Connecticut Etiquette: You're Wearing That to Go Eat?!

With it being fashion week and all, we thought it was time to set the record straight for Connecticut:  Dress to impress.
That used to be the only guideline needed when picking out an outfit to wear out to dinner.  For guys, it meant slacks and a nice shirt for dinner.  For ladies, perhaps a dress, skirt, or nice pants and blouse.
But apparently, sweats are the new suits.
That's right, sweat pants.  I went into a fairly fancy regional chair restaurant the other day and saw a couple wearing sweats.  Of course, we get it.  The economy is tough, so restaurants probably don't want to turn away ANY business.  But sweats?  Really? 
Here are some tips from the people at the intersection of fashion and dining.

There's a clear shift in who's wearing what and where.  “The trend of dressing up to eat out has disintegrated in the last two decades," said Richard Rosenthal is owner of the Max’s Restaurant Group.

“The younger generation, for sure, is more casual in general.  People don't necessarily wear ties to work anymore,” he said.

And that’s changing fashion in restaurants.
“Where we used to frown upon jeans, if people look neat and presentable it's kind of common today,” he said.  “Jeans is kind of the uniform of the younger generation.”
Michele O'Reilly has also noticed the change.  She's founder and director of the Connecticut School of Etiquette in Darien.  She received her training from the Emily Post Institute and pointed to these tips on what to wear and when to wear it.
“I think it's keeping up with the times,” she said.  “In general, we're going a little less formal than before.” 

She attributes it to people just wanting to feel relaxed.  “I think people want to be comfortable, and some people think that we're a little stuffy.  It's not comfortable.  [Dressing up] may intimidate some people,” she said.
But as Rosenthal points out, dressing down can actually irritate other people.
“What I do worry about is how their dress affects other customers,” he said.  “If a guest comes in dressed poorly, that tends to irk our older guests.  A 60 or 70-year-old couple dressed up nicely could be offended.”
Yet the reality of it is that in this economy, many restaurants can’t afford to be as picky as they used to be.  As it is, they’re struggling just to get people in the door.
“During slower times, everyone is more lenient and more flexible,” he said.  “I've had strong feelings about dress codes over the years."
"But in 2009, who are we really to tell people how to dress?", asks Rosenthal. 

His exception:  “The last bastion for me would be wearing a hat inside.  We've given it up as a rule, it still kind of rubs me the wrong way.”

With all of that said, I'd like to share a final note.  
I was recently in a grocery store after a long workout at the gym.  I was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt.
I gave a friendly "hello" to the woman behind me.  She looked me up and down with a look of disgust, then actually said to me: "People who wear sweats in public have given up on life."
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