24 August 2009

August 24th, 2009 § 9 comments

24 August 2009, originally uploaded by academichic.

All remixed again and again.

  • Cream Cardigan – J Crew
  • Teal Tank – BR Outlet
  • Turquoise Necklace – Limited
  • Grey Skirt – Old Navy
  • Brown Wedges – Kenneth Cole Reaction, via DSW
  • Bag – China Town, NYC


As E. said, today was the meet and greet brunch for our department.  For me however, this was followed by a TA meeting, lunch with new graduate students, a workshop on managing stress (I just managed to feel more stressed about my stress) and finally to work a table at the graduate student resource fair.   It’s been a long day – hence the nighttime photo!

I knew I wanted to wear something I would be physically comfortable in all day, but also something that would make me feel confident and most like myself.  Today I was once again asking quite a bit of my outfit,  wanting it to covey my commitment to my studies and teaching, approachability, preparedness, and a sense of fun.

Teal on Teal, originally uploaded by academichic.

As I got dressed this morning and traveled to school, I found myself thinking about all of your great comments on Friday’s post.  Many of you commented that you feel you are always dressing for a number of people and are constantly aware that you are being judged on your appearance, but many of you all expressed that fashion and style can be freeing, empowering, and influential.  While I will continue to think about these ideas, and hope to continue this discussion here, today I did try to remember that ultimately, I am dressing for myself.  However, I do think that by feeling that I looked approachable likely made me exude an approachability to those around me and similarly, by feeling that I looked prepared and committed I was probably more confident in my various meetings.

I was very intrigued by reader N. who claimed that some of her undergraduate professors were “AWARE of their self-presentation and use it as a tool in the classroom (to discuss identity, class, gender, etc. ).”  I love the idea of this and have been thinking quite a bit about how I might put this into practice.  Any ideas on this?

I also loved the idea expressed by reader Krissie about wanting to be “the best, most fully rounded people we can be.” Academia can often be very insular (and isolating) – there is a strange disconnect from the outside world, which I find particularly problematic for the humanities.  I do think my interest in fashion and personal style is one of the many things that makes me a more well rounded individual and thus a better scholar.  This blog is an important creative outlet for me but also a form of field study!

Please keep all your great thoughts coming!  A.

New Shoes!, originally uploaded by academichic.

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§ 9 Responses to 24 August 2009"

  1. Gwen Bell says:

    Sweet, super classy outfit. And those shoes are _smokin’_ hot.

  2. Sal says:

    It’s all so interconnected – how we dress, how we feel, how people perceive us. Difficult to say what is a point of origin and what is an effect, don’t you think?

  3. Dodie says:

    I decided to chime in after reading all of the comments from the other day’s post. I am not an academic and I work in a no-dress code, incredibly low key environment. But personally I enjoy dressing up a bit more, I like the way I feel when I am presentable and put-together. I identify with your struggle with fashion within the GLBT area. People can not look at me and immediately ID my sexual orientation, sometimes I feel guilty about that, sometimes I am harassed for it. Part of me thinks that it would be nice to walk in to a room and have the others know that I belong. But the clothes and style that I gravitate towards don’t lend themselves to that. I’m still trying to strike on a balance and put together a wardrobe that ultimately just feels like me.

  4. Tina says:

    I really like your grey adn teal combo. I might have to copy soon.

  5. ripley says:

    Off&on lurker, first-time commenter I think.

    I really appreciate the mention of “well-roundedness.” I am an ABD grad student, and also a performing artist. I have an active creative/artistic/performing life in a very different world from academia. This in itself is sometimes met with suspicion. Add in to that the fact that my personal style is very informed by the creative world I perform in, and it also throws a monkey wrench in the whole “looking nice” argument.

    It’s not only about “looking good” vs. “looking sloppy,” or caring vs. not caring. My natural style is kind of urban/street/flashy, very informed by the musical scenes that matter to me.

    So I can take a lot of care with my appearance but still be considered inappropriate in certain contexts. Or not inappropriate exactly, but not right, anyhow. I have a really hard time with business casual, for example: when I was a legal secretary it was a complete mystery to me because I didn’t have those kinds of supposed “basics.”

    In academia I have definitely been judged as less serious because I enjoy rocking a playful/tough style of presentation. I also have felt like I should tone it down when teaching undergrads (I definitely have been mistaken for one!), but funnily enough the more confident I got in teaching the less I felt that mattered.

    Part of my mission has been to integrate my academic and artistic self, which is easier because my research is about the branch of the arts I am involved in, but it’s still not in a humanities/cultural studies department which might be more relaxed in some ways. Anyway I appreciate the discussion here.

    Also, it’s only frivolous if there is nothing at stake –and, clearly, the ability to be taken seriously or not is something pretty big at stake!

  6. N. says:

    @ Ripley– I can relate to what you are saying as I also am a ABD grad student who is active in performance. I come from a performance art/theatre background, but I am getting my PhD in English Lit. My background informs my scholarship quite a lot– but it also informs my style of dress.

    @ A: Actually those professor are my colleagues and we all integrate “self-fashioning” into our pedagogy. I have used fashion to talk about sexual-selection in classes on Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” (showing the opening scene from the film “Dangerous Liaisons” and images from GQ and Vogue). But I have also used myself! It’s a dangerous move, so you have to feel pretty confident about yourself. But in a college composition class where we were just starting to discuss the process of description–> analysis —> interpretation –> evaluation, I use myself. I explain to students that we perform this process all the time, automatically, inside of our heads. I turn my back to the class and I tell them just describe how I dress and what I look like. This is about three weeks into the class, so they have a good idea about my style. I tell them that I will not judge what they say… but they should be appropriate. Then, I turn around and ask them interpret these details… Why do I dress this way? What’s my story? Because I often dress in all black, they have some pretty far out ideas. I demonstrate to them that we instinctually analyze, which leads us to interpretation. Retracing their comments, I show them where the analysis lies (the color black represents what to us as a society?, etc.). This is also a good exercise because it allows me to discuss with students how choices (in this case, clothing) reveal persona/agenda. Later, this comes in handy when we analyze political speeches, advertising, etc.

    I have another colleague who teaches an upper-level course on “Divas”– both in African American writing and popular culture. And self-fashioning is a HUGE element of his course.

    So, there are a few examples of how you can incorporate self-fashioning into your classroom. Not sure if it’s applicable to what you teach (not really sure what your field is. Art?). But maybe you can modify!


  7. admin says:

    N. This is awesome – I love it and will definitely be using it in the future! We do almost the same lesson on discrimination/analysis/interpretation of art so this will work perfectly. Thanks for your great comments!


  8. N. says:

    Glad it was helpful! It’s a fun exercise. You can also have them perform the exercise on each other– break them into pairs. I avoid that because I think it might be painful for them, and because, where I teach every student dresses exactly the same way, so there’s not a lot of diverse responses to work with.

    You could also dress a particular way ONE day and ask them to analyze you for THAT DAY… I find that the all black really elicits some interesting ideas: I am in mourning, I am color-blind, one person said it was because I was “clearly from the city” (I teach at what I consider to be a rather rural campus), one student was clever enough to suggest that I am a ninja. One time, a student said it was because I was possibly a lesbian. We had a REALLY interesting conversation about that response: why do we read sexual-preference onto outward appearances? how is clothing and sexuality tied together and why? It was pretty heated. THat is what I mean, though, by saying you’ve got to pretty cool in front of a class. I wanted to say “WHAT??!!!” but you have to sort of just use it as a teaching moment to investigate their thought-processes.

    Btw, I never reveal to them the answer (I like to keep them guessing). However, it’s obvious that I am, in fact, a ninja.


  9. [...] reminded me of the great exercise reader N. uses in the classroom, in which she asks  students to do a visual analysis of her clothing and then followed this with a discussion about interpreting clothing.   I can’t wait to [...]

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