How to Dress for Breakfast
"Dress for the breakfast you want, and the rest of the day—and maybe even your life—will fall into place."
Most people like to use New Year’s resolutions to set lofty goals or break some sort of nagging habit. I’m a realist in the resolution department, though, and generally set the bar fairly low. This year, I set out to step up my pajama game. It was time to ditch the combo of oversized-ex-boyfriend t-shirt and boxer shorts once and for all, mostly in an effort to appear a little more presentable if a news crew were to show up on my doorstep at 6 a.m. What I didn’t anticipate is how much it changed what I ate for breakfast.
I gave little thought to my morning dining ritual before I started more effectively pajama-ing, scarfing down a quick coffee and quasi-stale bagel before getting down to the business of the day. Just like my choice of clothing, what I ate was largely an afterthought.
On January 2nd, though, when I wore a pair of Dick Van Dyke-style striped pajamas to bed, my whole attitude seemed to shift overnight. In the morning, I felt almost possessed with the desire to cook a traditional square meal for breakfast—sausage, scrambled eggs, toast—and pay tribute to just how put together I felt.
A particular cold snap while on a reporting trip found me falling back on a pair of emergency waffle-weave long johns, so it only felt natural to drink hot cocoa for breakfast. I experimented with long, flowing nightgowns with ruffles and high collars—the kind of outfit that almost requires genuflecting. I’d pretend I was a Hollywood starlet from the Golden Age, flitting about on the veranda (read: tiny porch) with a glass of orange juice and a sugar-sprinkled grapefruit. I damn near bought some of those kitten-heeled mules with the tiny puffballs that seemed to be so popular during the era to round out my breakfast look.
Most people I’ve surveyed agree that their choice on early morning couture deeply impacts their meal selection—and how much they’re able to enjoy it. Several friends indicated that they eat with greater abandon on weekend mornings, largely because they’re not hemmed in by the fear of dirtying up work clothes. The choice of a granola bar, trail mix, or something equally safe seems a prerequisite for many weekday office workers who don’t want to wear their breakfasts all day long. Anything that can splatter—while probably more delicious—just isn’t worth the sartorial risk.
Then, there are some outliers. One brave soul said she most frequently consumes her breakfast in a towel, but that the practice impacts the amount she cooks.
“[Wearing] a towel or less means eating cereal. A robe or clothes equals turning on the gas and frying an egg,” she notes. Safety comes first, after all, and there are few things that spell disaster more than mixing bare skin, terrycloth, and a hot skillet full of bacon grease.
Some people really do prefer to bare it all early in the morning, though. A (confirmed bachelor) pal will tell anyone who listens that he drinks a glug of whole milk straight from the carton, in the nude, at the start of every day. I often tease that he’s just a few years away from adopting same ritual as eccentric Mexican silent film star Dolores del Rio, who bathed in a tub filled with milk at sunrise to keep her skin supple.
On the silver screen, you can learn a lot about a character by how they gussy up for breakfast. While outfitting for lunch and dinner typically plays into larger plot points, the morning meal tends to effective set the stage for our perception of a character, including the kind of effort they put into their rolled-out-of-bed look.
One of the most telling scenes in My Cousin Vinny uses clothing to clearly juxtapose Brooklyn-native Vinny and his girlfriend, Mona, against their outpost in a sleepy Alabama town. When Vinny (decked out in leather jacket and gold chain) and Mona (with shoulder pads to her ears and a black-and-white suit) roll into a diner to eat breakfast—and ask the now infamous question, “What is exactly is a grit?”—the stark edginess of their clothing reinforces just how different they are from their slow, smushy, khaki-colored surroundings.
In another early 90s classic, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!, Rick Moranis’ character (a wacky inventor who accidentally develops a shrink ray) wears a grey zip-up hoodie to breakfast that somehow simultaneously screams “nerdy dad” and “irresponsibility.” These personality traits are confirmed moments later when he almost devours his miniature-sized son along with a spoonful of Cheerios.
Perhaps one of the greatest workarounds on breakfast clothing is the bathrobe, which can serve as a kind of disguise for all sorts of otherwise questionable choices in kitchen attire. Wearing a shoddy old concert tank top and some flannel shorts? Pull on a satin robe and you’re totally put together. Want to still feel like you’re in the buff but be presentable for company? Slip on a long, flowing dressing gown and, I guarantee, no one will guess your secret as you butter your crumpet.
As for me, I’ve found a middle ground that makes me happy between Old Hollywood loungewear and the messiness of sweats. Most mornings, you can find me in an oversized cardigan and silky chemise, smearing marmalade on hunk of hastily torn bread. I’d like to think my outfit, and typical breakfast of choice, is a solid balance of order and chaos.
Some people like to advise people to dress for the job they want. My advice? Dress for the breakfast you want, and the rest of the day—and maybe even your life—will fall into place.