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Covid accelerated dress code de-formalization - true or false?

Nobilis Animus

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This is not just about the suit, but a 400-year-old history of Western fashion, which has only moved in one direction...At each step, dress norms have become more and more casual -- never the reverse.
I'm sorry, what?... There have been multiple undulations of 'Western' fashion since the 1600s, not all of them tending towards the more casual. The current tendency in that direction is a result of class mimicry, nothing more.
 

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Mahatma Jawndi
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I'm sorry, what?... There have been multiple undulations of 'Western' fashion since the 1600s, not all of them tending towards the more casual. The current tendency in that direction is a result of class mimicry, nothing more.
When has Western fashion swung towards more formal modes of dress? Meaning, broadly in society, not just as a niche fashion movement.
 

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Nobilis Animus

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When has Western fashion swung towards more formal modes of dress? Meaning, broadly in society, not just as a niche fashion movement.
Well, the entire Baroque Period can be contrasted with the early 1600s, for one thing. The early 18th century also saw more stringent dress code requirements for men than had previously been the case, including the forerunners of modern dress coats.

'Formal dress' is something that has varied greatly in terms of cut, material, and so on, but in terms of use the fashion has never tended only towards casualization. It has varied with historical events and upheavals, as any sociological phenomenon has. One defining feature of it, however, has and continues to be class mimicry. The casual shift of today is simply the wider population playing copycat. If this were the 80s they'd be in cheap power suits with awful phones, buying cheap houses like the neighbours to which they aspire.

But more importantly: How are people not spending $200 to eat out in LA (I think that's where you are)? Are there lineups to hotdog stands at 8pm?
 

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Mahatma Jawndi
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Well, the entire Baroque Period can be contrasted with the early 1600s, for one thing. The early 18th century also saw more stringent dress code requirements for men than had previously been the case, including the forerunners of modern dress coats.

'Formal dress' is something that has varied greatly in terms of cut, material, and so on, but in terms of use the fashion has never tended only towards casualization. It has varied with historical events and upheavals, as any sociological phenomenon has. One defining feature of it, however, has and continues to be class mimicry. The casual shift of today is simply the wider population playing copycat. If this were the 80s they'd be in cheap power suits with awful phones, buying cheap houses like the neighbours to which they aspire.

But more importantly: How are people not spending $200 to eat out in LA (I think that's where you are)? Are there lineups to hotdog stands at 8pm?
Yes, I agree there was a brief period in the late 1600s when British elites swung back towards more "formal" modes of dress, if by formal we mean "showy." But as liberalization developed in the Western world, especially after the 1600s, dress norms have only become more and more "democratic."

You still see this in the 1600s. Charles II dressed more modestly than Charles I. It's hard to put formal-causal dichotomies in this area of dress because they followed other norms. But let's say that they were more designed to please the everyday people. Charles I wore a more modest coat with his britches, instead of the more ornate doublet.

We can only say that late 1600 dress became more formal only if we contrast it against Oliver Cromwell.

What about the 18th century are you referring to?

Regarding class mimicry, I would not reduce all fashion to class mimicry, but "fashion as social mimicry" is a very old theme, not just post-war. This is the work of George Simmel, Pierre Bourdieu, Vance Packard, Terry Eagleton, and others.

Spending $200 on a night out is not the same as spending $200 on one person's dinner. If that's a regular occurrence for you, then more power to you. Most people I know do not regularly spend $200 on a plate.
 
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Nobilis Animus

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Yes, I agree there was a brief period in the late 1600s when British elites swung back towards more "formal" modes of dress, if by formal we mean "showy." But as liberalization developed in the Western world, especially after the 1600s, dress norms have only become more and more "democratic."

You still see this in the 1600s. Charles II dressed more modestly than Charles I. It's hard to put formal-causal dichotomies in this area of dress because they followed other norms. But let's say that they were more designed to please the everyday people. Charles I wore a more modest coat with his britches, instead of the more ornate doublet.

We can only say that late 1600 dress became more formal only if we contrast it against Oliver Cromwell.

What about the 18th century are you referring to?

Regarding class mimicry, I would not reduce all fashion to class mimicry, but "fashion as social mimicry" is a very old theme, not just post-war. This is the work of George Simmel, Pierre Bourdieu, Vance Packard, Terry Eagleton, and others.
Oh, I agree. Not all fashion is class mimicry, and the trend is definitely not new.

The distinction in the 18th century was that full dress (i.e. court dress) started to become distinct from informal dress, or what we'd consider everyday clothing. The Georgian Era in general was marked by clear differences between these two, but the more important distinction is that fashion took its cues from the more elaborate and formal garments, not the everyday ones.

I don't really understand the democratization idea of fashion, although I'm open to learning. It just doesn't seem very democratic for a section of high society to flaunt their greater wealth/leisure/lack of social constraints to dress in a casual or eccentric manner, and then for us to observe the greater proportion of the population copying them. I suppose it's democratic in so far as the only coercion to do so is social pressure, but otherwise it seems fairly mundane.
 

Nobilis Animus

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Spending $200 on a night out is not the same as spending $200 on one person's dinner. If that's a regular occurrence for you, then more power to you. Most people I know do not regularly spend $200 on a plate.
(Missed this earlier) It's easy to do in larger cities, depending on where you go. I personally prefer not to as I like to cook at home for fun, but in Toronto you can spend that much on a bottle of wine, and never mind the food.

Looking back on historical fine dining prices, a good meal at a decent restaurant could easily run you $10 in the 1910s, which is at least $200 today if not more. Expectations should adjust accordingly - not everyone was eating out in the past either, but it was always ridiculous.
 

rjc149

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I don't think the suit will entirely go away. But at least in California, the scope for it is so narrow, it's barely meaningful in most people's lives. People who wear the suit on a semi-regular basis elect to do so because they feel it's a fashionable garment.
Yes, there is little doubt that general fashion trends have become more casual -- 'casual' meaning more comfortable and practical. Given a purely dichotomous choice, most people will opt for comfort over style.

A large aspect of this is also the climate. As casual dress grows from comfort and practicality, the climate in California has largely shaped the regional culture and its more warm-weather dress codes, both in casual and professional settings. So it's easy for me to believe your statement that the suit plays little role in a typical Californian's wardrobe, even a very wealthy, high-status Californian.

In California, I imagine most of the socioeconomic elite work in industries that never strictly enforced a suit and tie dress code (entertainment and tech). In NYC and Chicago, there are long-standing, time-honored bastions of business establishment that regard the suit and tie not only as a matter of respect and decorum, but tradition. The suit and tie will never completely go away.

It comes down to tradition, and how willing we are to enforce tradition, or merely commemorate it in the interests of inclusiveness. A restaurant that once required men to wear a jacket will soon simply recommend they do so. I agree, that's indicative of a trend toward casual attire that long predates the covid pandemic. But a white-shoe law firm in NYC prides itself on its tradition and being the opposite of inclusive -- those guys will always be wearing suits.
 
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rjc149

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Not sure if the distinction is being made between the price of the meal, or the overall bill. I rack up rather hefty dinner bills with booze. I also overdrink.
 

Nobilis Animus

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Yes, there is little doubt that general fashion trends have become more casual -- 'casual' meaning more comfortable and practical. Given a purely dichotomous choice, most people will opt for comfort over style.

A large aspect of this is also the climate. As casual dress grows from comfort and practicality, the climate in California has largely shaped the regional culture and its more warm-weather dress codes, both in casual and professional settings. So it's easy for me to believe your statement that the suit plays little role in a typical Californian's wardrobe, even a very wealthy, high-status Californian.

In California, I imagine most of the socioeconomic elite work in industries that never strictly enforced a suit and tie dress code (entertainment and tech). In NYC and Chicago, there are long-standing, time-honored bastions of business establishment that regard the suit and tie not only as a matter of respect and decorum, but tradition. The suit and tie will never completely go away.

It comes down to tradition, and how willing we are to enforce tradition, or commemorate it in the interests of inclusiveness. A restaurant that once required men to wear a jacket will soon simply recommend they do so. I agree, that's indicative of a trend toward casual attire that long predates the covid pandemic. But a white-shoe law firm in NYC prides itself on its tradition and being the opposite of inclusive -- those guys will always be wearing suits.
It's very simple to predict the next great fashion shift (adjusted for climate, of course): Take a look at what Society decides to do, and realize that sooner or later the rest of everyone else will follow it. And usually not a moment sooner.

Things have gotten just about as casual as they can get by now, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a dramatic shift in the opposite direction in the next few years - especially considering that maximalism was on the rise just prior to the Great-Plague-that-never-was.
 

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In California, I imagine most of the socioeconomic elite work in industries that never strictly enforced a suit and tie dress code (entertainment and tech). In NYC and Chicago, there are long-standing, time-honored bastions of business establishment that regard the suit and tie not only as a matter of respect and decorum, but tradition. The suit and tie will never completely go away.

It comes down to tradition, and how willing we are to enforce tradition, or commemorate it in the interests of inclusiveness. A restaurant that once required men to wear a jacket will soon simply recommend they do so. I agree, that's indicative of a trend toward casual attire that long predates the covid pandemic. But a white-shoe law firm in NYC prides itself on its tradition and being the opposite of inclusive -- those guys will always be wearing suits.
Aren't those East Coast holdouts also giving up on the coat and tie?

A few members on this board work in finance in NYC. Two of them have told me that they no longer wear a coat to the office, nevermind a tie. One of them wears his Rubinacci jackets on the train and then slips into a Patagonia vest when he's actually in the office. Both have said that wearing a coat to the office looks too "dressed up."
 
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rjc149

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It's very simple to predict the next great fashion shift (adjusted for climate, of course): Take a look at what Society decides to do, and realize that sooner or later the rest of everyone else will follow it. And usually not a moment sooner.

Things have gotten just about as casual as they can get by now, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a dramatic shift in the opposite direction in the next few years - especially considering that maximalism was on the rise just prior to the Great-Plague-that-never-was.
I also predict a shift away from casual, especially in business. Much of current business dress code comes from Wall Street. Right now, the CEO of Goldman Sachs is David Solomon, who is a rave DJ on his spare time. He recently relaxed the dress code, and Wall Street is following suit. I think this is just a trend that will shift back with new leadership.
 

Nobilis Animus

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Not sure if the distinction is being made between the price of the meal, or the overall bill. I rack up rather hefty dinner bills with booze. I also overdrink.
Drinks are pricey, no doubt. The better restaurants in Toronto charge at least 25ish dollars per item, though, and a full meal can easily run $100 at least. Add in wine/drinks, tip, and sundry costs, and $200 would be lucky - because it means your date is going Dutch!
 

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