25 June 2009

June 25th, 2009 § 13 comments

25 June 2009, originally uploaded by academichic.


All remixed except for top.

  • Sleeveless coral sweater: Gap Maternity
  • Gray trousers: Ann Taylor Loft via eBay
  • Gold earrings: Hawaii swap meet
  • Metallic wedges: Target.com

End Notes:

Today A. and I had a meeting to attend with an editor on campus. While it would have certainly been acceptable to show up in one of my frequent all-jersey outfits, I jumped at the opportunity to pull out these favorite trousers and assemble a more business casual look. When I wore these pants for the first time back at the end of March — when my bump was much smaller! — I repeatedly told my husband, “I feel like a person in real clothes.”

And I felt great today, too, wearing a lightweight, sleeveless sweater in a fantastic color, perfect trousers, and a good metallic wedge. The attitude difference surprised me a little and made me wonder if I should make up “meetings” at least once a week until the baby comes just so I can “dress up.”

Between the incredibly hot, humid weather, my lack of on-campus obligations, my plethora of home-improvement and preparation projects, and this little thing called being eight months pregnant, my summer attire has been consistently far more casual than my usual academic-year looks. I think I associate that business-casual level of dress with being intellectually active and working to assert myself as a young scholar, so I suppose it’s little wonder that I felt just a little more sure of myself today. I know that I can be just as smart while wearing a denim skirt and tank top, but maybe I really believe it when I’m feeling a certain degree of put-togetherness.

I know some people feel like the “real” them is the person in jeans and a t-shirt and the “business” them is something they put on each morning. Thanks to all my scholarly readings on subjectivity I know that the notion of a “real me” can be problematic (thanks, Judith Butler!). But I’m curious how you all relate to different levels of dressing up. Do you feel like a certain register of casualness or professionalism or glamor is the most “you.” Do you know why you feel that way?

25 June 2009, originally uploaded by academichic.

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§ 13 Responses to 25 June 2009"

  1. sara says:

    I totally feel like that, I wear suits for work and even after over a year it still feels like playing dress up. The “real” me is the one on the weekend, not in jeans and a tshirt but in a more stylish (not business) outfit.

  2. Diana says:

    You look fantastic! I love that color on you.

  3. Interesting question – the real me is probably not in jeans, though I wear them a bit. The real me would be in a deconstructed longish skirt, a knit top and cardigan if cold. Or a pair of black pants a knit top and a deconstructed jacket.

    The essential part of the real me is a large pendant of some sort.

  4. Maureen says:

    The real me is definitely more casual than the day-to-day work me. That said, I absolutely feel more professional and capable when I’m dressed the part (for work). I have no idea what that means.

  5. Anna says:

    Interesting question – is the real me the day to day me, the clothes I actually wear, or the clothes I wish I had reason to wear?

    As an unemployed May graduate, I have worn nothing but flip flops, jeans and tees for the past four years. Yet the clothes I am always drawn to and would love to wear are more business casual – day dresses with boots, trouser jeans with heels and blouses, cute blazers, etc. These sort of clothes feel like me much more than what I actually wear every day. Given my current situation, perhaps those clothes represent who I would like to be as opposed to who I currently am.

  6. Nic says:

    I’m not sure exactly when I feel the most like “me,” but I’m certain that it isn’t in the clothes I wear to lounge around at home. Retired-from-outside tank tops and athletic shorts from high school don’t really do it for me. I’m also definitely more comfortable in skirts than jeans, even though I like jeans just fine.

  7. midorigreen says:

    When I was a casually dressed student I really looked forward to being able to wear suits. I think I thought that a siot was a status symbol. However when I did wear a suit I found it uncomfortable and dull.

    My current work allows me to dress in a much more casual way and I enjoy it much more than when I had to dress smart. My smart/casual wardrobe is integrated into my entire life. with the exception of a few items (slobby or very short/low cut) what Iwear for work Iwear in the rest of my life. Even when I wear I suit now I wear it with a fitted tshirt rather than a shirt.

    Does this mean I’ve found the ‘real me’? No idea – the real me changes and evolves all the time so I have to remix my wardrobe to reflect that.

  8. teri says:

    good question. i should loook up that writer that you mention too. there is a stoopid (imho) quiz on facebook you can take that “measures” how girly girl are you. i haven’t taken it, but i think i might score pretty high. :)

    however, i think the real me is a chameleon, and I pride myself on that. being hapa is likely a contributing factor to this perception. i can pretty confidently slide into various situations by reading other people closely.

    As a female academician, wife, and mother, i wear lots of hats – literally and metaphorically. :) sure, i like to be casual, but never ever “sloppy.” i err on the side of being overdressed for professional engagements as a rule of thumb. i have felt woman-on-woman cattiness/jealously/”one up man ship” and it can be pretty ugly. why do we do this to each other?

    in a male dominated industry – and maybe those even not male dominated – i feel that when i “dress to the nines” i radiate more confidence,and others perceive me (to a certain degree – you still do need to know your schtuff) as more competent, intellectual, etc. i won’t deny that there is also some level of subconscious/freudian thing going on when males interact with a professional, attractive woman. it’s a double edged, very tricky sword. you can choose to play it or not.

    what i wear has a symbiotic effect – the energy i emit in part because of what I wear is reciprocated in kind – if that makes any sense….

  9. As a stay-at-home mom, I find that the way I dress affects my attitude, so I choose to dress in casual jersey dresses, flats, fun jewelry, and makeup even when we’re just going to the grocery store. It takes as much effort as a t-shirt and jeans (okay, the makeup requires five more minutes), but I feel way more confident interacting with people, and I think I’m taken a little more seriously by the store manager than I would be in sweats.

    The way I dress is definitely a creative expression of my personality and mood, but I’ve also seen that I’m treated with more respect by men and women when I am pulled together than the few times I’ve run out in jeans and a t-shirt (not to knock that look, but I haven’t mastered the right combo on that yet, so I usually look/feel sloppy). It may be as Teri said, just a result of others seeing my confidence and responding, but it’s definitely a very tangible difference.

  10. Sarah L says:

    What a great question! I’ve never felt like my “real self” in a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. A skirt or dress pants, or at least dark jeans with a nice top, make me feel more official, confident, and motivated. How dressy I feel like being varies from day to day, though. I guess how I dress is a reflection of my traditional values, my goals in academia, and the way I was raised. My mom drilled into us as kids that dressing nicely showed respect for others and ourselves.

    I LOVE that all you ladies are feminists who embrace skirts. One of my more feminist friends seems to look down on me because I love such traditional female clothing. I, on the other hand, love how a skirt can make a woman feminine, unique, and even powerful.

  11. Ksenia says:

    interesting point about the skirt, Sarah L. I very strongly identify as a feminist, and I like skirts not for their feminine appeal, but for the comfort factor. I feel much more comfortable in a skirt than I ever feel in pants (and this, of course, makes me feel confident and powerful). Maybe it’s the difference between a pull-on skirt, or a skirt with just one zipper or clasp versus a pair of pants that usually has a zipper, a clasp, and a button. Eh. Skirts are always much easier to fit, as well. They really only have to be fitted to your waist/hips, not to the entire length of your leg.

    Go skirts go!

  12. spacegeek says:

    Interesting question! I always dressed “too old” when I was in my teens and 20′s. Now, at 40, I finally feel like I’m dressing “age appropriate”. And I definitely feel more “me” in my day to day wardrobe rather than my at-home mommy wardrobe.

    I have toddlers, and on weekends, I must eschew accessories that can be tugged off me, ripped from earlobes etc on the weekends. I need 2 hands free to hold hands in parking lots, so I wear messenger bags on weekends, but prefer a satchel or tote for work. I have two totally different wardrobe two days-week, and I can’t imagine integrating the weekday wardrobe of silk, suede, linens/wools, etc into my weekend wardrobe of washables!

    Maybe as my children grow, I’ll be able to become “me again” on weekends. but for now, I understand that I have different aspects of my life, signified by the different uniforms.

  13. sarah says:

    I agree, but I also think we have capacity for change. I never used to feel “myself” when I dressed up nicely to teach – which is odd, considering the wardrobe wasn’t required. Why was I doing it? Why was I so drawn to nice clothes, why did I purchase them if I didn’t naturally go to them to wear them, and if I didn’t feel like “me” in them?

    But after two years of donning these things, and beginning to add cosmetics and blow out/style the hair as it grows longer and longer … well, it’s becoming a self that is comfortably habitable. It happened quite without my notice, in some ways. I remember students asking me if I knew other random individuals on our large (40,000 undergrads!) campus, making the connection simply on the basis of “you both have great style!” A classmate told me that one of the highlights of her twice-weekly jaunt to our dept. for seminar was seeing what patterns, textures, and colours I’d put together for the day.

    I do think that these comments, which let me see myself as the world was seeing me – confident, experimental, enjoying clothing in an expressive way – helped overcome insecurities.

    I don’t know if there’s a “me” these days in one look or another, actually – and I’ll wrap up because this is getting so long! I still don casual clothes for most of the summer, but any tiny event or excuse – drinks with a mentor while we go through photos from a recent trip together – and I’m in heels, skirts, camis and cardis again. And I feel far less-self conscious about mingling these two styles, as well.

    So I think we can change. Who knows? Maybe it’s even possible to lose the associations with one particular style of dress altogether?

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