Miss Manners on Sunday Best.
"Put on your best clothes and come into the best parlor. If you are on your best behavior, you may have
Can you imagine anything worse?
The concept of Sunday Best, so popular in previous generations, has become distasteful to modern people who pride themselves on stylistic consistency. Those who do still distinguish the Best actually adhere just as much to one standard— by making provision for a Best Occasion that never arrives. Nevertheless, Miss Manners, who is never afraid to take an unpopular stand when it is all for the best, would like to make a plea for the reinstitution of Sunday Best. The opposite of Best, in this instance, is not worst, but Ordinary Everyday.
In the heyday of Sunday Best, Sunday came regularly once a week. There was a sense, as in the stiff but—Miss Manners maintains—not unattractive parlor scene she has described, that one had at one’s command more than one way of living. A version of this remains among those who observe Sunday Worst by slopping around the house on weekends in a manner markedly different from their weekday habits.
Most people nowadays fail to make any distinctions. They dress and act the same any day of the week, usually at the stylistically lowest common denominator. Among the genteel folk known to the people who worship informality as the petite bourgeoisie, there is a Best, but it is always yet to be. People who put slipcovers, doilies, plastic protectors, and cellophane on everything good that they own rarely live to see an occasion so good that all these covers are removed.
Miss Manners thinks that everyone should have two modes of living ever available, just as everyone should have a year-round residence and an opportunity to vacation elsewhere. Regular change is refreshing as well as exciting. If given the choice, she would prefer one to be Ordinary and the other Best, rather than one Ordinary and the other Worst:
Everyday dishes and fine china, good stainless steel and better silver, sensible clothes and fancy ones, and family manners, as opposed to company manners, seem to her excellent combinations. If no one is ever allowed into the living room for fear of spoiling the white upholstery, and the good china is never used so it won’t break, and the party clothes are left in the closet so they won’t get dirty—why, Miss Manners believes, that is worse than the absence of best altogether.
The only excuse for the luxury of maintaining two styles is their continual use. The times to be at one’s best are Sundays; days when company is coming; opening nights at the opera; holidays, both traditional and spontaneous.
Miss Manners does understand that the old custom came to be synonymous with dreariness and deprivation of the imagination. She is therefore willing to allow an alteration for modern times. Wednesday Best."
"From Miss Manners Guide To Excruciatingly Correct Behavior."