The Cloth of Sloth

We live in a strange society where the names of clothing matter more than the yardage used to create the garments. We don’t wear “underwear” out in public, not even if it is made of thick cotton and covers most of our torsos, but call something a “swimsuit” and no matter if it barely covers the salient issues, it is acceptable. (Well, maybe not acceptable in church, but depending on where you live, it could be acceptable almost everywhere else.)

If you live in the United States and you wear something called “pajamas,” which used to be the standard of clothing in certain countries and which covers you neck-to-ankle, that is not acceptable. But if you wear tiny shorts and an even tinier crop top, that is acceptable. There are all sorts of wonderful pajamas on the market now that are made of soft cotton and look like jeans and a casual shirt, but if you wear the clothing out in public, that is so not acceptable. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I’ve read where bloggers turn up their nose at those who dare to be comfortable and wear such clothing anywhere but in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

If you wear a “slip,” that is not acceptable, even though many cocktail dresses are created using that same basic pattern. But if you wear skintight clothing that leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, well, that is acceptable to most people, though if you aren’t as thin as a model, you do run the risk of having people look askance at you.

The same double standard goes for footwear. If you wear slippers out in public, even the kind that cover your whole foot, you are considered slovenly, but flip-flops and even bare feet are acceptable.

And worst of all is if you were to wear your bathrobe outside!! Think of it. You’re in a grocery story line and you see someone in a soft fleecy robe belted over clothes, what do you do? You edge away from her, wondering if she is in his right mind. And if she is wearing pajamas beneath the robe, oh, my. How terrible. But why is it terrible? Simply because of the name of the garments.

In “The Time for Bathrobes,” Barbara Holland wrote: “America has never been a nation of bathrobe wearers. If the mailman catches us in our bathrobes, we mumble and blush. It has nothing to do with modesty. It is the shame of being thought inactive. Bathrobe’s the cloth of sloth.”

Little by little, my solitary life is beginning to nudge my consciousness out of its established groove, and ironies such as those I mentioned here seem to stand out in high relief. Perhaps I’m spending too much time in my own head? I’ll be careful, though, and not go to the store in my bathrobe. I wouldn’t want to get arrested for decent exposure.