Western dress codes
In the European tradition, casual is the dress code that emphasizes comfort and personal expression over presentation and uniformity. It includes a very wide variety of costume, so it is perhaps better defined by what it is not than what it is. The following are not considered casual wear:
- Ceremonial dress such as royal robes and full dress military costume
- Formal wear such as white tie and black tie
- Business professional wear such as suits and ties.
Blue jeans and a T-shirt have been described as the "casual uniform". With the popularity of spectator sports in the late 20th century, a good deal of athletic gear has influenced casual wear. Clothing worn for manual labor also falls into casual wear.
While utilitarian costume comes to mind first for casual dress, however, there is also a wide range of flamboyance and theatricality. Punk costume is a striking example. Madonna introduced a great deal of lace, jewelry, and cosmetics into casual wear during the 1980s. More recently, hip hop fashion has played up elaborate jewelry and luxurious materials worn in conjunction with athletic gear and the clothing of manual labor.
Casual wear is typically the dress code in which new forms of gender expression are attempted before being accepted into semi-casual or semi-formal situations. An obvious example is masculine jewelry, which was once considered shocking or titillating even in casual circles, and is now hardly noteworthy in semi-formal situations. Amelia Bloomer introduced trousers (of a sort) for women as a casual alternative to formal hoops and skirts. In a recent mirror image, sarongs and other skirts have been embraced by a few men of the European tradition as a casual alternative to formal trousers. Both of these innovations caused great embarrassment in formal circles.
Skin exposure is most pronounced in casual wear, since it includes all swimwear, but the trend toward female exposure in the 20th century has also pushed the necklines of formal gowns ever lower and the skirts of cocktail dresses ever higher. For men, the exposure of shoulders, thighs, and backs is still limited to casual wear.
Famous quotes containing the word casual:
“O Sorrow, wilt Thou live with me
No casual mistress, but a wife.”
—Alfred Tennyson (18091892)
“The flattering, if arbitrary, label, First Lady of the Theatre, takes its toll. The demands are great, not only in energy but eventually in dramatic focus. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a star to occupy an inch of space without bursting seams, cramping everyone elses style and unbalancing a play. No matter how self-effacing a famous player may be, he makes an entrance as a casual neighbor and the audience interest shifts to the house next door.”
—Helen Hayes (19001993)
“Better to be casual than to be a perfectionist.”