Skip to content

The Lost Art of Dressing Up

Shop mannequins. Photo by Tui Cameron
Shop mannequins. Photo by Tui Cameron

How do you feel about clothing? Is it just something utilitarian, or is it part of your creative expression? Has your attitude towards clothing changed over the years? When was the last time you dressed up for fun?

After reading Jyllian’s post Gekommen um zu bleiben , I decided to blog about a topic I’ve pondered for years: the lost art of dressing up.

As Jyllian puts it:

“I want to wear kitten heels, a bob haircut , flapper dress and carry a small jeweled purse whilst drinking champagne and speaking barbs politely. Sigh. Why isn’t life like this?”

Exactly! Why isn’t life like this? When did American clothing become more utilitarian than fun? (Sometimes it’s even worse than that, as seen on the People of Wal-Mart website!)

One thing I enjoyed about living in Europe is that people there still take time to dress up a bit. As long as people are having fun and it’s not a chore, I’m all for it. It makes people-watching so much more fun.

Of course, anything can be carried to extremes. In his book, The Sweet Life in Paris, pastry chef, David Lebovitz, gives an amusing account of how he could tell that living in Paris was rubbing off on him: after lounging around in sweats all day, he shaved and dressed up to take his garbage out! (If you’re wondering who Lebovitz is, I blogged about a cooking class of his that I attended in this post.)

Years ago, when I lived on a tiny island in the San Juans, I saw photos from Fourth of July celebrations held there during the early 1900’s up to the 1920’s. What struck me about these beachfront clambakes was how decked out everyone was. The women wore dresses and fancy feathered hats, while the men wore snappy suits and hats.

Those parties of yesteryear looked so fun. I keep thinking that I want to organize an elegant picnic, where the guests are dressed in finery from some particular era. Another thing I want to do is have a glamour hike, where everyone wears fancy outfits and takes time to stop along the way to powder their noses and admire each other as well as the scenery.

My fiance enjoys playing dress up, too, which is one reason we’re getting married at a Renaissance Fair this spring. We have had a lot of fun figuring out what to wear over the past several months.

Our honeymoon includes a transatlantic voyage from Texas to Barcelona. We will have a week at sea! Naturally, I’m wondering what to pack, so the other day I Googled “what to pack on a cruise,” and while there were some practical tips, the clothing ideas were pretty dull. Some cruises, including ours, have formal nights when you are expected to dress up for your evening meal. I found quite a few people complaining about that, but I think it will be fun.

In fact, I’ve decided to treat our honeymoon trip like women used to treat trips – like a special occasion. Instead of jeans and T shirts, for instance, I plan to wear comfy dresses that I can dress up or down with costume jewelry.

I toyed with choosing a particular era, but then I realized that the beauty of the 21st century is that I can pick and choose. I can wear a flapper dress one day and a 50’s style halter dress the next. Why not?

While hunting for affordable dresses, I found a website called ChicStar. People submit their own clothing designs to ChicStar, which are voted on. Winning designs are designed and sold online. Isn’t that clever?

Many buyers submit photos of themselves wearing the outfits, too, which I find really helpful. It’s nice to see how the clothing looks on people in their everyday lives. Here is a sailor dress that I am thinking of wearing on our cruise, although I can’t decide which color. Scroll down the page to see cute photos of customers wearing the dress. I love the one where the customer has 40’s style tresses and is waving goodbye to the train.

Since there’s a pool on the cruise ship, I did some hunting and managed to snag a retro style sailor swimsuit on eBay at a fraction of the original $100 price. (I sometimes feel like the price of women’s bathing suits is inversely proportional to the amount of fabric used to make the dang things. Seems like the tinier they are the more they cost.) At any rate, I hope websites like ChicStar continue to thrive, and that more adults rediscover how much fun it is to play dress up.

Tui Snider
Follow me:
Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. I love this post! I used to love to dress up but over the past few years my wardrobe has morphed from retro glamour into a Crayola box- bright, happy colours for t-shirts, tanks and sweaters to layer and mix & match and blue jeans. I don’t remember the last time I wore a dress and that makes me sad. I’ve bookmarked Chicstar and am already hooked!

    Happy A-Zed’ing and congratulations on your guidebook of Texas!

  2. Chicstar sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out. I went on a cruise and I loved dressing up. I like having an excuse to look fabulous. :-)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Heya Chasing Joy,

      Chicstar is fab, fun and affordable! I love their clothes, and I love seeing the photos of actual customers wearing them.


  3. Armando Zomora Armando Zomora

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thanks, Armando. Hope to see you here again. :) ~Tui

  4. Lindalei Lindalei

    I like the way the wedding is set.

  5. omg! What a great great wedding! I did the ren faire in Northern California for years and it is a wonderful wonderful place–they all are. And Scarborough Faire I’ve heard is amazing. And congratulations.

    Thank you for the mention too :-)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Oh, funny, Jyllian I just popped over to your blog to let you know that I mentioned you in a recent post. We must be on the same wavelength!

      How cool that you’ve done Ren fairs before. Scarborough was my first, although I’d always wanted to go to one. ~Tui

  6. I think a part of travelling is dressing up – knowing that you will be seen and see others, to be up on presentation is the essense of dances, salon meetings, even what going for a ride in the park in your carriage was about, to show of the new clothes. I probably spend more time thinking about what to wear each day than anything else on a trip – slave to fashion and proud of it – wear your heels and low back with pride.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Your sense of style is one of the things I enjoy about your blog. I guess it’s just one more way in which your personality shines through. I bet you are bundled up today with all the snow you folks got up in Victoria! (I need to check out your blog.)

      I am picky about shoes, however. I have this revolutionary idea that they should not only look cute, but *gasp* be comfortable to walk in. And by “comfortable to walk in,” I don’t just mean, “comfortable enough to hobble across the room,” but “comfortable enough to walk in all day.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.