Lockdown Jottings – 10

Are we still dressing for dinner?

As someone who regularly works from home but who keeps irregular hours, the time I actual shower and dress varies from day to day.

I might get up with good intentions, but then I find myself engrossed in my emails or reading articles on-line or the phone will ring and suddenly it’s lunchtime and I’m still in a state of déshabillé and looking, let’s say, somewhat less than kempt. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve opened the door in my dressing gown (*) to take delivery of parcels too big to go through the letterbox or to unexpected visitors who have a habit of turning up, well, unexpectedly.

(*) – I don’t actually have a door in my dressing gown, in case you were wondering.

Obviously, if I have a meeting to go to, then I’m up, dressed and ready to go, smart as a button and with a noticeable spring in my step at whatever time is required but, since lockdown, with all meetings cancelled, things have definitely changed! Let’s just say standards have slipped. Or they had, until video conferencing became the new normal and suddenly people expect you to be in front of your screen where they can see you – and often at a moment’s notice (an email arrives – “Are you free for a Zoom conference, now?”). Decency and professionalism mean that I have to retain a certain sense of decorum, even to sit at home, but, to don a shirt and tie, let alone a suit, seems a tad de trop when everyone can see I’m sitting on my sofa.  

To be honest, I actually miss dressing in a more business-like manner. Keeping up appearances is still important to me: manners may well maketh the man, but his apparel oft proclaims him (as Polonius advises his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – see, I’ve done my homework here!).

I know a lot of men hate wearing a tie, but I was brought up to wear one and, although I don’t wear them as often as I did when I was in full-time employment, when I donned one every day, I still like to look the part when I’m going out, whether it’s for a business meeting or for the smarter social outings such as dinners, theatre trips and so on. Putting on a jacket and tie adds to the sense of occasion and that’s before we start talking about wearing the full rig of black tie and tux for those formal nights when medals, if you have them, can be worn. Ties can add a splash of colour to the otherwise rather limited colour palette of men’s suiting.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t dress for dinner every night! I only do ‘black tie’ for the ‘gala nights’ at the theatre, some charity dinners and, of course, when I go cruising (although even there, the requirement for black tie has been relaxed in recent years, much to my chagrin), but it’s the comparative rarity of these opportunities in my engagement diary that make them all the more special. There’s nothing quite like seeing a restaurant or theatre brimful with ladies and gents in their finery, especially when you’re on a glamourous ocean liner heading across the Atlantic to New York! (And it’s so much easier for men on cruises: one tuxedo covers every formal evening whereas women tend to pack a different cocktail dress for each formal evening – and matching accessories to boot, of course.)  

But in thinking of cruising, I’m getting carried away, lost in my reveries, and I digress. Although dressing up of any kind, whether in casual or smart attire, is something most of us enjoy doing, the fact that we are not going out is taking its toll on the manufacturers and retailers of clothing. Without the excuse to dress up, people don’t need to buy new clothes (even if they still have an income to go shopping on-line with). This season’s fashion is definitely going to be dressing gown and slippers.

Right now, getting dressed for dinner, whether it’s putting on one’s finery or just a clean t-shirt, is entirely optional. Who’s going to see you (unless you’re having one of those Zoom dinner parties)?

Chic or shabby? It doesn’t really matter. Tonight’s dress code is very much ‘come as you are’.

But I think I might just swap out of my dressing gown first.

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