30 August 2009

August 30th, 2009 § 30 comments

30 August 2009, originally uploaded by academichic.
All remixed:


I’m back! I’ve spent the last week living out of a car and out of a tent, traveling with my husband and two visiting Austrian friends to some of the many amazing national parks and monuments this country has to offer. While the sights and hikes have been breathtaking, the outfits have definitely been not. Not to mention that I had no access to my laptop, phone, or electricity for the past nine days – bliss.

But now that I’m back, I’m fascinated by the dialogue that started last week just after my departure and I’d like to add my two cents: I too, like A., have only told a few people about this blog of ours (my husband, my parents, and exactly three friends – one here in the US, my Austrian friend I’ve just been traveling with, and one in Romania).

In fact, I was faced with an interesting dilemma towards the end of this past spring semester. An undergraduate student who I’ve come to know well and who was getting ready to begin graduate work this fall confided that she did not know how to dress for graduate school and that she needed help in developing a more professional look. Part of my wanted to yelp, ‘I have just the site for you! I blog about this almost daily!’ I felt like our units on proportions, color, teaching attire and countless others could express to her much more than I could say in a brief half hour conversation. But another – equally persuasive inner voice – hastened to warn me that she was still my student and perhaps would not be too thrilled to find out about her instructor’s style blog. In the end, I did not reveal my ‘secret project’ and probably was not able to answer her questions or provide her with too much help during our brief conversation. Although I do not equate time or attention spent on appearance with diminishing intellectual capabilities, I still feel acutely aware of society’s and fellow academics’ tendencies to do so and wanted to spare myself the potential judgement. Such is my dilemma – I know that the system is flawed and don’t ‘buy into it’, but in true Foucaultian fashion, I also know that I can not exist outside of that system.

On a related note – the question of engagement rings and wedding bands has come up in numerous comments and here is where I stand on that. T. and I opted for a non-diamond engagement ring for numerous reasons, and as a result, most people did not realise that I was engaged when seeing my ring finger. We are so trained to read certain symbols as carrying certain meanings that we often do not even consider the possibilities of alternate meanings or alternate symbols. But I did not choose a non-diamond ring as a way to hide or downplay my marital status in the interview room (and in fact now wear a very conspicuous wedding band inherited from my mother).  While I may not be brave enough yet to freely share this project with others in my professional or personal life, I do not believe that I should ever hide or deny something like my partner or desire to have children from potential employers. I may be likely to downplay my interest in clothes and style, but I am much less inclined to do so with my family and personal priorities and believe that any work place that would not support my having a life outside of academia does not deserve the hard work and commitment I would put into serving that department. S.

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§ 30 Responses to 30 August 2009"

  1. Elena says:

    “…and believe that any work place that would not support my having a life outside of academia does not deserve the hard work and commitment I would put into serving that department.”


  2. Luinae says:

    All three of you are so smart AND stylish, and I feel like it is such a pity you can’t share that side of you in the world of Academia. It makes me sad.

  3. Jane says:

    I feel sorry for your student who missed a great blog but I fully understand your reasons.

  4. penny says:

    Very inspiring post!More or less refers to questions we all have!

  5. Nadine says:

    I think you ladies do a great job at keeping this site exceptionally ‘professional’ (focused on style, avoiding rants etc). I also admire the way you protect your identities. At the same time, I can understand why you might feel a bit dubious about sharing this site with your students, giving them access to things that you might prefer them not to know. It is a real dilemma – and I don’t buy into the ‘fashion is silly’ mindset at all, it’s just that as a teacher you need to maintain some distance.

  6. Clare says:

    I love that you belted the drapey cardigan to make it appear to be part of a dress.

    As for this discussion, I too have only told a small handful of people about my blog. Fashion is supposed to be a frivolous pastime. But, even more than that, I think that my friends and family would think that it was the “internet” side of this hobby that was truly bizarre. They would equate it with internet dating, online role-player games, or binging on celebrity gossip blogs like perez hilton. There have been many times that I’ve wanted to share this passion with people but haven’t, in the fear that they will respond “on the internet? Ok, you take a picture, of yourself, everyday, and post it online so that other people can comment on it.” Sounds silly even when I write it. But it’s by far my favorite hobby.

  7. Lubenica says:

    I think part of changing the stereotype people have about what a ‘serious scholar’ is or looks like is challenging their assumptions and that requires a bit of bravery in terms of allowing the multidimensionality of the self to become known to others, which can be tricky.

    I can understand perfectly well where you’re coming from in trying to protect yourselves as many people may not be ready for your disclosure. However, I agree with Nadine, you are not ranting. Rather, academic backgrounds clearly permeate this blog… your analyses use the foundations of your doctoral work, you use an educational approach (i.e, the modules with the colour wheel) and show quite a divine degree of reflexivity.

    You all probably know how useful it is to have a point of reference to help you feel confident about what you wear, especially if you’re a student going into the labour market (the whole ‘you are an adult now so you must look like one’ idea). I do get female students I supervise asking me whether something would be appropriate for a job interview or a placement and whereas I advocate for sobriety with a touch of funk, they get advice elsewhere to play it safe with the white/light beige blouse and black/navy blue pantsuit combo. I only discovered this blog this year but if I get students asking for advice, I’m positive that I will recommend that they check it out!

    About the ring… I can relate well to the whole ring dilemma. I’ve been married for 6 years and Hub and I don’t wear rings (we’re both quite laid back and even colleagues of mine have asked me whether he is my boyfriend or we’re married). Anyway, happens that I found a cool ring and bought it but only because I liked it. I was wearing it one day I had a lecture and after the lecture ended, a group of students came up to me and said they had not been able to concentrate on anything I had said because they were totally surprised to see a ring on my finger… they wanted to know whether I had gotten married. From that day onwards, I became a bit self-critical of what I wear and realised that students do note things and make assumptions.

  8. Sal says:

    I had never even considered how the blog might reflect on you three as teachers … I’d be willing to bet that many of your students would embrace this other side of you, but totally understand your hesitations. That kind of respect is tricky, and not worth risking once earned.

  9. ShopKim says:

    Ditto’s to both Elena and Sal! It’s almost a shame that you have to think twice about fully representing all sides of you, but if you choose to only pick one than family is certainly the right choice, in my book.

  10. Priscilla says:

    When I was in graduate school and teaching, I was one of the few people who always dressed professionally. It seemed to me the best way to set that boundary of teacher-student (especially since I was only 23, but didn’t look much older than my students), but also to remind myself that I was pursuing a professional goal. I also never apologized for it, even when fellow students thought maybe I was shallow and didn’t belong.

    Your interest in fashion is part of your creativity, and a part of your intelligence. While I also understand wanting to maintain boundaries with current and former students, I also believe as a mentor you probably should have told her about the blog. If nothing else, what your blog displays is how to be a well-rounded person–not just an academic. Plenty of role models exist for being frumpy and serious. Women need to own the fact that they can be stylish and smart at the same time.

  11. Dottie says:

    In law school career services advised that women may want to consider removing rings before law firm interviews. Of course, they were not saying this was right, merely informing us of the reality. I kept my wedding ring on and did not wear my conspicuous engagement ring (which I often don’t wear anyway). Those jobs are very competitive. I got one, but the culture against personal life and lack of women outside the secretary pool contributed to my misery and ultimate departure. You’re right that any work place that would not support life outside work is not worth our time.

  12. Kasmira says:

    I also like the combo of the drapey cardigan and skirt. It looks like some sort of avant garde dress.

  13. Jenny says:

    Just found your blog and absolutely love it! I’m in a grad program now and love the mix of writing tone and practical style. There’s so few fashion sites that also cater to the academic side, so it’s been invaluable to come across this!! Great idea for a blog and I’m looking forward to reading *all* your future posts!

  14. N. says:

    For what it’s worth– as far as I know, many men in academia (humanities) also do not wear wedding rings, despite being married. I have been told it is in solidarity with female colleagues who are often marginalized in the work-place for being married, and with those who have life partners but are not conventionally “married.”

  15. I love the belted drapey cardigan over the dress! I tried something similar last week and enjoyed it.

    Engagement rings are a funny topic. When my time comes, I might prefer a non-diamond as well. A friend and fellow student once told me how she didn’t like the ring concept, but now that she is engaged she is proud to sport her grandmother’s diamond. It’s definitely true that students pick up on such things. In undergrad I always scoped out my professors’ hands, if for nothing else than to see if the cute young ones were single!

    I didn’t realize that wedding bands could put a woman at a disadvantage in an interview. S, I appreciate that you will not compromise your family situation for a job. My roommate had a bad experience once with an advisor who insisted that having children was not compatible with having a career in their field.

  16. Heather says:

    I can’t tell you how valuable the information I’ve found on this site has been to me. As a grad student, my career clothes were slacks and a button-up (which is so not flattering on me) because I didn’t know how else to put together a professional outfit.

    Though I’ve only known about this site for a few weeks it is really helping me overhaul my wardrobe to create a professional style, now that I’m a professor. I’m just starting my teaching career and I look really young so it’s extra important for me to look polished to set me apart from my students. Looking professional also makes me feel more confident which helps calm the pre-class jitters.

    So I wanted to say thanks, I really appreciate the time you and the other women who contribute put into this blog to help style-challenged ladies like me.

  17. admin says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your really great comments and feedback! Your comments are always a great reminder of why we do this project and how much we also benefit from this ongoing dialogue between us and you, the readers!


  18. A.S. says:

    I concur with you about engagement rings– I dislike diamond engagement rings so my now-husband and I looked for rings which offered alternative gemstones. My ring has my birthstone and is made of filigree gold. It’s definitely not conventional ring like you’d see offered by Shane Co. or Tiffany’s, but it’s what’s part of my style and there’s nothing wrong with that!

  19. Sara says:

    Love the pop of purple – it brightens up the whole outfit (and I’m itching for more purple in my closet)!

    I completely understand why you wouldn’t tell your student about this project. It could cross that line of familiarity, is the best way I can articulate it. Even though it’s one of my favorite fashion blogs, I understand why you did that.

    I have loved this ongoing conversation about fashion and fashion blogs. It’s gotten me thinking (and rethinking quite a bit), so I appreciate it.

    I have a little story regarding wedding rings, though. My engagement ring is a family heirloom (his great-grandmother’s) that he got a new stone for. It’s really pretty and unique and has a special meaning. I wore it all the time when we got engaged. Not many people notice it because it’s not a “look at me” ring, even though I find it quite striking.

    Our wedding bands are as simple as simple can be, and I remember when I returned to work from getting married, one of my (female) co-workers said, “Show me your bling!” and grabbed my left hand. The smirk passed over her face momentarily, but I could see it, and it said (though she didn’t), “Why would you get something so plain for a wedding ring when you could have pushed for another ring that sparkled?”

    I remain glad that we chose understated wedding rings because that’s not who I am (or who we are). I wear my engagement ring on special occasions or from time to time, but I always wear my wedding band.

  20. A says:

    Ladies, I have a question for you that I’ve been mulling over myself. If, on the first day of classes, someone blurted out that they read your blog and recognize you, how would you deal with that? Like you say, some students might not be thrilled to find out that their instructor has a fashion blogger alter-ego, but if the situation arose where you were “outed”, as it were, how would you handle it?

  21. Tracy says:

    I just have to say, I found this blog last night and I love it! I just can’t believe how stylish and put together you ladies are! It’s so refreshing to see people wear the same clothes again and again, but in different ways and still look awesome every time.

    I’m fortunate to work in a design department that values dressing fashionably, so I don’t have to worry about appearing shallow if I’m into clothes. However, overall I would say that thrifting and saving money is not popular among these people, and most would be horrified that the outfit they complimented me on was clearance or thrifted. So I tend to keep that information to myself.

    As for the ring, as luck would have it, my boyfriend proposed to me two weeks after I landed this job, so there wasn’t anything they could do about it at that point. But I will say that it is difficult being a woman here, and of about 100 people in this department, 10 are women, and three of those are administrative assistants! So I can totally understand where you’re coming from with trying to subtly disguise your relationship status. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, but sometimes it’s necessary.

    But please keep up your awesome job with this blog. You ladies definitely have style!

  22. Anna says:

    I wrote a pretty massive term paper on the diamond industry, engagement rings, and feminism, in undergrad, and the process left me with a lot of questions and not many answers. I am really glad that I have been able to explore how I feel about engagement rings before I have to make a decision on one, and the conversation on this blog has been really interesting. I really love the idea of using inherited/heirloom/estate jewelry, and was happy to see that other women have gone down that road and were happy with their decisions.

  23. admin says:

    Great comments! Thank you all for sharing your stories!

    @A – ha! Good question! I’ll have to think about that one, so far I’ve just hoped that wouldn’t happen. But it would be good to have a prepared response I suppose. Better than the deer in the headlights look, I’m sure.

    @Anna – There are tons of other options, as some of the above comments from other readers indicate. We chose a deep blue sapphire stone because it is as sturdy and ‘hard’ of a stone as a diamond so it can equally well handle daily wear and abuse. I love the deep blue color set in white gold.
    Additionally, my stone was ‘lab grown’ in Germany so it promotes ethical production of stones rather than mining and the often questionable practices linked to that. The bonus: lab grown rocks are way less expensive too!


  24. Tizzle-T says:

    Lab grown stones are better for the environment too!

  25. Jessica says:

    This is why I love your website – referencing Foucault in a discussion of fashion!

  26. sabrina says:

    I’ve been very lucky in that my grad advisor REALLY thought that all of us needed to get hitched and pop out babies in graduate school, an aggressive push for us to “have it all” just like she did (and women of her generation had it much harder). Our grad program had the most female professors for a top 20 PhD program in our field. We were cocooned in accepting love.
    Now in the real world, I look around and there are VERY FEW tenured female faculty at my work place. While we have generous leave policies, I still hear about junior women who left prior to tenure decisions to focus on family, get a less demanding (publishing wise) job, etc. My friend just started a TT job, and rencently found out that the person she replaced left because of the bias against/lack of support for mothers in the department. Academics remains a masculine place, even in more conventionally “feminine” disciplines like English or Cultural Studies. I didn’t get that when I was in grad school but now it’s very alarming.

  27. Mandy says:

    I haven’t commented on this blog before, but I’ve been reading it for quite awhile. I was a TA at the University of Dayton from 07-09 and I was engaged for the two years that I was there. My students all knew that I was engaged. I’m glad that I told them because it created a personal connection between me and the students. There is a fine line between being their friend and being their teacher, but the students want to connect with you and I found that the more I let them get to know me, the more they respected me.

    It is tricky though. It’s hard to find your own personal style as a teacher. I think it’s going to be an ongoing process for me.

  28. brookeb says:

    I wonder how much this varies by area, as it seems that in mine (social psych) people are almost pushed to have outside interests that involve media and newer technologies (including blogging and being visible on facebook and twitter). It’s a plus if students connect with you in that way, as long as it’s professional.

  29. [...] of our style personalities. As for the wedding ring question…we’ve already put in our two cents when this topic surfaced a while ago, but we would happily reopen this ever present [...]

  30. [...] S. has explained why she’ll keep her ring on when she interviews. [...]

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