this is not about the Olive Garden

This weekend Cortney and I went out for a much needed date.

In fact I am pretty sure the last date we went on was for his birthday.  At the beginning of December. So to say this was much needed?  Is really kind of an understatement.


For Christmas two alumi of mine gave Cort and I gift cards to the Olive Garden–one of our favorite chain restaurants–and we figured it’s the weekend before Valentine’s Day, we should go out.

Now considering we were going to the Olive Garden, I didn’t feel the need to put on a dress and strappy sandals and make an appointment to get my hair and nails done, but I did put in extra effort.

I took a shower AND dried my hair with a hairdryer AND curled it.

And for effect?  I stuck a cute flower in my hair.


oh hey!

We both wore our nice, dark wash jeans.  Cort wore a button down that I gave him for Christmas, and I wore a cute sweater from the Gap.

Nothing super fancy, but not my yoga pants.

I figured this is what people do when they go out for dinner to any place that has a hostess and serves wine.

I would be wrong.

People?  I am not saying that you need to wear your Sunday Best to a chain restaurant, but I did think that clean clothing was sort of a given.

Again, I would be wrong.

When we arrived at The Olive Garden, there was a 40-50 minute wait.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  And we were out for the night, so regardless of if we were sitting at a table or sitting in the lobby, we were still playing on our phones enjoying being alone together.

A 40-50 minute wait will give you a lot of people watching opportunities.

For instance, did you know that apparently wearing an old valour sweat suit with worn out patches at the knees and elbows is totally proper attire for dining at The Olive Garden?

Or that it is completely acceptable to wear tights (not leggings, people.  TIGHTS) as pants with a “dress” (um, SHIRT), is so short your cheeks are not covered…to the Olive Garden?

Perhaps you were aware that wearing hats (ball hats, stocking hats, cowboy hats…) are ok to wear INSIDE the Olive Garden…while you eat.

I was clearly ignorant of the fact that I could have come to the Olive Garden in my pajamas…slippers and all…for this dining experience because a couple times Cort had to give the shush and and tell me to get my jaw off the ground and quit staring.

When our little disc light up happily announcing it was our turn to be seated, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Maybe we would be put into a nice little romantic corner.  Away from…the fashion police rejects.

Or we would be eating at that table right there that is within reach of the lobby.

No problem.  I will sit with my back to them.  Cort is more tolerant.  He can stare at that herd.

We decide to sample a Riesling.

I settle into my chair.

Only to observe the table over Cort’s shoulder.

A mom wearing the largest pair of mom-jeans I have ever seen on such a skinny body tucked into the biggest moon boots ever topped with a massively huge Bon Jovi T-shirt.  Across from her was a dad with those dude jeans that are all tight around the ankles, but all “loose fit” everywhere else and a GIANT Red Wings jersey.  And a hat.

Their two kids?  Were totally cute.

I understand just wanting to get out of the house with clothes on.  Especially when you have two itty bitty kids.

But shouldn’t your look reflect where you are?

Or am I a snob?  Is it wrong that I was visually offended at the “going out” clothing people deem acceptable these days?

I mean I GET the “come as you are” at McDonalds or Wal-Mart or even Target.  I’ve been that girl getting groceries in my yoga pants and a hoodie.

But I feel like I’ve seen enough episodes of What Not To Wear to know that you need to dress for the occasion.

Yoga pants for home?  Ok.

But at the Olive Garden?


Or is that joint not as classy as I thought?

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I’m so glad that you got a chance to get a nice night out, we don’t get many chances these days you know! I would never walk into Olive Garden wearing anything less than jeans and a sweater. It’s not super fancy but it’s a place where you just know to leave the tube top at home, you know?

    • that is what I thought too! it’s not super fancy, but come on! sweats?

      and yes…getting out for a date was soooo needed!

  2. Take it from someone who worked at the Olive Garden in college: Yes really.

    It’s not that the OG isn’t classy; it’s just that there are too many buffet-style options at the OG for people of a certain ilk to pass up. As a 19 year old, hoping to earn some extra cash, I saw lots of regular folks, with washed hair and clean clothes. I also regularly watched women in dirty hair band T-shirts file in to snack on unlimited salad, endless bread sticks, seconds of soup and what was left of dignity. When “unlimited pasta bowl” comes around, hide yo kids!

    PS: My brother’s name is Cortney!!! The end.

    • that’s what was left of *my* dignity.
      Sorry, I get so heated talking about the OG!

    • my hubs is GEEKED that your brother’s name is Cortney!!! And even spelled “correctly!””

      And I get your point about the buffet-style food. people like a ton of food for not a ton of money.

      from one ex-waitress to another…I feel your pain.

      Also? since our meal was paid for by the gift cards? we tipped our server almost 50%. again, I was being all judgey about the people I saw in his section, but I wanted him to have a happy in his night.

  3. maybe its because we are southern, or maybe MIL just raised a good guy, but hubs NEVER wears a hat at a table. not even in McDonald’s. its just plain rude.

    • Cort NEVER wears a hat in a public building either! Ever! totally rude! I couldn’t BELIEVE the hats i was seeing!

  4. I’m torn here. Part of me really feels like we should live and let live. Because they may have worn the best of what they had, or it might be some clothing item that brings back a special memory, or they may have low self esteem and feel like they can’t ‘pull off’ anything nicer. There are plenty of days where I can’t be bothered to get out of yoga pants, but I’m training to become a yoga instructor and I do practice yoga daily. But some days I don’t care what other people think about now I look. It’s just a restaurant or a grocery store. It’s not the White House. But…. part of me feels like we should represent the best part of ourselves in how we look. It makes us feel better, and makes others take us more seriously. But then again this is all coming from a make up-fearing, sweatpant loving, hot-mess SAHM… so take me with a grain of salt, ‘kay?

    • I hear what you are saying…but I feel like maybe these were NOT the nicest things these people owned. I don’t know. I get doing that at lunch, but I feel like out for dinner in the evening is different.

      I bust around town in my yoga pants and such all the time during the day…but when I go OUT in the evening? I at LEAST wear jeans and a sweater.

      And there was a new mom (like BRAND new by the looks of the itty bitty baby) and she had on black yoga pants and a cute little sweater. That looked fine to me. It was the people who just didn’t bother.

      I don’t know.

      I guess I am not saying they were necessarily morons or bad people…they just could have put on something a little nicer…or at least removed their hats.

      • Excellent point about it being dinnertime. Lunch is totally different. I always try to look nice when I go out to dinner (but we eat dinner out about once every other month) so it’s easy to get excited. (How lame do I sound? We really do hardly ever eat out!)

  5. No, we usually dress up somewhat nice when going to places like the Olive Garden…like a pretty skirt or nice jeans and a nice looking shirt for me, and jeans and a buttondown for him. There is proper attire for going to nicer (even chain) restaurants. Now, if it is like Quaker Steak and Lube or something we just go in whatever jeans and t-shirts we are wearing at the time…because it is a restaurant with cars and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling.

    • exactly! when we go to red robin? I do not get very dressed up. hoodies are all good there.

      but they don’t have an extensive wine selection either.

      sigh…i felt like maybe I was being too uppity in my reaction.

  6. I believe I will maintain my agoraphobic lifestyle. (That was horrifying!)

  7. I get sorta amazed at what people will wear out in public. I get/wear yoga pants and sweat pants (not at Olive garden, but public in general). Pajama pants and slippers? No. Just no. Not even to Walmart. Seriously. If that makes me snobby, so be it. I’m also not a fan of the items of clothing that don’t really cover anything at all. Although they do make for interesting people watching…

  8. I remember when going to the Red Lobster was a fancy night out and a place we only went as our birthday meals as kids and you dressed like it. The last time I was there I was amazed as you were at Olive Garden. Even though it is not cheap to eat at these places (esp. Red Lobster) I find it interesting how people treat it in their manner of dress like it is.
    Oh well, at least you get some cool people watching out of the deal! I love to do that and your descriptions were great!

    • YES! Red Lobster is another place I encounter this! I always thought if your meal costs over $10, you should be wearing the clothes to reflect that. Even though they are chains, RL and OG are places I was taken to ONLY on special occasions, so we dressed that way!

  9. I’ve always thought Olive Garden was a nice place, I mean the waiters where ties lol so I’ve always dressed up at least a little. I am only 20 and I still don’t understand the whole tights/leggings with a shirt that doesn’t cover your butt. I don’t want to see someones butt like outline and all.. ew.

    • YES! you should never go somewhere and let the wait staff look better than you. That should be a red flag that you are not dressed appropriately!

  10. And that’s why I steer clear of chain restaurants. Or all restaurants. Or maybe it’s the 3 small children keeping me away. Bygones. You are me. I am a huge people watcher and can’t get enough of ogling people who annoy me. Dining out has been on a decline. Or maybe the restaurants that used to be nice when we were younger have declined. Personally I may be comfy in yoga pants, but I feel better when I look nice. And it ain’t that often these days. But yay for a night out!

    • I totally agree! I feel so comfy in my sweats, and I could wear fairly casual clothes to teach in too…but I try to dress for how I want to feel…professional. And when we go out on a date? I want to feel cute. Not sloppy.

  11. I don’t think ppl put much effort into appearance anymore. It’s too bad. Especially since first impressions are so important.

  12. I’m with you – if we’re going somewhere other than Target or Chick-fil-a, I like to at least put in a little effort – like clean jeans & a fresh tshirt.

    In high school, I dated a guy that tried to take me to Outback Steakhouse for our anniversary wearing an old tshirt & jeans. I was like, “Ummm, a little effort, please?” If we’re going to drop $50 on a meal, I’d like to at least look like I have the manners to eat it.

  13. Take it from somebody that has worked at Red Lobster, it’s worse over there. I’ve decided that I like it when people dress that way in public, it’s kinda like watching an episode of Hoarders. No matter what I look like, or what my house looks like, I am reminded it could be worse.

  14. Hah – love the post. Reminds me of going to the post office or DMV. Good people watching indeed!

    Funny we’ve gone to OG when we got a GC a few years back and had a similar experience except we were seated by the crazy family with 15 kids. Kill me now!!

    We’ve learned our lesson and now only go out to local smaller restaurants – definitely not hoity toity but more low key.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • We usually stick to local spots too…probably why I was so surprised…haven’t been to a chain in a LONG time!

      but the people watching? was great!

  15. I’m with you in forever checking out people while waiting anywhere. I love people watching & commenting. Husband sometimes laughs & sometimes says I’m being too judgy.
    My husband’s a baseball hat guy. I’ll admit that he has worn hats out to dinner; no where super nice, but I wouldn’t consider Olive Garden super nice. At least the closest Olive Garden to us is not a super classy establishment so I’d expect people to wear all sorts of strange attire. At least your trip made for a funny blog post!!

    • ha ha! yes! Cort totally said to me “this is going to be a blog post, isn’t it?” Ha! OF COURSE IT IS!!!

  16. I love watching people, and I am AMAZED at what passes for out-in-public clothing anymore! I at least take it up a notch, however small that notch may be, when we eat out.

    The airport last week was a hoot…man, I saw some crazy clothes!

    • oh airports are the BEST for watching people! I’ve only flown twice in my life, but the airport? Oh the people in an airport!!!

  17. I’ve always felt Olive Garden was one of the more “fancy” chain restaurants. For lunch during a weekday, I’d go in my every day jeans and top, but on a weekend night, I’d dress up a bit. Not “fancy” fancy, but nice.
    I would have died in my seat looking at some of those Olive Garden fashion faux pas. So if you’re a snob, I am too.

    • whew! it’s good to know I am not alone. Yes, for lunch? totally just my jeans and a t-shirt. but dinner? that is a date, yo. ya gotta look cute!

  18. I think you should dress appropriately for the restaurant and where you’re located. Take me, I live in FL just a few steps from the beach. It’s perfectly normal to see people in and out of the local sub shop clad in swimsuits. If it were me, I’d at least put on a cute cover-up and flip flops. I also see people at our local Olive Garden wearing shorts and t-shirts, again, location appropriate. But I’d have my jaw dropped at what you saw if it were my location, fo shizzle!

    • Oh I totally get the location thing too…the moon boots I could sort of look past since it IS winter in Michigan (even though I was wearing boots too, but they were cute). but the ball caps and the jerseys’ and the old, stained pants, and the sweat suit, and and and….um…just no.

      it’s good to know I am not the only one out there that is shocked and sad by this. Whew!

  19. TheNextMartha says

    You need to upgrade to Macaroni Grill. No tube top hole in jeans with cheeks hanging out dressing there. Yet.

  20. My rule is that if there are waiters and wine, you need to look like you can afford to tip them. Otherwise, you’re not going to get good service. 🙂

    Besides, other people are coming there to have a kinda-sorta-special night. Affordable, but better than McDonald’s. If I dress like I do when I’m cleaning my toilets, I’m kinda screwing up their ambiance! It’s rude. If you can’t afford decent clothes, perhaps blowing your money on a temporary experience like Olive Garden should be put on hold until you go shopping for something a little more permanent.

    • This is why I love you…because this is EXACTLY what I was trying to say! If the waiters look 10x better than you? There is a problem.

  21. You are definitely not a snob … or maybe I am too. What happened to the days where people wore nice clothes to go out to nice restaurants? My husband and I went on a date to the Keg Steakhouse last Friday. We both wore nice jeans and nice shirts. Not stuff we wear around the house normally (read: yoga pants and comfy stuff) and definitely not work clothes. Nice stuff, but not as you said our “Sunday best”. We couldn’t get over the mass amounts of jeans with holes in them, crappy tee-shirts and yoga pant wearing folks. Wow. We don’t go to McDonalds, but I’m assuming that kind of attire would be completely acceptable for a kid oriented fast food chain. The Keg isn’t a “cheap” restaurant, so I would have expected people to put a little effort into not looking like they just fell out of a Value Village. Oh yes, I’m a snob. Ooops.

    • Hooray! this is EXACTLY what I was trying to say! If the restaurant has a wine offering? You should dress like you know what wine is.

  22. Seriously. This sounds like the time we went to Red Lobster (same family, of course) and there was a family that was eating out with their young children at 9:30pm at night. It’s all about the klassy. Luckily, it’s yummy…but remember when going to Olive Garden with your mom was a big deal and you were all dressed up after church? Yeah….

    • YES! When I was a kid we didn’t even GO to restaurants like the OG with our family…it was an “adult out” restaurant! Too “fancy” for kids as my parents would say.

      Those were the days…

  23. i always thought OG was at least a little nicer. TGIFridays is a little less. but still, when we go out to eat, we wear what we want to reflect. we’ve all done the yoga pant thing at the grocery store, but you’re right… a little thought in what you wear goes a long way.

    • exactly! a place like Red Robin or Branns? I might be wearing a T-shirt and jeans…it’s not as fancy pants. But the OG? they have a wine selection and their food names are in Italian!

  24. I don’t think you’re a snob at all. Some folks just abandoned totally the concept of dressing nicely to leave the house. I don’t mean fancy, and I know you don’t either. I mean unsloppily.

    This is something that plagues me more and more as time passes. I don’t know why. I just can’t stand it that people walk around in, like, pajamas when they go out. I don’t mean yoga pants. I mean animal-print pajama pants. I’ve seen furry slippers, too.

    And I totally understand if people can’t afford nicer clothes, as one of your commenters pointed out. I’m certainly not rich but I live comfortably so I have no room to judge on that. BUT! Don’t you have, like, that one pair of nicer jeans? Or at the very least CLEAN pants? Come on! You’re going out to eat! Doesn’t that mean anything anymore?

    Don’t get me started on the hat thing. I don’t blame them. I blame it on whoever didn’t teach them better than that.

    Can you tell you’ve struck a chord with me?

    • YES! unsloppily! that is EXACTLY what I meant.

      And yes. the print pajama pants with slippers is EXACTLY my point.


      I agree…maybe this is all they have…but then why are they dropping $50 on dinner? Go buy some clean clothes.

      wait…that was mean of me? I can’t help it. This is a chord with me too!

  25. I watch a lot of What Not to Wear – which has given me a healthy fear of how I appear in public. That’s not to say that I still don’t, on occasion, leave the house in yoga pants – but that’s rare, and dependent on where I’m going. For a trip to the Olive Garden like you described, I probably would have dressed similarly to what you did.
    That being said, people need to realize that if they are going to go into a place that serves food and where other people will be dining, they should be clean.. At the very least. Not high-class fashion. Just clean, respectable clothing.

  26. I really think that people have lost all touch with what’s proper and what isn’t. We’ve simply become lazy!

    I mean think about how people dressed in the 50’s…. I don’t even think that sweats were thought of as anything other than gym wear! Seriously… people wore nice clothing, hats, gloves, and actually cared what they looked like.

    Now… it’s just sad what people consider appropriate attire for going on in public in.

    I wouldn’t consider you a snob because I do the exact same thing! Wait.. unless we’re both snobs and in that case so be it because we have enough sense to put on something decent to go out to eat in!

    • If this is being snobby? I am beginning to see I am Ok with that. I would rather be snobby and dressed appropriately!

  27. It’s so funny you posted this using The Olive Garden as an example because I was there Friday night and we had a discussion about how people all have different visions of what’s appropriate for dining out! You have those who always dress up, those with sweatshirts and jeans, and those who ride in rugged straight off the workhorse!

  28. Sorry dear.
    A Red Wings jersey is acceptable in any situation, at any event, any day, anywhere, anytime.
    Bottom line.

  29. Hey, aren’t yoga pants allowed? Black, no logo, you wouldn’t even know. God knows I need the stretch-i-ness!

    Jeans still don’t frickin fit or are so damn tight. Darn kids…I want my old belly back!

    Hats, however, no way!

  30. I don’t think a comment from me is really even necessary. You already know what I’m going to say so don’t even get me started!

  31. What’s an Olive Garden? Do they serve Olives?
    I kid. I kid.
    We don’t have one in our area but the commercials on American T.V that we pirate…don’t tell the authorities…we do actually pay for it…shows that the Olive Garden is somewhat business casual?
    PS. You look fab!

    • thanks, you!

      yes…business casual.

      but clearly no one else gets that memo. YOU get it and you don’t even have one. what is wrong with the people in my area?!?

  32. After working as a waitress at a buffet restaurant during college, nothing surprises me. I agree that the OG isn’t super-fancy, but I’m like you. Nice jeans and a sweater are fine. I have guiltily gone in a t-shirt, but it was clean at least. 🙂

  33. I agree with you. I guess I tend to “overdress” or at least I have been told that a few times.

    A few times when my kids were babies or sick, I remember being sloppily dressed for the pharmacy. THANK GOD for drive through pharmacies now. I wish they had them when my kids were young.

    My mother told me when I was young that you are communicating a message to other people by how you present yourself, dress, hygiene and manners.

    Maybe their message is: I do not respect myself?


    that is all

    • that is exactly what I was taught. and if their message is that they don’t respect themselves? How sad is that?

      I hope to teach my children the same lesson you and I were taught!

  34. OG may be a chain restaurant but is definitely nicer then say Fuddruckers. Especially when ever we leave our bill is over $50. You should dress appropriately for where you are going. My pet peeve is the people that wear jeans and hoodies to Church. My parents would have killed us if we tried that as kids. We were raised that Church is a place of worship and respect. We were taught that you dress nicely when you attend Church. No jeans tshirts or sweatshirts. And no sneakers.

    • I feel like this is part of the problem too…that church is so casual these days. The idea of Sunday Best is almost extinct. We are consistently overdressed-looking when we go to church.

  35. *snort* bwahahahaaaaa… *ahem* wow. I’m apparently overdressing when I go out to a decent/nice restaurant these days… I even try to wear cute shoes… I sure wish someone had told me about the new (lack of) dress code, it would save me a clothes-change if I could go straight from work-clothes to jammies!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie Sluiter and Katie Sluiter, Katie Sluiter. Katie Sluiter said: New Post: this is not about the Olive Garden […]

  2. […] all know how I judged every person in the Olive Garden a couple weeks ago.  And as many of you said in the comments, […]