Service of Dress Codes

April 10th, 2017

Categories: Dress Code, Fashion, Travel



I’m late to the discussion of whether or not the United Airlines gate agent was right or wrong to refuse two teens’ entrance to a flight because they wore leggings that were considered inappropriate dress. Nevertheless I still wanted to chime in. I wrote about a similar subject last September referencing a radio talk show host’s wish that airline crews would be more assertive in refusing entrance to passengers who were dressed in clothing with offensive messages, in outlandish décolleté and the like.

Regarding leggings, I see people out in public in NYC who shouldn’t be wearing them anywhere but the gym. They are easy to maintain and less expensive than some fashion alternatives which no doubt accounts for their popularity.  But would you wear your bathing suit on the street if you were going to the Y for a swim?

One woman on the subway with an unusually beautiful face and hair had thighs the size of wine casks—I’ve rarely seen such huge limbs–and she proudly wore lycra leggings with no jacket or shirt to cover an inch of them. 



Back to the gate agent: The airline had rules that if you were a “pass rider,” as the evicted teens were, you were subject to a certain dress code because you were given a deep dish discount thanks to your friend or family relationship to an employee.

In this case, I side with the airline: If you accept their gift, they hold the cards. Pay full price and dress as you like.

Children in uniformMy siding with the airlines happens for a lot of reasons. First, I believe in rules: you break them at your own risk. Second, I wore a uniform for grades 1 through 12 and we were told we represent the school when dressed in identifiable clothes. Although it’s impossible to tell who paid what for the ticket they hold, and therefore who represents the airline, United presented a similar argument in designing its regulation.

The good news: With rules like United’s at least a fraction of the travelers will be required to exhibit some kind of respectability. Who wants to be subjected to the repulsive appearance of fellow passengers while confined in the space of a plane? We appreciate our freedoms but people can’t be trusted to use common sense. I can hear a chorus of “Who determines what is and isn’t appropriate anyway?” My response, arrogant though it may sound, “if you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” Do you agree?


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11 Responses to “Service of Dress Codes”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Our thoughts were why should the airline care, no one aboard will know they are the families of employees… as well as maybe it’s their way of not letting people fly free, and take advantage of their Goodwill… Because really, everyone wears leggings now A days.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If I give an event for a client or a celebration or dinner party in my home, I like people to show respect for my client or for me by looking clean and neat at the least. Airlines are running a business. So many of their customers show up looking like the wrath of God–it is downright disrespectful and quite nauseating for the other passengers and for their employees. If this is the excuse they must give to try to control a tiny bit of the situation, let them.

    And just because everyone wears an item of clothing doesn’t mean they should in public or outside the health club or gym!

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    I definitely see your point about dress code’s. At a dinner party. For sure.
    I have my issues with some relatives… In that regard. I also fully understand that just because everyone else does something is not really an excuse to betray your own values…

    As liberal as I think I am, I was a bit puzzled the other day traveling on metro north. Most people were bundled up for a cool rainy day, one woman was sitting with her coat on her bare legs, wearing gym or running clothes, a halter top and short shorts, how she didn’t feel weird was beyond my imagination. The car was air-conditioned and cool! Very strange.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When I lived in North Dakota once it hit 40 after a harsh winter of minus 60 in the wind-chill sometimes, people walked around in shorts. What can I say! Yesterday it was beautiful but not hot yet I saw a young woman walking along First Avenue in a sleeveless/backless top. I was happy to be wearing a light jacket!

    I once worked for an agency with mostly men execs and things like clothing were not important to them. I was asked at the last minute to join them at a three day association meeting in Florida. The day of the client’s “gala” I learned that afternoon that women and men had been asked to dress in black and white. I was mortified to show up in whatever I had brought for the occaision and it wasn’t black and white. I don’t like to stick out in that way [or to ignore a client’s wishes]. So I can’t imagine what kind of ego thing is going on with people such as the young woman you describe: Forget the cold–most people are dressed in a certain way to go to or return from the city. Shorts and halter tops aren’t fitting [pun!].

  5. Judith B Schuster Said:

    You have it nailed. My traveling days are in the past, but on the last few trips I took (on business) I was horrified at what people seemed to think was appropriate dress. If you have to ask, it isn’t appropriate. Even more important, if you get a “free ride,” you need to obey the rules, whatever they are.

  6. hb Said:

    I agree with you on this one. When the evicted kids accepted the “sweetheart” tickets, they agreed to an implied contract to comply with the airline’s policies. However, I think, as used to happen at dress code restaurants, which kept a supply of coats and ties to lend their customers who had forgotten theirs, the airline should have had coveralls on hand to lend the girls for the flight.

    I used to fly all over the world for many years and remember a time, before terrorism concerns took over, when airlines made more of an effort to please. Passengers were better dressed then, but so was everyone else. However, I did find that, as conditions deteriorated, and it was a slow process, the better I dressed the better service I received. Consequently, I always wore a coat and tie when travelling. Now, I wonder if doing that would make any difference.

  7. Amy C Said:

    I find it interesting, and a bit disappointing but not at all surprising, that all the examples here are women. So this woman on the subway “with an unusually beautiful face and hair had thighs the size of wine casks”. Would it make a difference if her face was more homely? What if her thighs were smaller? Are leggings appropriate then? What else can we decide is right or wrong? Am I ok to wear a tank top if I am under the age of 30 but not over the age of 50? Can I wear a miniskirt if I am 60+? What if I have Tina Turner’s legs? Do you see the slippery slope we are all falling down?

    Funny, I too wore uniforms, but I side with the girls. I remember having to wear a skirt because it was “proper”, but the boys could wear pants. Why couldn’t I wear pants too? Isn’t it part of the uniform, so shouldn’t it be ok? Pants made it so much easier for young-me to play, to sit on the ground with other kids, to avoid harassment from boys who would pull up skirts. Yet I couldn’t wear them because of reasons that made no sense. Policing a 10 year old girl’s outfit MAKES NO SENSE.

    Also United is in the news again today, this time for dragging a man by his arms off a plane. This is not an airline I would side with on anything.

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    One should expect fellow travelers to appear in neat and clean attire. If the teens clothing fell within such standards, then the airline was wrong, and if I were the parent, it would hear from both me and my lawyer.

    While travelling, I have seen bizarre dress, and can’t imagine what these officials were thinking, other than giving themselves power over helpless victims. People from all cultures show up when traveling, and to force unnecessary strictures on them smacks of totalitarianism.

    In short, I’ll sit next to anyone as long as they don’t smell. Their choice of apparel is as much my concern as what I wear is theirs.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I never felt that sorry for colleagues who arrived at a destination wearing rags so that they were mortified at having to attend a meeting–even give a presentation–in those clothes if their luggage was lost. Losing luggage is a nightmare but you can take some precautions as losing luggage is nothing new. When I went to Europe a lot, I had comfortable clothes great for long trips that nevertheless looked OK and they were also good on travel days to business meetings just in case.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A 30 something in the tech company that shares space in my office reported that when he travels and wears a clean, ironed long sleeve cotton shirt and nice pants, and not his T shirt daily uniform, he finds that he is better treated. I’m not surprised. It may be subtle but it shows respect for the people who work for a place when customers look neat and put together.

    I’m giggling imagining a bunch of overalls at each gate! Interesting suggestion.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Amy C,

    I envy European women. They have no sense of body-embarrassment. They could be 70 and wear a bikini, flabby skin and hanging breasts be damned. Unfortunately, ever since a certain haircut was popular when I was a kid that was becoming to only one in 15 people who wore it, I’ve been aware of things that don’t look right TO ME.

    So I project myself to that woman in the subway who went to the trouble to put on flawless makeup and had her hair done in a becoming way and wasn’t aware that leggings/tights were not a good choice for her body type. If they are comfortable, wear them at home or in the gym. I dash down the hall of my apartment–12 steps–to the garbage room in leggings without a long top. I’ve not been caught so far.

    I’m as hard on strangers as I am on myself. I wish I could still wear what looked great on me when I was 30, but much would look so shockingly wrong I would squirm. My once sleek arms are no longer so why wear clothes that highlight them? If I were French brought up in France I probably wouldn’t care. [I won’t subject myself to surgery as some women do because I am a chicken.]

    As for focusing only on women, I relate most to them and take personally when one of them appears off. When abroad if an American is loud it similarly stands out to me.

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