In this difficult economy, budgets have been slashed and worthy charities are struggling to raise funds. People anticipating salary cuts or layoffs are not apt to make donations to the many important causes that exist. Bake sales, wrapping paper sales and the like are not garnering the funds they once did. However, in October, our office participated in Lee National Denim Day and raised over $1,000. This fundraising effort collected $5 from participants who wished to donate money towards breast cancer research, education and support programs. In return, donors wore pink ribbons and jeans to work. Local charitable organizations were encouraged by the success of this fundraiser and realized the benefits of this previously untapped source of funds. This triggered the dress down shake down.
Now, almost every Friday of the month, different local charities ask us to donate $5 to dress down. Please don’t misunderstand; these are deserving causes and $5 is not a lot of money until you start to add it all up. I want to be generous and a team player, but wearing jeans every Friday costs me $20 each month which is over $200 by the end of the year! Very quickly, getting dressed for work on Friday became a monthly expense which was not necessarily tax deductible.
Aside from the financial impact of this new fundraising trend, there was a disturbing fashion-related side effect. Some people loosely interpreted dress down as anything not classified as pajamas. These individuals came to work wearing sweatsuits and ratty jeans more suited for a day cleaning out the garage. On the other end of the fashion spectrum were those who took this opportunity to show off their figures wearing tight jeans that were more suited for an evening walking the streets. Inevitably, there were edicts about what constituted appropriate dress down ensembles.
As the dress down shake down continued and costs mounted, people began sneaking into the office wearing jeans without making a donation. Since we were all dressed in jeans, they blended into the scenery until some math savvy organizers noticed that the number of people donning denim was disproportionate to the amount of money collected. In response to this, they developed an identification system. Now, when making the $5 donation, the donor is given a pin, ribbon or bracelet to wear to identify them as “cleared for casual.” This put an end to the freeloading casual dressers.
In addition to our dress down donation days, we have what I consider “freebie days.” These are days when we are encouraged to wear a certain color to acknowledge a holiday: orange for Halloween, green for St. Patrick’s Day and red, white and blue for patriotic holidays. These days don’t cost us any money and many people participate, which lends to a festive atmosphere. Some people, however, take things a bit too seriously. On the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I carefully selected my patriotic colored ensemble: dark blue jeans, reddish sandals and a shirt that had two shades of red combined with white. Frankly, I thought I looked patriotic, cute and festive. At least I did until I opened my car door in the parking lot at work and was approached by a colleague who said, “Oh, would you like to borrow something red, white and blue to wear today? It looks like you forgot.”
I had very deliberately chosen my outfit to meet the color requirements of the day, yet here I was being questioned with one foot still in my car. I turned to see my colleague festooned in a red, white and blue tie-dyed shirt. The neckline and shoulders were bejeweled with sparkling silver sequins which I can only assume were meant to represent fireworks. Trying not to show my irritation at this fashion assault so early in the day, I carefully restrained my voice and said, “I am wearing red, white and blue,” and detailed the finer points of my ensemble.
Disapprovingly, she looked me up and down and pronounced that the red I had chosen to wear was really more of a cherry red rather than the red on the flag. Was she serious? Were we really at a point where the exact shade of a color was being scrutinized instead leaving the interpretation of that color to the wearer? What happened to individual freedom and expression? I suppose it has gone the way of those bake sales and wrapping paper sales. It has been said that charity begins at home, but, more specifically, it begins in your closet.