wear something similar to that everyday so my style has been called ‘classy-casual’ which is a turn-of-phrase coined by my besties but if I actually dress up, you best believe I’m dressed up! I’m talking high heels or boots, tights, skater dress (because I love that shape) full face of make up, perfectly styled hair, accessories, and topped off with one of my favourite jackets – leather biker jacket / velvet bomber jacket. If I make that kind of an effort it’s because I want to FEEL special and done up, not because I’m trying to impress anyone which they sometimes think.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I am exactly of the same mindset. I’m happy there are kindred souls. I used to get teased for it 😉

      • Savychic

        My family always makes me feel bad for trying to take a initiative to look nice. It’s like why is it any of your business what I wear anyway. And I think the thing that hurts me the most is when they were in there 20s like me they seem to always wear nice clothes in the pictures I saw of them. I just be minding my own business,and they hit me with that question. Just the weirdest thing.

  • Crystal

    I’m late to the party but had to comment! As someone who wears dresses and skirts 95% of the time, with a preppy, vintage slant, this is the story of my life. Living in southern California, there’s far too much of the flip flops and hoodies, stripper clothes, and general frumpy, grungy, hipster, I-don’t-care look everywhere. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I tried blending in with the majority of people my age. It’s almost like I’m shamed for dressing presentably. “Why are you so dressed up?” is more like, “Who are you trying to impress?” and “Where are you going after this?” But it’s nice getting compliments.

    The act of picking out an outfit, coordinating accessories, and doing my hair and makeup gives me energy and confidence! I feel like looking nice is being respectful… Presenting yourself as though you have respect for yourself as well as respect for the occasion, setting, and the people present.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I always think that maybe people THINK that they can’t look that beautiful or handsome and others will ridicule them.

      All my friends know, it’s a thing with me. Won’t catch me in a sweatpants outside or anything casual unless I am going to yoga / exercising somehow / moving furniture. I am who I am 🙂

    • Taylor

      I am a 23yr old, good looking I’m told, fit male and i like to look presentable, polos, jeans, chinos, decent shoes, decent watch and a casual dress shirt if the occasion calls. Nothing crazily over the top.

      I regularly cop comments such as trying too hard, or he must be a city boy… well duh i live in a big city and the comments come from other city people…
      At the end of the day if someone feels the need to make a comment like that then their opinion already means little to me, people put others down too feel better about themselves. They know you look good but they won’t break the norm to do the same, that would take more confidence and courage then they have, so they try to bring you down over it.
      Let the comments wash over you and just do you and be confident doing you and stay above their level!
      As others have said presenting yourself well shows you have a respect for yourself and that is the key point that haters miss, it’s self respect not trying to hard to impress others. Trying too hard is simply a comment used by people that are afraid to try in most cases.

  • Jenna

    I can relate. I’m a biology major, and people always assume that you can’t be a scientist and dress formally. I tend to wear a casual dress and cardi, a skirt and blouse, or jeans and nice blouse. Like you noted, you never know who you might meet! I remember on a date having a similar conversation. I was dressed casually! I wore black jeans, a lace cami, and a moto jacket. My date was convinced that this was really dressing up. What has this world come to?🙈 You do you, girl! Dress up!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I’d wear that! Black jeans, lace cami and a jacket. That is ‘casual’. Me as ‘formal’ person would be 3″ pointy heels, and a suit or ballgown. HAHA 🙂

      I really hate that casual means flip flops and shorts *shudder* What’s wrong with looking nice?

      Even now, I get looks when I wear my leather leggings with boots and a silk top to bring Baby Bun around. I’m comfortable, but that’s ‘dressy’…

  • Nicola

    My view is “People will see you, be fit to be seen”. I see so many people wearing scruffy cloths around town, it’s awful. I’ve even seen people do their grocery shop – full shop, not “whoops out of milk” – in their pyjamas. I always want to ask if they have any respect for themselves. I have cloths for around the house and cloths for town. When town cloths become too scruffy, they become house cloths. I also sew enough that I can do some repairs to make them last longer. You will be seen, be fit to be seen.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      That is a very good motto to live by. I definitely do the same where I take my older going out clothes and they become house clothes or rags.

      I certainly would never go out in pyjamas!

  • g

    I don’t think that it’s what you wear these days that causes people to think you are dressed up-it’s what you DON’T wear! I live in a-I guess you could call it a suburb, and you wouldn’t believe the things I see people wear….I never wear sweats, yoga pants, slippers, Uggs, pajama pants, or hair curlers outside the house, and probably not even in my own driveway. And I never wear leggings as pants-one of my pet peeves, as most women who do this don’t realize how thin they are. I had the nauseating experience of being stuck walking behind a lady in a mall who was wearing a pair of too-small leggings as pants-over a bare backside, which could be clearly seen through the overstretched material. And that leads to another thing I wish people would stop doing-wearing clothing that doesn’t fit! If it’s too small, go up a size, for crying out loud-no one will know but you! I also don’t do shorts-the only choices I seem to be able to find are Daisy Dues, which I am too old for, or Bermudas/capris, which I am still too young for. I wear skirts probably 90% of the time during the summer here, and I always get the “dressed up” remarks. Honestly, these days, I think anyone who isn’t wearing grungy sweats is dressed up-society just doesn’t seem to care anymore.

  • Krystina

    I have always been asked why I’m so dressed up, even as a child. I always wear the “third piece”, be it a blazer, jacket or cardigan. Because of my penchant for dressing this way, I seem to get treated really well in restaurants, banks, etc., not to mention if I have to return something to a store or make a complaint (politely, of course). My husband is the same way so I guess we are an odd couple in this modern world. My father was in the military and always looked dashing and and my mother spent some time living in Paris so I guess some of it rubbed off on me.

  • Michael T

    I can completely relate with your article I feel this way all the time that people do not dress up at all. It’s simply sandals and hobo clothes. I like to only wear athletic shoes when I am exercising or playing sports. I was out in public somewhere recently and I looked around and I didn’t see one man who wasn’t wearing athletic shoes and they were wearing it on out on a Friday night. I mean .. Bold colored shoes with slacks? Then one person said to me I look like a dad. I was wearing a golf polo with jeans and a tidy pair of oxfords. I hate when I see dudes wearing sandals too. What are we are Grateful Dead concert or something starting to think that shoes play a significant role in making ones outfit. Hmm. Never knew I felt that way ’til now.


      Our standards for clothing have really dipped into the super casual territory these days.

      I blame it on reality TV and the popularization of track suits made in rainbow hues of cashmere as being acceptable not to mention wearing workout clothes makes people THINK you are healthy and work out but is seldom the case, in my opinion.

      It is just as much effort to put on a polo and slacks as it is to wear a free beer t-shirt and ripped jeans (not ironically).

  • Claudia

    I love this article! I absolutely agree!

    Here’s my story: I am a young (26) mother and wife who has been working in a business casual office for the last several years. My normal and comfortable attire is a dress, with or without heels. I wear a dress minimum 4 out of 7 days a week, even on weekends. I also wear jeans “dressed up” on the days that we are allowed to do so at the office.

    But I am CONSTANTLY getting looks and remarks such as “Ooh, Where are YOU going today?” or “Who are you all dressed up for?” or my favorite “but it’s Friday. You should be dressed for comfort.”

    …Really people?! We work in an office! Is it such a crime to dress nicely in a professional workplace? Or anytime for that matter. And I AM comfortable.

    People at my office tend to wear older, run down office attire. On a jean day they wear sneakers and a business top with their blue jeans. But God forbid me to wear HEELS with my blue jeans! People about fall over. Lol. I just don’t get it.

    My idea of casual is blue jeans, blouse, and either a blazer or cardigan, and yes…heels! I just don’t see why people feel the need to jab at my outfit choices just because I like to look presentable. Why do I have to be going to a fancy event or trying to impress someone to wear a complete outfit? It’s just what I am comfortable in. I don’t feel the need to conform to other people’s standards and attire. And quite frankly most of the time I feel like the people who are making these remarks are the ones who need to look in the mirror a little longer in the morning and maybe put a little extra effort in their own outfit.

    I’m just a woman who likes make up, heels or flats, and blazers. I also like to stay with trends for the sophisticated woman. Growing up my parents taught all 7 of their children that when we step out of the house we need to look and behave our best at all times. I teach my son the same thing. You just never know what will happen in that day or who you might meet. Looking nice or “dressed up” is not a crime. I’m not saying that their is not days when I have dressed down. Being a mom to an 8-year-old boy there have been a few times where it’s happened; especially in his younger years, but that is not a regular thing and I definitely did not feel my best about it. I like to feel good about what I wear and how I look. I don’t think I should be jabbed at for feeling my best.

    Rant over. Haha. Thanks for reading and posting this great article.


      This is so incredibly me. I wear a blazer like I wear a sweater and I sometimes wear chunkier heels to be out with Baby Bun.

      I’m a young mother but it doesn’t mean I need to look like a slob. Excellent!!!!

  • Andrew

    It makes me quite quite happy to know that there are women in the world who have a mindset appertaining to social etiquette similar to my own. I too feel comfortable being presentable to myself. I am not presentable for the public because they have gone mad. The Western world ruled the world based on civility and manners. However we have become quite savage in our dress, bearing, and manners. I believe in traditional gentleman-hood and chivalry. I am but a teacher, with not a very high income, but I wear a colbert and tie every day of the year. I only take my tie off when I get home and then only if it’s too hot during the summer months to keep on till bedtime. I don’t own sweat pants, t-shirts, sneakers or shorts. I wear only dress shoes and they impeccably shined everyday.
    I too grow weary of people asking me why I’m so dressed up. I am simply dressed in my mind. I am in my 40’s now but I have been dressing like this since high school. I was also in the military which may have some influence on my bearing. But I have good news. Although it is quite common for the ill-informed to follow what society does as a social rule, there is great wisdom put forth by a great man by the name of Baldasar Castiglione. Castiglione wrote (in summation) that one should follow social norms unless those social norms have gone completely by the wayside of civility. The book is called The Book Of The Courtier. It is a book about gentleman-hood and gentlewoman-hood. It is from the Renaissance Era but I find the wisdom ceaseless in my own person. And naturally everything written by the great lady Jane Austen is a treasure of wisdom as it pertains to manners, social grace and social etiquette. I thought I was the only one, which is why I have been single for several years now. I will not keep the company of savage and ill-mannered women.

  • Kiernan

    I would like to see more opinions like this. I also like to wear a little more than merely a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt not because I try to impress but because I like it. I live in the country and so my school consists of very many rednecks and such. I was told one day when I wore a simple denim sundress to school and was asked by a couple different people why I am always dressed up… I was very confused as my idea of dressed up is business professional. There have also been rumors that I dress up just to impress my boyfriend. First of all I never show off my body in an inappropriate way and secondly he is my boyfriend so why would it be a big deal as long as my cleavage is covered and my butt not hanging out. They also assume that I am mean or as they so lovingly put it a b**ch despite my nature to love people and talk and smile at everyone. The lack of respect in high school is absolutely shocking to me sometimes… Let people wear what they want!

  • Divina

    Just stumbled across this! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who experiences this! It’s even worse in the younger millennial generation (of which I’m unfortunately a highly visible member) where it’s a faux pas to be seen as conventional, traditional, polished or old-fashioned. I’ve always been on the receiving end of snide comments and looks for “dressing up,” but it’s even worse in college, especially a shabby-chic hipster liberal arts college where guilt-ridden bourgeois kids try their damnedest to be rebels of society. Unfortunately, nowadays unless you’re sporting an on-trend or hipster-friendly, distressed or rugged look, you’re a bland old snob (or a “young Republican”…this is my new favorite). The irony is my outfits, although they may look expensive and polished because of selective taste and care, are relatively inexpensive with nothing “fancy” about them. I just iron my clothes and take good care of them. I also wear house clothes mainly for comfort, but I get the added benefit of my day clothes lasting longer. Also, who wants to sit on their bed after sitting on the subway all day or other shared and rarely-cleaned spaces? They even scoff at this, as if I were Queen Elizabeth II for changing when I come back to my dorm! I just can’t win lol…but again, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I think many people often just think very small-picture and largely in terms of themselves. It’s as though if your appearance doesn’t fit THEIR subjective taste or conception of normality, then YOU must be outright and objectively unnatural. What they never consider is that you may be operating on a whole different wave-length or maybe…you’re just whole different person altogether [insert: “gasp!”]. The worst thing is that people assume you judge them for not dressing “up,” which I really never do. I understand the simple fact that there’s a diversity of tastes out there, which is preferable and more interesting. I don’t care how you dress, just dress! As a lover of fashion, I just say have purpose with what you put on your back. It truly brightens up an environment when people care about what they wear, not because they’re trying to be conspicuous or obnoxiously trying to command attention but because it’s a physical and visual representation of their passion. It’s inspiring! On the other hand, pure and unrefined slovenliness smugly passed of as nonchalance and/or puritanical disdain is not!

  • Robert W Welch

    I just came across this now. I agree with you. And it shouldn’t be gender exclusive either. The most casual I can deal with, unless it’s the beach or something, is a sport jacket and T-shirt with tan pants. Rarely am I that dressed down and it has little to do with occupation as when I’m in the office it’s a business suit with shiny shoes, tie, and cufflinks, boom! I’m talking about the weekends. I’m classy and a little upscale and I would feel strange otherwise. I know it’s my upbringing. A weekend outing growing up was antiquing, browsing through bookstores, watching the screening of a documentary, or browsing through small clothing boutiques. My parents taught me how a first impression in a store or around others in this environment is very important. I remember once a pair of shoes got a scuff that couldn’t be removed completely that those shoes were forbidden from being worn in public. If the pills on a sweater or sport jacket or blazer couldn’t be completely removed they were donated. It was just hammered in hard to me how people who ever saw us in public had to see consistency in how we attired and groomed. Hair cuts had to happen every two weeks, and my nails were cleaned up professionally as soon as I turned 12. My dad was of a military background so it kind of makes sense now how everything had to look spotless even if it was casual clothing and how even then it never was allowed to fall below a certain sense of presentability. It’s shaped me into who I am as a cultured, classy, and calm gentleman. How dare someone ask , “Why are you so dressed up?” It’s not your fault someone has lower standards than you. And if that’s the standard with appearance, what’s that say about everything else? Pride yourself in being your personal best at whatever it is you do. If your appearance is integral part of the atmosphere around the way you focus and carry yourself in public and makes you feel your most confident, who is anyone to get in the way of your momentum? We’re all different. Be your…best. And never let anyone hold your standards back. Go get em, kid.


      Thank you kindly for your wonderful comment & support. I think men have it harder in the sense that they then have to battle labels placed on them which aren’t always encouraging.

      I can’t wear sweat-anything. I just can’t. Not outside of the home.

  • touka

    wow cheers to us hahahah im so glad i stumbled upon this article.. a simple tee, jeans and jackets for us and yet to others we are overdressed already.

  • N

    I feel the same too. They say I tru to dress up to attract attention ???

  • Beverley Fergar

    WHY should we feel embarrassed to take care of our appearance and look nice. I loathe sweatpants and scruffywear. I love being female – wearing makeup (if I want to), wearing nice feminine clothes, accessorising, having FUN with clothes. WHY do I feel sometimes ASHAMED and SHALLOW – I am really enjoying myself and very happy in the process. For goodness sake – we are women and looking nice is all part of the fun.

  • nikki nonamus

    This is great! I however do where low heels even to the store. I have lived all over the US and find it to be the same ,while worse in some areas. The “mommy uniform ” ugh, I cant stand it. I feel like Im not put together, not to say there isnt mommy days, with sick kids where you can find me running into walmart in the “mommy uniform”. I like the old school pinup look dresses, skirts, and the like. When did it become such a bad thing to look nice , like a woman, or simply to feel pretty. I was a tomboy growing up now at 31 I want to dress like a woman not a boy, or a housewife (even if I may be one). I say we simply set a new standard, one that says its ok to dress “up”… One that says it isnt ok to leave your home looking like a hot mess. I know the woman’s movement was big on these standards going away , but i think we went to far (not shocking). I say we rock our skirts, dresses, heels, lipstick hair and nails.

  • Wendy

    I moved from London (UK) to California a couple of years ago, and I still haven’t got used to the comments and questions about being (allegedly) “dressed up”. And in answer to the comment that California is too hot to dress well, I don’t agree that the heat has any implications for how well-dressed one can be. Indeed, being a pasty-skinned Brit, I cannot leave the house without fully covering every inch of skin, or I’ll burn. So the effect on my style of moving to hot-as-hell California has been to make it even more “dressed up” in that I now can’t leave the house without wearing a hat and gloves to protect my face and hands from the sun, and naturally, given my style (what makes ME comfortable and feel like me) the hat and gloves I wear are carefully chosen to complement my outfit, rather than being any old rubbish.

    I do not understand the relentlessly scruffy, ugly attire most people wear here. I would feel as ridiculous and horribly embarrassed wearing California-girl ‘style’ as, presumably, a California girl would feel wearing my style.

    I usually reply to “Oh, you’re so dressed up!” comments by saying “I’m English. This is how I dress.” or “I dress in a way that makes me feel comfortable.” or “This may be dressed up to you but it’s not to me.” or “This is my dressed down. You should see me when I’m dressed up.” but have been known to say (when getting irritated by the constant pressure to adopt the Californian uniform): “This is my dressed down. Any further dressed down and I’d be spring cleaning my house or painting.” or “Yes, I’m a bit too much of an individualist to be cowed into wearing the California casual uniform everyone seems to wear here.” or “Oh don’t worry — I’m sure you’re not the first person to forget to change out of your gym clothes before leaving the gym” or “I’d feel ridiculous dressed like a Californian.” if I’ve REALLY had enough: “Yes, you should try it sometime.” or “If I were dressed the way you’re dressed I’d want the ground to swallow me up. ” or “Yes, I’m afraid I still haven’t got the hang of the whole ‘find the ugliest, most tasteless, clothes available and get dressed in the dark’ thing.” or: “Oh, and I see you forgot to change out of your gardening/housecleaning/gym clothes before you left home.” or “Yes, I tried dressing the way you are, but it was too embarrassing so I realised I just have to wear my normal clothes and suffer the endless comments.”

    I love the “Life!” reply to the question “Why are you so dressed up?” Perfect reply! Much nicer than my “Why are you so dressed down?” or “Because I wouldn’t feel comfortable dressed like a hobo”

    When people complain that my attire has made them feel too dressed down, if I’m feeling charitable I just say that we each have to dress in a way that feels right for us, or “Don’t worry — *I* am the one violating the California uniform, not you. You’re fine. Look around.” or “You really shouldn’t let what other people wear have such a bad effect on you. Why not be confident in your own style, like I am mine?”

  • Carol B.

    Life. I tell them I am dressed up for life. It keeps me from asking them, “Why do you look like you’re ready to scrub the floor?”

  • Lindsey

    You are not alone! I feel most comfortable in dresses – frankly, I think they require less effort than a sweatpant ensemble! – and people always make comments about how dressed up I am. The worst is when people complain, the “Oh my god, you are sooooo dressed up” and “Ugh now I look awful”.

    I’m just wearing what makes me feel my most confident and comfortable, which is what I always do! If my outfit makes YOU feel bad about how you look, that’s not my problem – that’s yours. You have the same opportunities to dress your best, so don’t make me feel bad about looking dressed up when you chose not to look cute!

    Loved this post, and don’t be discouraged from looking your best by people who don’t put any effort into their clothing!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      It makes me feel bad when I am “dressed up” and they’re in jeans and flip flops. It’s not that far of a stretch to put on ballet flats instead, and a nice tank top instead of a ratty t-shirt. Or keep the ratty t-shirt on and wear a jersey blazer.

      I don’t put ANY effort into my hair or my face, I just wear a dress and suddenly I’m “overdressed” 🙂

  • Akaleistar

    This is so true! I don’t know why people think it’s alright to wear sweats in public, but if you wear a dress, people want to know why you’re wearing it.

  • Anon Beauty

    I’m glad someone addressed this issue. I love dressing up, but I feel so conscious because every time I put on even a teeny bit of makeup or wear something colourful to work, I get asked ‘How come you’re so dressed’

  • Lauren

    I am most definitely with you. I would never wear sweatpants, trainers outside the house unless I was exercising. What’s the quote sonething like – I woman can never be overdressed or over educated

  • Rei Fujita

    Finally someone who GETS me ! I’m exactly the same ! Especially living in hawaii if i wear even a casual dress people literally look at me like why are you so dressed up! I don’t get it. Is it that hard to understand that I want to dress fashionably/nicely when I go out? Like everyone else is in tanktop shorts and slipper but not me. Only when I go to big cities like Tokyo (which is where I’m originally from) I feel so much more comfortable because I can “dress up” wear heels even if I’m not going to fancy party ! And same here I really don’t own sweatpants maybe one pair?

  • Mathilde M.

    What an interesting post! I’m like you! I would never wake up on a school day morning and be like: “I’m gonna sweatpants today!”. Sometime when I’m really tired I wear an hoodie with jeans, and I just feel so not… pretty! I feel way more pretty and comfortable when I wear dress, skirt, I do wear jeans too (you can dress them up don’t get me wrong). When I’m well dress, I just feel good! I’ve alway been the one who always dress up in my friend group, but it has never been a problem. Sometime when I’m not wearing makeup or earing, they’re like; ” hey you’re not wearing this or that today?!!” It surprise them. 😉

    • save. spend. splurge.

      You know that’s true.. when I wore a hoodie once with jeans, I felt really dressed down. I put on a dress underneath that hoodie and instantly felt better.

  • tianna

    you must not live in California. It is HOT and nobody in their right mind, unless they are in a 24/7 AC area for life, wants to dress up everyday. It’s just too hot LOL. Wish I could dress up everyday and be all cool…but I’m too busy sweating! Glad some of us have great style though – mine only exists on the internet in the summer haha

  • Biki

    Interesting read! When i lived in London, I was constantly getting teassed for loving to dress up by my friends, infact one of my mates told me: we can always count on you to be overdressed! The thing is, as I love to dance, I do like to have that Dance Sports look (but only when I’m going for a dance lesson). I haven’t worn jeans in over a decade coz I just feel dresses flatter me more…And now I live in Berlin, I have a close group of friends who are hugely inspired by Vintage/Pin Up etc, so they always look the business, which i love, because apart from them being lovely people, it is great to know I’m seldom ever the most dressed up!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I love wearing jeans so I can’t say that I don’t love jeans, but I don’t think there’s any real extra effort in putting on something nice. The real effort for me, comes in having to wear heels, or to do my makeup!

  • Deborah A

    OMG, this is the story of my life and this can be annoying at times!! Now, whenever I get that question, I just smile and say ” dressing up nice makes me feel alive and happy”.
    I enjoyed reading your post!

  • MakintheBacon

    I guess I have the opposite sensibility because I feel uncomfortable going out dressed up if I was just going to the mall or meeting up with a friend for coffee.

    Although I am a little bit better now in terms of being presentable, my mom used to rag on me and say stuff like fix your hair and try to look nice. I would say, “why? I’m not trying to impress anybody.” She would reply, “It’s for your self. Try to look good for your self.”

    I clearly didn’t inherit that from my mother, only her looks, skin type and excessive worrying. Lol.

  • femmefrugality

    Oh, I used to care so much. I get dressed up for work, but other than that, it’s kind of whatever fits. My weight has yo-yoed so dramatically between kids that it’s far too expensive on my budget to buy new clothes every time I gain and lose weight. Which makes for a make-shift wardrobe. Trying to change that this summer. But for now I even have a pair of YOGA pants with HOLES in them that I have actually left the house in. Me from five years ago is dying a little bit inside.

  • MelD

    Where I live in Switzerland, skirts/dresses and heels are unusual, as is a lot of make-up. But the people are some of the best-dressed people anywhere I’ve been (incl. Paris and France), it’s what they call “sporty elegant” and is pretty standard. Swiss understatement, I guess!
    Just now I am in England for my mom’s birthday; I wore a dress and cute sandals to go out to eat in a nice winery for lunch. I did not appreciate that all the girls serving us were slapping around in flipflops, it pulled the tone of the place right down!! Even though they were mostly in skirts. 😮
    Whether slim or not, sweatpants outside the home or gym is such a no-no to me!!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Flip flops have no place except on the beach or out on casual days. Flip flops should NEVER make it into the workplace, no matter what you do, unless you’re a life guard.

  • Tania

    In general I think it’s kind of rude for people to make those kind of comments. A “you look nice, love your outfit” is ok but it is never alright to make anyone feel they have over or under dressed. The best etiquette is where we make people feel comfortable around us. I love your taste and you don’t seem too dressy to me. Sometimes when people make remarks like that it is their own insecurities.

    I do both but usually contrast. So a ripped boyfriend jeans will have a nice jacket on top or a simple ribbed tank will be paired with a pleated skirt. I’ll even do the fancier sweat style pants but with a nice shoe and cute drapey top. There are days I wear business attire to work even though I don’t have to just because I feel like it.

  • Lila

    Yes I get this as well. It’s almost as if some people act like there’s something wrong with wearing nice clothes. You most definitely won’t find me wearing sweats either, I don’t even own a pair. However, I think people take me more seriously when I dress nice and I definitely get treated better when I’m out.

  • Kathy

    I’m one of the most casual people I know and even I don’t wear my sweatpants in public. I do think as a whole people living in the U.S. have gotten much sloppier compared to pictures of people in England or other European countries. I especially look askance when I see someone wearing flip flops to church or to a wedding or funeral. On the other hand, I’ve seen pictures of spectators at ball games or even rodeos in the 50s. Then men are wearing suits, white shirts and ties. The women have on dresses, hats and white gloves… a rodeo! 🙂 However,I do think we’ve gotten away from dressing properly.

  • Michelle

    This is the story of my life. I would say that I might dress a touch more casually then you but for Colorado I’m considered dressy-and I like it! LOL.

  • Revanche

    Nah, you get asked that question because of slobs like me 😉

    My mom was like that, growing up, she always dressed properly with accessories, make up, and perfume. I … don’t know what happened to me but that completely, utterly, skipped me! 🙂

    I get all proud of myself when I wear actual pants, tops, and decent shoes. And brush my hair.

  • Erin

    I’m very much the yoga pant and hoodie wearer in public. Not for everywhere, just when I’m running to the grocery store really quick or something similar. And then, of course, I wear the same thing when I work out and I generally run errands during that time so again, I’m out in yoga pants.

    I’m a hermit troll telecommuter and none of the people I know in Portland live anywhere near me, so I really don’t care what I look like. I wish I cared more, but alas I save the “dressing up” for my days off when I’m out and about all day.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      HAHAH! “Hermit troll commuter”. Okay I see your point then 🙂

      Even so, I meet people in the ODDEST areas… I was on vacation once and ran into a colleague who was shopping at the mall there..

  • GirlinaTrenchcoat

    Yep, same here! I only wear sweats or “house clothes” as I call them, when I’m actually lounging around the house. The minute I have to set foot out the door, or if company comes over, I change.

    It’s the same amount of effort to me to put on a track suit or pull on a pair of jeans and a nice top, so when going out I choose the latter, just so I’m more presentable. I also observe I’m better treated when I’m more spiffed up, so that’s a nice perk.

  • Caitlyn

    I agree that you never know who you’ll run into in public so typically it is a good practice to look presentable when outside your home. Usually I will wear my more business styled clothes to work (I’m a banker), but even on the weekends or other days off I tend to at least wear cute casual clothes. I’m in my mid-twenties, don’t have any children, and I live in a climate that gets HOT in the summers (Colorado) so I’m okay with wearing tank tops (but usually they have 1.5-2 inch straps, not spaghetti). So between May and October I’m usually in shorts/tank, skirt/tank, or a light summer dress with jeans usually reserved for nighttime activities. But even in my casual shorts/tank combos I wear really cute sandals or flats, and some other accessories like a light cotton scarf and pearl earrings or longer earrings and a cute necklace, which makes me look more put-together. The only time I break this rule is if I’m home from work/errands for the evening and have already changed into my house clothes and I realize I’ve run out of an ingredient for dinner. I live 2 minutes away from the grocery store so I just run out in my yoga pants and t-shirt but I still have my hair/makeup the way it was at work so I look okay. Or if I’m sick and have to go get medicine. Then I really don’t care what I look like because I feel like death.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      But you are not in yoga pants and wearing slobby oversized t-shirts!

      Even to go out with Baby Bun strapped to my chest, I wear proper clothes. I can’t just saunter out in what I wear at home.. I feel naked.. Horrified, even.

  • Sara

    I don’t own any “cute” workout gear (Lululemon etc.) because I don’t care what I look like while running and I don’t need to be comfortable enough going anywhere in my gym clothes. The only exception to that is if I’m going to pick up building materials or stuff for gardening and I’ll get dirty in the process of purchasing. Actually the same goes for our local summer market- everything really is straight from the farm.

    And while I enjoy clothing and being well dressed I’m not really a makeup and heels girl so I don’t get accused of being overdressed very often. I do notice that when I put a little bit of thought into an outfit I’ll get a lot of ‘you look nice!’

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I don’t wear heels when I run around either. Just flats. I also tend to go without makeup these days (trying to clear up my skin).. but to work, I’d wear a bit of slap.

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction

    I’m 50/50. My Mom is the same was as you and yours. She would work around the house in her “grubby clothes” (not that grubby, but they were in comparison to her nicer outside the house clothes) and then would change if she was leaving the house.

    I used to be much more cautious of this, but I’ve started to slip. If I’m running into the grocery store (which is somewhere that I generally bump into at least one person I know) I sometimes leave on yoga pants and a hoodie. Other than that I try to at least have cotton pants and a nicer top on. I’m still a work in progress because I was a slobby student for so long (grad school made me one… I was fine in my undergrad).

  • AdinaJ

    Wasn’t there something about this in Overdressed? I feel like I read about it recently somewhere – how, as a society, people dress slouchier and sloppier in public than before (i.e. 50s and before). I always used to believe it was different in Europe (it was ingrained in me to “dress up” whenever out in public) but that may no longer be the case nowadays. Anyway, part of it is a result of the evolution of fashion/style (and cheap fashion in particular) and part of it is the growing informality of society generally, I think. It might be an interesting topic to explore 😉

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Oh yeah, I probably read a bunch of articles on this and then my subconscious said: Hey silly! WRITE AN ARTICLE ON THIS.

      Just compare us to the 50s when people dressed up in heels, gloves and hats. A guy without a hat felt naked in public.

  • Erika

    I have a personal rule to NEVER leave my house in sweatpants. I do occasionally throw on a hoody if I need to run a quick errand (to the mailbox).

    I’m constantly accused of being overdressed. Just the other day a man rudely informed me that I looked like a banker. I was wearing dress slacks, Louboutins, and a silk blouse. I had always thought my issues were due to the fact that it is hot in the southwest and I live in a college town.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Er… why did he rag on you for looking like a banker or being “overdressed”?

      I’d wear what you wear, except the Louboutins. I like silk shirts…

  • CorianneM

    I don’t own sweatpants! And I can’t fathom wearing them outside the house even if I *would* own them. I like to look nice and it gives me a little more confidence as well. I would feel like such a slob.

    Last year, I was travelling in Denmark and a friend who now lives in the US was travelling through Denmark on her way to Sweden. We met at the airport. We were having coffee and I joked her clothing style had become American (sweatpants, a hoodie, trainers). She said it was not unusual and that *I* would be considered dressed up in my simple blue casual day dress, dark tights, pink boots, and a simple necklace. It’s what I wear every day and to my standards it’s not dressed up at all! I would consider my heels, blazers, more formal dresses as ‘dressed up’.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Same here. If I wear makeup, do my hair really nicely, and wear a dress with HEELS.. then I am dressed up.

      Otherwise, a t-shirt, or a skirt and some boots.. that’s normal.

  • SarahN

    I think the key to formality is often a blazer or jacket – I know I feel dressy and sharper when I wear them.

    One things I find hard to wear in public is spaghetti strapped tanks. Even though they are out wear for others, for me they are for keeping me warm or keeping decorum. I feel naked if I strip down to it!

    That being said, I’m not sure I’m often told I look dressed up – I wonder if hairstyles have a large part to play. My hair is fine, so seldom ‘slicked back’ (unless it’s super dirty). I prefer it floaty and looser, but I know it would look more dressed up if it was a tighter pony tail.

    I do know I’m actually relishing moving away from wearing uniforms to work. I was worried I’d run out of outfits, but so far, so good!

  • cosmogirl2100

    Definitely! I could never imagine going out in lounging clothes, and dresses are so comfortable anyway! And yes, occasionally people ask me why I’m dressed up as well 🙂

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I went to the dentist the other day in a skirt, tank top and a simple blazer / coverup, and she said: Wow and you got all dressed up for us today too!

      Me:. ….. Umm.. this is what I own…

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