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In this song, Whitney was singing about a man who cheated on her, and how what he did was wrong, but she’s not going to let it define her or hold her down. The phrase can also be used for the attire of many Americans. While it’s not right to dress in tube tops and tiny shorts when visiting a house of worship, restaurant, or other public venue it has become okay to do so.
When many talk of dressing for respect, they mean to receive respect from others. When I write about dressing for respect, I usually mean to show respect. To thank the restaurant for the fabulous food and décor. To show gratitude for being able to enjoy the artists’ work in the museum. To honor another’s religion. To show love to a couple getting married. Yes, in this day and age many museums, cathedrals, theaters, and restaurants have a relaxed dress code, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to push it.
When I speak of modesty, I mean it to show respect and reverence for others. Yes, you can wear denim cutoffs and spaghetti-strap tank this summer as you tour historic locations. Of course you can wear your pajamas on a flight. And sure, you can wear that bright red bodycon mini dress to your cousin’s wedding. Most likely no one will say a thing to you (though you may get some stares and eye rolls). However, what are you saying about the place you are visiting? The people who are hosting the event? The other people who have to share the space and experience with you? Dressing in such a manner is not only disrespectful, but selfish.
I am all for personal style, and I don’t believe everyone should dress as a carbon copy of one another. It is completely possible to maintain your personal style and still dress out of respect for the world around you. You are not an island; what you wear and how you act affect those around you.
If you don’t know, ASK. Google is your friend. Are you taking a trip to Italy? Google what to wear and you will find many a travel expert with tips on what to pack. Attending a wedding at 10am on a Sunday in a backyard garden? There are etiquette experts who know the polite thing to wear no matter the time, day, or style of wedding. You do your homework before buying a home, you do research before purchasing a car, why not do a little homework to know how to dress in a way to show that you care about the world around you and its inhabitants. A skirt to your knee or wearing a top with less cleavage will not kill your style or cause you to have hyperthermia on a summer day, but it will give peace to those around you who care about their business, home, or place of worship. And what a wonderful gift to give someone!