Domino Effect of Business Casual Dress
Casual Everyday, Everywhere
By Judith Rasband
Business casual dress in the workplace has influenced dress for all people in all places. Casual, even sloppy, dress is now the norm for virtually every situation and occasion. "The people just don't dress nice anymore," lamented a Dillard's clerk. With fewer people buying a range of clothing styles, including "nice" clothes, fashion retailers have responded by dropping complete lines of "nicer" clothes and employ fewer clerks in their stores. "I can never find anyone to wait on me," complained a May Company customer.
It may seem logical that fashion retailers should initiate any attempt at improving the situation, if only to encourage their sales. The business casual dress trend, however, is not fashion driven. On the contrary, the fashion industry is only now becoming aware of the trend's impact on sales.
Sales of tailored clothing are flat and trending downward. Jewelry and other accessory retailers are feeling the pinch. Neckwear people are in a panic—and rightly so. Dry cleaners are also affected, as people have no clothing to be dry cleaned. Clothing manufacturers are next to feel this domino effect of business casual, followed by fine fabric manufacturers, button makers, and so on down the line.
Most retailers are reacting by simply giving in to the trend; promoting casual clothes for the sake of immediate sales; changing their product mix to include a larger percentage of casual clothes and accessories. Few retailers are realistically aware of the long-term consequences.
Many fashion retailers do not have essential knowledge of the artistic, social, and psychological aspects of dress and image, nor the materials needed to influence consumer attitude and behavior. In addition, they cannot afford to objectively consider the needs of the consumer because of their own need to sell what is in their own store.
The downtrend is felt across the entire economy. Not looking so nice, people tend not to venture out into the community as much; think couch-potato syndrome and cocooning behaviors synonymous with the 90s. Those who do go out in typically business casual dress are known to ask others in "nicer" dress, "Why are you so dressed up?" The question is purposeful, intending to put down those who look "nice" in order to build up those who look sloppy. It's working. People looking "nice" find the question intimidating, feel out of place, and soon give in to casual dress and cocooning behavior.
Nice-looking people who do go out for a special evening occasion and paying a relatively high tab, discover even a nice setting is not so nice because others are there wearing a T-shirt or sweatshirt, jeans, and a baseball cap backwards. In time, all descend to less-nice locations with lower prices. Nice restaurants and cultural events are suffering.
The domino effect is predictable, affecting even home and office environments, now observed to be less well furnished or decorated and poorly cared for. With people not looking so nice, why bother with a nice-looking office or home? In short, America's going down the tube in a T-shirt!
The fashion industry is faced with three generations of people who do not know how to dress nicely—how to put the clothes together harmoniously. They were never taught the principles of visual design in dress. They do not recognize the universal effects of clothing nor the impact of image. They never learned the value of clothing—clothing as a resource. Therefore, they see no value in clothing.
Without value, people do not want to be bothered having to think about dress or improving appearance—for quality, variety, or appropriateness in dress. They see dressing as a headache and shopping only as a chore. The situation will not improve voluntarily. Education is the key to making a difference. Conselle, Tailored Mens Clothing, and Dress Up Thursdays™ are here to help!
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