In modern times, audience members aren’t typically required to dress up at most town theaters, or even at some more renowned spots – like those on Broadway in New York, or London’s West End. There may be a few exceptions, such as certain European opera houses or particular events at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, but by and large, theatrical events no longer require dressing up. In past decades, however, it was still appropriate for people to go with full formalwear for a night out taking in a performance. Women would wear fabulous full-length gowns, pearl necklaces, and opera gloves, and men put on their best tuxedos and dress shoes to mark the occasion.
Unless the restaurant is a Michelin-starred hot spot, many people don’t bother getting dressed up, even for a date night. Back in the day though, it wasn’t uncommon for going out to eat to be treated as more of a special occasion – and thus as one demanding a certain degree of class. For men, a dinner date outfit used to consist of smart slacks, a sports coat, and a tie. Women tended to wear a sleek cocktail dress and a nice pair of heels.
Today, house parties are synonymous with solo cups, loud music, and V-neck tee shirts. In eras past, though, a house party was typically a classier event. That’s not to say your parents and grandparents never indulged in a bit of a college-style party in someone’s home, but a house party could also be more of a social occasion at which people took the time to look polished and sophisticated. Think Mad Men‘s Don and Betty Draper heading to a neighbor’s house for a few cocktails and light snacks (and smoking, at that time), and you get the picture.
In the 1950s and ’60s, and to some extent even in later decades, gambling was all about the glitz and glamour. To prepare for a date with Lady Luck, ladies dolled themselves up with fake eyelashes, nude lipstick and showy dresses, and men would go as far as to wear full suits or tuxes. In this case however, the trend toward the casual has perhaps been more understandable. The digitization of casino gaming, from early offshore poker sites, to the modern free slots from Canada and Great Britain, have gotten so many people used to being able to play games from their homes that dressing up to go play them in public seems almost incongruous. Accordingly, people now hit the casinos in jeans and tee shirts.
Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, it was almost mandatory to dress up for Sunday church services. In some cases, women even wore pillbox hats and fur coats. Today though, church clothes are shifting to casual as well. Really, it’s a natural extension of the other examples here – because from a style standpoint, church is functionally a social gathering. And just as we no longer care to dress up for house parties or nights out at restaurants, we don’t class it up for church.
College students can attest that sometimes you have no choice but to show up to your 8am lecture in sweatpants. If you attended university in some previous decades, however, this behavior would have been frowned upon. While it was rare to wear anything actually formal, people made an effort to look presentable before going to class. Granted, plenty still do so today, and different schools have different standards. But it’s generally acceptable to look tired and cozy rather than alert and stylish.