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COLUMN: "What are you so dressed up for?" is a loaded question


Every now and then, we look in the mirror and decide to spice up our appearance. 

For some, it could be as small as adding a couple curls to your hair, a bold lipstick, or even throwing on a dress that hasn’t seen the light of day in months or maybe even years. 

It could be a Monday or a Friday. It could be the morning or the evening, but either way, it doesn’t warrant a reason. 

So, often whenever I’ve debated adding a bright lipstick, a taller heel or a vibrantly colored skirt, I’ve found myself wiping the bright color from my lips, slipping into sneakers or changing back into jeans just to avoid a dreaded question that I am tired of answering:

“What are you so dressed up for?” 

Before a compliment or sometimes even a smile, this tends to be the first words that come from a friend or even an acquaintance’s voice when they see someone looking a little more dressed up than usual. 

While I believe there is rarely ill will intended behind these seven words, it frustrates me nonetheless. Why must it be assumed that I’m dressing up for something? Why can’t the first thought ever be that I am simply dressing up for myself?

A similar question that is even worse that commonly comes from the overprotective fathers, the overbearing boyfriends and the teasing friends when one’s dressed in their Sunday best on a random Wednesday afternoon is, “Well, who are you so dressed up for?”

It’s usually asked with a playful inflection, but it’s tired and sheds light on a common idea: the assumption that if you are dressed up, there is a reason or a person you are looking so nice for.

At first glance, it seems like an innocent question, but it’s in fact loaded. There’s an insinuation that if you’re dressed up, you’re trying to impress someone  — that the only reason you’re wearing a little extra makeup or an embellished dress is because you know attention will be drawn to you from your special attire. 

Often times when I respond that I’m dressed up for no reason at all, it follows by a shaking of the shoulders or an empty nod. But I’ve realized it isn’t for no reason. I dress nicely for me. 

I love the liberty of wearing a leather skirt on a Tuesday and a loud vest on Thursday simply because I feel like it. Clothing is empowering. It can be like putting on a cloak of confidence for the day. When something in my closet makes me feel good, that’s why I wear it. Not because of who may be looking.

To those who find the words “What are you so dressed up for?” falling out of their mouth when they notice a friend switching up the usual jeans and a t-shirt, here is a tip. Instead of questioning them, compliment them. 

To the women who look in the mirror and question if they should add a bold lip, a fun pair of glasses or an embroidered jacket in light of the questioning stares, I say wear it and work it.

And when they ask, “Who are you are so dressed up for?”

You can smile and firmly reply, “Me.”

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