Democratic Senator John Fetterman arrives for a luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 19, 2023. (Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Editor's Note: Mari Rodríguez Ichaso has been a contributor to Vanidades magazine for several decades. Specialist in fashion, travel, gastronomy, art, architecture and entertainment. Film producer. Style columnist for CNN en Español. The views expressed in this column are solely his own. Read more opinion pieces on cnne.com/opinion
(CNN Spanish) –– Etiquette is a set of rules of behavior. And dressing appropriately – for each time or place – is one of them.
And we are talking about this because a few days ago Senator Chuck Schumer, from the state of New York and leader of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate, decided to establish a more relaxed dress rule for its members. A code of etiquette in which senators can be dressed less formal and more relaxed. And although there was no written rule since Congress was instituted centuries ago – there was always a more formal behavior in the dress of senators, wearing jacket and tie.
And now, for some time, that excessive informality was already happening, because Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, a very tall and burly man, stands out in his super-casual attire. Before being elected, Fetterman had suffered a stroke — and was several months out of the Senate due to treatment for depression. And when he started going he wore hoodies, tracksuits, shorts and was a dissonant figure in the middle of the senators in a suit and tie, and much more formal. And this has been talked about a lot on television and in the press!
And soon other senators, when they returned to the Senate of their respective states, began to do so, also much more informal. And Republican lawmakers began to criticize this so intensely that it has now become almost a political battle.
However, it should be noted that many rules of etiquette are rules that many consider obsolete and outdated and have been broken for a long time!
They are examples of excessive informality that I see every time I go to a Broadway theater, or to the opera, the ballet and even very nice restaurants with great atmosphere. And I'm surprised because people don't dress appropriately! And, for example, at an opera performance there are people dressed in tracksuits and sneakers, as if they were ready to run a marathon! And it happens that being dressed in a cute ensemble and looking elegant, more than once has made me feel out of place!
These rules of behavior are voluntary, true, and of course there is the freedom to do whatever one wants. But I think that everything is being taken to an excess of relaxation and that is when the saying "from the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one step" comes into action ... because that step must be monitored! And you have to consider that everything in life has its time and place.
It should also be noted that, although there are absolutely obsolete, ridiculous and so old rules of etiquette and protocol that are laughable, such as those we observe in many details of the coronation of King Charles III in the United Kingdom, at the same time we must note that an almost total break with the most classic etiquette in our lifestyle is occurring.
This reminds me that times change and often evolve for the better. I remember in the 70s here in New York, when it was still frowned upon for women to wear pants, and in famous restaurants like 21 and La Cote Basque they did not allow women wearing pants to enter. You had to go with dresses! And it happened once to the famous socialite Nan Kempner, who arrived at La Cote Basque with a beautiful tuxedo just designed by Yves Saint Laurent and was told that she could not fit in pants, to which she – she was a very daring woman, I knew her a lot – immediately proceeded to take them off and leave the long jacket as if out of a miniskirt dress! And similar things, our mutual friend Carolina Herrera once told me, happened to Jackie Kennedy, who loved to wear pants! Today those two famous restaurants so strict have closed, because they were so difficult and so snobbish that over the years they ceased to exist!
The label has its pluses and minuses, and there are things that are exaggerated, but I think that, in general, it brings to life a discipline of behavior and a very pleasant visual beauty. Well-dressed people, educated people with good manners when eating at a table, are very nice things that they teach one from childhood in the house, and that when we grow up we realize they are very pleasant. And there's nothing wrong with being well-educated!
Ah, but there is no doubt that, in the twenty-first century, unfortunately, many rules of behavior have fallen out of favor. And new generations (as well as older ones) have decided not to follow them and even make fun of them. And this is a topic that always brings controversy, but it is an interesting subject that we can talk about and share with family and friends.