When Does Comfort Become Inappropriate?

When Does Comfort Become Inappropriate?

If others are distracted by your clothing or the lack thereof, your professional presence takes a negative hit. ~Deborah King

We live in an increasingly casual society — casual in our dress, behavior, and communication. Additionally, as Americans, we believe that our personal comfort trumps the comfort of everyone else. After all, I have a right to wear what I wear, do what I do, and say what I say. While I may have the right, should I?

I am glad that the strict rules of formal dress and behavior have softened and we are able to enjoy a more casual approach in many settings, but it seems to be a slippery slope. Have we lost sight of what and when something is too casual?

The impact of casualisation is seen in our offices, churches, restaurants and every other public space. Appearance is as varied as people, and behavior can be outright shocking at times. We have all seen the person talking on their phone while checking out at a store. The few moments it would take to focus on the salesperson was not worth setting their phone aside. Those who have experienced this treatment are left feeling invisible.

Recently, a passenger flying on JetBlue was allegedly asked to change clothes before boarding her flight from Boston to Seattle because her shorts were ‘too short.’ What was she wearing that was so inappropriate? A long sleeved sweater, thigh-high socks, and extremely short shorts that to me look more like underwear. You can view the article here.

The comments posted on social media ranged from that’s discrimination, she paid for the flight and can dress as she likes, and she’s not naked – to, it looks like she’s wearing panties, and she should learn how to dress appropriately.

Years have passed since dressing up to fly somewhere was standard practice. With long lines, security checks, and extremely tight seating, formal dress is packed away in a suitcase. Passengers show up wearing everything from pajamas, to sweat pants, to dress slacks with a button down shirt.

Airlines, and most companies, no longer have a written policy outlining what is considered appropriate dress and those that do have such vague descriptions that few understand what is acceptable.

Appropriate dress, behavior, and speech elevate any setting and demonstrates respect for self as well as those encountered.  We don’t live in a bubble called ‘self.’ We live in community with others and how we choose to dress matters.

©2016 What Would Mrs King Do? If you would like to use this article in your newsletter or blog, you may do so. Please include our credit information: Written by Deborah King, What Would Mrs King Do? © Copyright 2016. I would also appreciate it if you would send us a copy for our files to [email protected]. If you would like to learn more about social skills contact Final Touch Finishing School, Inc.


  1. I personally would never where something that ‘outrageous’ on a flight (or anywhere) but for some, that outfit may not have been considered as such, or they simply love ‘outrageous’. I do believe we all know, however, what is standard and customary in our society, and so to do something other than that (such as in the outfit this woman chose for that flight) appears to be something between that person’s desire to stand apart because she wants to be seen as an original, and a person who truly might even disdain the customary and ordinary. Whatever the underlying sentiments, how should one respond is the bigger question. I think the airline, as a business, believed that in order to uphold the ‘rights’ of its other customers, must have believed, at least the pilot did at that time, that the ‘rights’ of others to feel comfortable and to feel that all was…well, ‘ordinary’ trumped the individual’s right of free expression via her attire. Now, context comes into play as well. Had this woman been at a carnival or a boardwalk where one might reasonably expect some unusual displays of fashion, it could be argued that the public’s ‘right’ to feel comfortable has not been infringed upon. But on an airline flight, the airlines goal would seem to be much more along the lines of wishing for their guests to feel that all is well, and…um…’ordinary’ which on a plane thirty thousand feet in the air, it’s a good bet that they would want to feel that way. So, yes, I do see why in this case it was handled thusly. Maybe more places ought to post some degree of a dress code. This way no one can act offended and surprised.

    • We do all have our own style and way that we express ourselves through our dress and mannerisms, but you well note that when we are in a confined space and unable to choose who we sit next to, how I dress and behave no longer is an individual issue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Travis Inman :

    I almost hate going to a hotel breakfast when traveling, because I absolutely detest seeing people appear in the dining room as if they had been in bed 30 seconds before their arrival. So many people walk barefooted, wild haired, pajamas hanging, and sometimes smelling bad, and they push through the breakfast line as if they own the place. Sometimes their pajamas are quite sheer and other may be wearing boxers and a “wife beater” T-shirt. Really?

  3. Kay johnson :

    If the plane ever crashed she would wish she had long pants on. Never wear flip flops or pantyhose on a plane. In case of fire the pantyhose will melt into your skin. The flip flops would melt also and one would not be able to walk. Also flip flops will not help you climb out of a plane

    • This is true, Kay. I didn’t even touch on the issue of safety in case of a problem where you would need to leave the plane quickly. Pantyhose will melt and many don’t realize this. Could it be that you are or were a flight attendant?


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