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A recent column on manners motivated readers to send me their pet peeves. Therefore, today’s article discusses social skills and appearance that bother you!

People from all walks of life, regardless of money, believe dress codes are a thing of the past. Sloppy looks equal trendy. Where did this need to look unkempt come from? Are people protesting disdain for society or is it based on personal feelings of inadequacy? History versus self-esteem, you decide.

Today, let’s look at history and guidelines for appearance. Next week’s column will cover self-esteem.

Historically, populations have rebelled against class systems defined by dress codes. In the late 13th century, dress, a symbol of wealth, indicated the status of people you were seen with, meaning appearance was a powerful tool to monitor and maintain social hierarchy.

Colors, fabrics and garment length were regulated, by law to ensure people “knew their place.” Restrictive dress codes give dictators power. In China, the color yellow could be worn only by the emperor. Settlers moved there to escape the class structure in Great Britain.

Working to settle this country, they wore anything available, without concern for color or style. As people made millions from railroads and oil, status seekers once again used dress as an indicator of superiority. Dress codes today have taken a nosedive. When this era is reviewed in 100 years, it will be noted we lacked individualism and were easily led by people perceived to have power (actors, musicians, sports figures.)

If appearance plays a role in “who we are,” social trends can manipulate individuals to be “just like everyone else.”

“Class” originally defined lower-, middle- and upper-class income status. In today’s political climate, people are categorized by ethnicity and shared values rather than money.

Countess Luanne of “The Real Housewives of New York” says, “money can’t buy you class.” Appearance, confidence in ourselves, how we communicate and show courtesy through good manners indicates class Countess Luanne is correct, money has nothing to do with being neat, clean and polite.

The saying, “you are what you eat” should change to, “you are how you look.” Appearance broadcasts to the world whether we are happy, healthy and enthusiastic or sad, run down or depressed. Deciding whether to bathe, wear clean and appropriate clothes and care about appearance is a personal decision everyone starts asserting about age three.

If 3 year olds don’t have guidance with appearance, bad habits can be formed for a lifetime. Reflect on these pet peeves, from readers, concerning what your appearance tells the world about you.

1.  Cleanliness comes first! Eliminate greasy, tangled hair, dirty clothes and scruffy beards. Brush your teeth.

2. You have only one chance to make a first impression. It’s difficult to change first opinions. Dress with this in mind.

3. Observe others sense of style and copy the look, unless it’s the Kardashians.

4. Expensive purchases aren’t necessary. Discount shopping is a great way to buy more for less. Always try garments on, check fasteners and purchase only washable clothes that match.

5. Organize and buy clothes around a color scheme to give yourself choices. Brown shoes with a brown purse and cream tops instead of white, always look stylish.

6. Wear clothes that fit. Too big, too little, not a good look for men or women. Slouchy pants and untucked shirts aren’t stylish. Wearing oversized shirts, to hide bulges, doesn’t fool anyone. Purchase clothes that flatter.

7. Don’t wear everything black or camouflage unless you’re hunting or undercover. Colors say something about your personality.

8. Dress for the occasion. Off-the-shoulder tops are for picnics, one-armed dresses and high strapped shoes for evening, tennis shoes and athletic gear for sports, flip-flops for beach wear.

9. Belts and pants belong at your waist, not down around your hips.

10. NEVER show your underwear. Bras, panties and jockey shorts belong UNDER other clothing, not as wardrobe features.

11. Ultra-short skirts, tight, low cut tops, muscle shirts, tell others who you are before you say a word.

12. Respect and pride starts with what you see in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, why should others?

Proper dress isn’t seen on TV or taught in schools and teens reading this might think I’m “out of touch” with reality. Therefore, I need help from experienced members of our community to teach through example each time they leave the house. Always look your best!

Questions, comments, criticisms? Contact Dianne at

Dianne Devoll Hotvedt is a motivational speaker and writer with 50 years in the field of health care. She lives happily in the woods with her husband and various critters.

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