Miss Manners: What do I say when someone tells me I’m too well-dressed?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should I respond when someone comments that I appear too stylish or well-dressed?

This happened at a casual luncheon at a friend’s home. I pointed out that I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. My thought had been that the hostess had put a lot of effort into her luncheon, so my outfit should reflect a bit of effort, too.

The commenter said the wide-leg jeans, linen blazer and suede flats made my outfit too stylish. I was also told I was too dressed up when I wore a white denim skirt, floral blouse, flat sandals and coordinating purse for a restaurant lunch with friends.

It’s not as if I am wearing a ballgown for a hike in the woods, nor am I wearing designer logos and tons of expensive jewelry. I’m only elevating my casualwear a tiny bit.

GENTLE READER: What was your critic wearing that she considered jeans and a T-shirt “too stylish”?

For that matter, what does “too stylish” even mean? Surely she cannot be suggesting that such a long-established, universal, unassuming outfit was indicative of a slavish devotion to the latest fashion industry pronouncements. (And even the fashion industry is aware that this dictation no longer works.)

Perhaps you and Miss Manners are wasting time parsing a rude person’s muddled insult. But there is a lot of that sort of casual unpleasantness going around. To justify their own lack of effort -- whether to look nice or to otherwise make things pleasant -- people will make snarky remarks about the efforts of others.


What should you have said? “Thank you, I’m glad you like it.”

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve had just about enough of a certain action I see at parties: I feel it’s absolutely rude to decline a piece of the cake.

Sorry to all who think “politely declining” is polite. Take a piece of the darn cake and throw it out later if you can’t eat it. If you’re full, dieting, diabetic or even allergic, just graciously accept it and the host will move on happily.

The cake is made with all the guests in mind, and that costs a lot of time and money. And if, like me, there’s no medical reason not to eat it, taste a piece for good luck.

What is your professional opinion?

GENTLE READER: That “No, thank you” is a response that should be respected. Miss Manners suggests you calm down by ending your practice of monitoring what anyone -- other than your own child -- does or does not eat.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family planned a large gathering at my home to take place right after my husband’s funeral. The morning of the funeral, I went to pick up a number of food trays at the local grocery store.

A woman standing at the counter commented about the big party I must be having and how she wished she could come. I responded that it wasn’t what she thought. I walked away and went to the car to cry.

Even if people think their unsolicited comment is well-intentioned, it may be hurtful. I remember this each time a person who believes they are just being friendly and engaging makes a similar “none of their business” comment to me.

GENTLE READER: You showed great restraint in not quietly mentioning what the food was for. Doing so might even have taught someone that, as Miss Manners keeps saying, it is hurtful to make assumptions about others.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to