Dating messes you up.

Yes, I know this isn’t an epiphany,  but I mean it keeps surreptitiously nudging the lens of your life until you wake up one morning and discover that it’s completely off focus.

Since I stopped working in a frum office, with its unique dress standards, much of the stuff in my closet hardly gets shifted for anything but dating. I mean, I’m not dressing up to go to college. And when I’m in a secular workplace it’s almost strictly collared shirts. (Good4 cracks up about how aidel I look.) So there are very few excuses for dressing up in my life aside from dating.

Which is maybe why I’ve forgotten that there’s a reason to dress up, aside from dating.

But you can’t really live like that. Only dressing up for exciting new people, I mean. What do you do when that exciting new person becomes your ordinary, boring spouse? That way lies middle-aged frumpiness. Or what if you never get married? Then you’re doomed to a dowdy spinsterhood.

Fate worse that death.

This was what I was thinking while staring at a particular sweater in my drawer that I hadn’t worn for a while. Although I do wear it every now and then, it mostly sees light as part of a First Date Outfit. It is perfect for this role because of its versatility; it looks just as right in a ritzy lounge as a coffee shop. And since it’s so perfect for an FDO, the practical streak in me prefers to reserve it for that occasion, so I don’t stain it with grape juice or wear out the elbows over a game of Settlers.

But you can’t just dress up for other people. Especially when most of them aren’t worth dressing up for. There’s only one person I have to please, and that’s me.  And, I realized, I don’t do that often enough. I don’t get that pleasurably thrill of frowning at my closet, glaring at my hair, pouting at my makeup, and then twirling in front of the mirror to behold with delight: hey, I look pretty!

So I wore the sweater Friday night. I was making a statement: It isn’t an FDO, it’s just a nice sweater. And I’ll wear it whenever I feel like looking nice. So there.

Having got into the right spirit, I spent Shabbos morning doing the frowning at the closet thing, finally pulling together an experimental new outfit. The sweater might look better with a different color skirt and next time I’m out shopping I should look for a better shirt but…

“That’s really nice!” my mother appraised it with her expert eye. “You know what that would be great for?”

No, noooo. Please don’t say it!

“It would make a perfect dating outfit!”


Nope, sorry Ma. You’ve got it backwards. It ain’t a dating outfit. It’s a nice ensemble and I might just wear it on a date one day.

My lens is refocused, my focus is recentered. Life looks better already. And so do I.


23 thoughts on “Recalibration

  1. Very smart move! Because the same is true once you’re married! You stop feeling the need to dress up as much. It seems like I put more thought into work clothes then what I wear around hubby. Maybe I’ll start trying again…

  2. Mf#1–it can backfire on you. Married about a year and I noticed like you that I was getting dressed better for work than for my hubby. So one night before he came home I put on one of those nicer outfits to greet him with. His reaction? “No! You didn’t tell me we had to go somewhere tonight. I wanted a quiet night at home!” And they say men don’t really notice what women wear.

  3. LOL! I can see my hubby doing that! What I’ve been doing recently is just not changing when I get home so I’m still dressed nicer than I normally would be. It’s more the weekends. I find I don’t bother with make-up and don’t usally wear my fall/sheital.

  4. Why do you wear collared shirts to work? and what does that have to do with a secular work environment. MF#1 that’s just plain sad.

  5. You mention in the latter half of your post the other time to dress up when you go out: Shabbos. In fact, IMHO we (frum Jews) have more experience dressing up than our secular counterparts since we have Shabbos on average once every week. There is also Yom Tov. I remember hearing conversations among non-Jewish classmates about “having to buy a suit” for interviews – and it wasn’t that they already owned plenty but needed a new one. Dating may be a time to dress up, but it isn’t on the same level as going to shul. Or at least, not for me. Dressing up was something I did for Shabbos (and simchas and interviews), and while dating required dressing “nicely” rather than shlumping around in jeans or whatever, it wasn’t on the same madrega.

    (I know there are those who disagree with me and wear suits on dates and keep black hats on for those wear that and I think it’s crazy. Be respectful, but there should be fun.)

    And don’t worry about the fading glitter of being married for a while. You realize it’s a two way street – both are more comfortable in relaxed clothing. It’s a good idea to try and have the occasional “date” with your spouse, anyway. And finally – there are “other” clothes that spouses wear only for each other, so who needs formality? ‘Nuff said.

  6. Are separate wardrobes required for:

    *(Yom Tov)
    *dressing up/going out


    Because that’s a lot of wardrobes.

    Frum Jews definitely spend a lot of money and a lot of time thinking about clothes. I can assure you that the rest of the world (with a few exceptions, mostly celebrities) don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about clothing than the average frum woman.

    That was one of my biggest surprises on my entry into the frum world nearly 30 years ago – the emphasis on clothing and materialism.

  7. Interesting post. Bad4, good for you!

    Yosef, I thought it was funny when you wrote we have shabbos “on average” once a week!

    I’m just trying to think what a guy stops doing for his spouse after marriage. For women, it seems one thing is dressing up. I guess for guys it could be continuing to exercise and not becoming overweight just because you’re married. That and keep grooming yourselves even if you do work from home and won’t be seen by the boss (you guys know who you are, you all-day-pajama-people!).

    Bored Jewish Guy- you’re a lawyer?

  8. lawschooldrunk: No, I’m not a lawyer. For some reason people seem to think I’m likely to be a defendant in court. The first time a wore a suit during the week it was a joke with a girl I was dating so I was acting like it was no big deal, three different people asked me what kind of trouble I was in.

  9. Tesyaa – four major but non-distinct types of dressing:
    1 – dressing up/dating/looking nice (overlaps 2 and 4)
    2 – Shabbos (this overlaps with 1 very often)
    3 – every day stuff (sometimes overlaps 1 and 4)
    4 – work (this overlaps 1 and 3 in many areas)

    It sounds like a lot more clothing than it is, but there are only a few item that get labeled because they’re never used for anything else. I think having “Shabbos clothes” is standard. Many things downgraded from (1) wind up in (3)… c’mon. You must know how it works. Don’t tell me you don’t have clothing?

    It’s true that many non-Jews have less clothing, but they have fewer occasions to dress up for; there’s no Shabbos, and most don’t do formal affairs aside from the occasional wedding. Whereas in the Jewish community everything is formal.

    PB – because it’s a button-down field. That’s the uniform. I wear a sweater every now and then, but the dolled up matching-skirt-top-shoes-bag appearance just looks ridiculous and out of place. Nerds don’t want to spend time thinking about what they’re going to wear, aside from “Does this green shirt go with navy pants?” And many don’t even bother with that. And that’s fine with me. I like button-downs. They’re very aidel. 😉

  10. “It’s true that many non-Jews have less clothing, but they have fewer occasions to dress up for; there’s no Shabbos, and most don’t do formal affairs aside from the occasional wedding. Whereas in the Jewish community everything is formal.”

    You clearly don’t live in a community with a large presence of either non-Jews or religious non-Jews. Religious non-Jews don’t have Shabbos–they have church on Sunday and some of them also attend mass during the week–not a casual dress time. They don’t do formal affairs? Religiously you have christenings and communions and weddings and wakes. Then you have sweet sixteen parties, engagement parties, weddings. Add in formal dances and proms throughout high school and college. Add in dinners for umpteen church or organization or community groups. Add in that most of the younger people of these groups enter the formal work world way before most frummie kids do, definitely not an informal dress situation.

    “in the Jewish community everything is formal.” Only because we make it be, not because it has to be. Please don’t try and tell me that heels and a suit is the “required” outfit to go to the grocery store or drugstore. And who ossured denim for everyday wear and for just what normal reason? If frum Jews have more clothing it’s because they want more clothing, not because they have to have more clothing.

    A Rav once told me in all seriousness that I shouldn’t make a comment about the excess clothing because “they don’t have television or other narishkeit and it’s better to buy clothing then to be involved with the other shtuss. They need to have something.” Right. And if you’re buying that, I have a bridge to sell you, I have four bridges to sell you.

  11. I’ve seen plenty of jeans on Sunday outside churches. :-/ And the non-Jews I know don’t tend to be the church-going sort. Or prom-going (in college? f’serious?).

    I think above a certain income level, there’s a class with a lot of formality to their lives. But it isn’t very common in the portion of the middle class that I’m familiar with. With which I’m familiar. The ones I know can’t even find a blazer for a business-formal dinner.

  12. You can be formal and have one or two nice sets of clothing. You can be casual and have a closetful of different outfits. Overgeneralizations, much?

    Personally, I think the reason why frum people (well, frum women, really) talk a lot about clothing and spend a lot of time shopping is because it’s so hard to find the right kind of clothing–what with skirts, long enough sleeves, high enough necklines, blouses that aren’t see-through, etc
    And I have to agree with Bad4 about the lack of formal outfits in many areas of the secular world–I think, ProfK what you are referring to is more of the middle-aged and up generation–those are the people that do have blazers and jackets and department store type of suits. The younger generation does not. Where I work, people mostly dress very casually. We had a sort of conference where people needed to dress up. The middle aged women were wearing nice, JC Penney type of skirts or slacks and blouse/jacket combos. The younger women were not–sure, they were “dressed up” but more for a formal night on the town–short slinky little black dresses with evening-wear type sandals. They simply didn’t have anything for an “inbetween” type of outfit. (Now me, I was wearing one of my regular work outfits, but even so, somebody commented on how “professional” I looked, especially compared to a lot of the others….)

  13. Do I detect an ever-so-slight condescension at people wearing JC Penney clothing? My friend is a top earning lawyer, at least $350K, and she does wear clothes from JC Penney to her corporate job, and her office is NOT business casual – it’s business wear all the way. Maybe because she is so capable and respected in her field, she doesn’t worry about making her impression with name-brand clothes; she makes her impression with her ability and intelligence. Oh well. Yes, frum women have made designer clothing into not only a fetish, but a religious obligation, and a sign of piety. Interesting that we work on our outside appearance, hoping that people will see that as who we really are, even though it’s what’s inside that counts.

  14. How could I be condescending towards Penney’s when I shop there all the time (and the “professional” clothing I was wearing myself more likely than not came from that same store)? My reason for mentioning the store only was to describe the sort of outfit I meant–if not classic, then classy w/out being trendy.
    Why such a knee-jerk reaction…?

  15. Heartfelt apology, Anon. Maybe I was being knee-jerk. I just think most frum women (young and old) would not be so willing to admit to shopping at Penney’s. I commend you for being open minded, because from what I see in my community, there is a lot of emphasis on fancier names.

    I personally admit I have clothes, but I have had some items for 15 years and more. In the past few years, due to other expenses, I don’t buy anything if it costs more than $20. $25 for shoes, maybe. So you can imagine that I am buying a lot of stuff used on eBay.

    Have a good Shabbos!

  16. Bad4, great recalibration! That’s why I feel like I must get dressed-up to go into Boro Park !! Small wonder- that I don’T go there very often 🙂

  17. ??? I love JC Penney. And I was introduced to it by a frum girl. I think you just live in the wrong neighborhood.

  18. Apology definitely accepted, tesyaa, thanks.

    I think maybe bad4 is right, you do live in the wrong neighborhood. Around where I live people are quite happy to get a bargain, and aren’t embarrassed about it, either–though admittedly, I live outside NY.

    Honestly, I’d spend more money on my clothes but would rather have the extra cash to spend at Barnes & Noble….

  19. Yeah. I found myself skipping the makeup and getting dressed on fridays, or even motzei shabbosim- where “no one was going to see me anyway”. But then I almost hit myself in the head. Isnt it more important to wear makeup and look nice for your husband? I dont mean that you arent allowed to be comfortable. Given- its your house too. But I guess there shouldn’t be a point where he thinks you care more about the neighbors when you run for an errand, than you do about him. You dont ALWAYS have to be wearing the slinky skirt on those rainy days.

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