Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Dressing up, down and all around

  • 14 March 2024
  Attending an outdoor festival recently, I started the day in a rain jacket and runners and ended it in sunhat and sandals. The consistent rule for dressing for Melbourne weather is be prepared for any eventuality. [Every magazine stylist advises layers.]

    However, the ‘be prepared’ rule seems to be the only one that continues to hold true in an era of increasing casualisation of address and dress. The working from home revolution during Covid – business on top and sleep/active wear on bottom – just accelerated an already existing trend.  

Once there were set parameters on how to dress for an occasion. These were either just known (societal expectations absorbed by osmosis) or stated outright (dinner suit/cocktail wear).

Sunday best speaks for itself, but in days of declining church attendance, does anyone know why we wore our best clothes on a Sunday. For a wedding, your poshest frock for women or suit for men, but definitely no white, no black and no outshining the bride. Black, grey or other sombre hues, however, were mandatory for a funeral. Job interviews were occasions for a new suit (male and female) even if the suit was then relegated to the back of the wardrobe and only worn again when the boss’ boss visited.

Birthday invitations required some parsing – was the event for afternoon or evening? Family or friends? Age of the person doing the inviting and likely age of the other invitees. You still made an effort, but the number of sequins and height of heels were likely to be much less for your grandmother’s 80th birthday afternoon tea with family than your friend’s 30th birthday evening at the local wine bar.


'Has the casualisation of dress gone too far? Are you happy with the decreased emphasis on dress rules, or would you like to see a bit more certainty?'  

Teenagers of course tend to flaunt their independence from stuffy parental expectations by dressing identically according to their tribe’s mores – eg, goth, surfer, slacker or whatever group they decide they belong to at the time.

However, for adults the dressing situation has become tricky. I’ve been to a funeral where black was banned, weddings where the gamut of dress ranged from ‘this looks clean’ to ‘I guess my linen work skirt is OK’ or ‘this little thing, I picked it up on sale from [insert favourite designer]’.

There just doesn’t seem to be anywhere that demands a consistent