24 February 2010

February 24th, 2010 § 29 comments

24 February 2010, originally uploaded by academichic.
  • Pink Button Down – J Crew
  • Scarf – Old Navy
  • Navy Skirt – J Crew
  • Tights- BR Outlet
  • Shoes – Anthropologie, via ebay
In our last few days of scarf month I am taking on E.’s challenge to me to do a little pattern mixing, so I have paired this bold hot pink and paisley scarf with my bright pink pinstriped button down.  I like the result of a business silhouette with such bold and daring colors and patters.   I felt professional enough to teach and attend a job-search-committee meeting but I also think I brought a little extra life to both of these activities!
pink pattern on pink pattern!, originally uploaded by academichic.
Now for a digression: This past weekend I took a group of students to an LGBT college leadership conference.  I learned quite a bit and was reminded about many things I had learned long ago and have been excited to talk all about it with E. S. and lots of other people. But, here I want to reflect on how the whole conference experience, particularly the key note speakers and discussions with my students pushed me to think about clothing and self presentation.
While preparing to pack for the weekend I was struggling with what would be appropriate.  E. asked me if I thought I would dress differently for such a specific crowd – LGBT college students.   I think at some point in my life, I likely wold have chosen less “feminine” items and thought more about how I could easily convey lesbian through my appearance. I am now much more comfortable in both my sexuality and my physical appearance than I was back as an undergraduate, so that was not the issue (more on this later). Instead, I was caught up on the word “conference.”
These days conference conjures up some pretty specific attire, but this was not an academic conference and I was not a presenter, yet I did want to be distinguishable as an advisor (not an undergraduate student) and was aware that I might make some professional connections.   I ended up choosing jeans with my wrap cardigan and skinny cords with a button down and was very happy with my choices all weekend.

Since this is getting so  long already, I’ll save my next installment, in which I will suggest we are all dressing in drag, for tomorrow!  In the mean time, I would love to hear for you.  How much do you change your style depending on audience and situation?  I’m not talking about the difference between pencil skirt for the office and jeans for the bar – but rather how do different crowds of people, and your desire to connect with them, influence your style?  A.

24 February 2010, originally uploaded by academichic.

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§ 29 Responses to 24 February 2010"

  1. Thanks for relating your experience with the LGBT conference. I work in student affairs, and I look much younger than I am (late 20′s), so I’m always conscious of dressing to look not like a student. I recently helped launch our college’s first Gay-Straight Alliance, so I also think about looking hip and cool enough as an advisor for the students, but professional enough not to be one.

    I love the print with the stripes by the way. Pink is a good color on you. From far away, you can’t even tell it is striped.

  2. Sally says:

    The pattern on that scarf is just marvelous.

    And such interesting thoughts on your conference experience. Did anyone make comments on your attire, or ask questions? Or did you feel totally accepted and comfortable? I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post, too!

  3. Melissa says:

    I will admit that I think I dress differently depending on the crowd/audience. I often think my wardrobe has many contradictions!

    As an example, when I am hanging out with a bunch of musicians, I am much more apt to wear something I define as “artsy” or even try a new trend because there is such diversity in style (or sometimes lack thereof) that I know it won’t be a focus. However, when I am hanging out with a crowd of business professionals (in a social forum), I tend to stick to more classic pieces or lines or to more popular “trends” that resonate with the group.

    This is not even related to work in which case maybe the differences are more subtle to an observer, but in my mind (and intent), they are definitely there.

  4. JB says:

    Interesting post. Growing up I always wore my “less cool” clothing on the weekends when I wouldn’t be judged like I was at school. As an adult I think that I do still change my attire based on the group of people I am spending my day with. I live in New York City, so I have a fairly neutral/ black wardrobe, however when I visit my family in Ohio I make a extra effort to bring colorful shirts and sweaters. In this case the goal is to make my audience more comfortable.
    Othertimes though I have focused on blending in. My general style is “polished and professional”, but when I went to Cape Cod for vacation I searched high and low through my closets for “preppy” looks.

    This post make me question who I am dressing for and what my true style should be.

  5. Rosalind says:

    Dressing is definitely all about context. But I find it really tricky to pick apart how I dress for certain audiences and why – because I tend to do it subconsciously. Which is why this is such a great post.

    I’ve just got my first lectureship at a university (UK) and I’m finding it difficult because my new colleagues keep mistaking me for a student. Obviously I need to start thinking about what I should be wearing to put across a different message. Which is why I love your blog!

    And this is a particularly great outfit, which really, really suits you.

  6. Miranda says:

    Growing up in prep-school uniforms, I really latched onto the idea of accessories being a medium for showing originality — and on weekend clothes being a place to figure out how those details grew into a larger style.

    Now, I think of all dressing as costume. And I’ve even talked to students about dressing within any gender role as drag — which fascinates them! So I’m so excited to hear A’s take!

  7. spacegeek says:

    I think one should always dress for one’s audience!
    When I have to give performance evaluations, I dress more formally because I need my group members to understand that I’m not just giving “friendly advice” peer to peer.

    When I give presentations on space exploration to high school students (or college or whatever) I dress in my most cool/hip/modern wear but also show some femininity because I try hard to get away from the nerdy white male in lab coat stereotype of a scientist.

    When I am meeting with upper management at my company, I’m almost always the youngest and invariably the only woman in the room of 10+ people. So I dress professionally, modestly and without quirky personalization (colored shoes for example, are one of my favs. But not good in this setting.)

    I think the dressing as costume/drag makes sense.

    Humans like to see themselves reflected in the people around them. I just heard an interesting NPR story on just this fact–people believe the “facts” coming from people who look like them. It is one part of being accepted by a community–you dress like them.

    Okay I’ve gone on long enough. Slow work day. :-)

  8. Athenista says:

    this was like dejavu… i have the blue version of that scarf and i wore it exactly like this with my outfit today!! it was the first time i’d tried the “sneaky knot” and i liked it. but it was a little chilly so i ended up going back to the european loop when i went outside.

    interested in hearing more about the conference!

  9. Athenista says:

    and hmm… about the changing style… i’m not actually sure that i change my style a whole lot but i definitely do polish up a little more when i have a parent conference at school whereas on most days i keep my relaxed aesthetic, even in dress/heel combos. something about parent conferences or professional developments make me want to appear more polished and streamlined… perhaps because so much of the adminstration at my workplace is “old school.” don’t want to push limits *too* far.

  10. harrytimes says:

    I LOVE your scarf and button down combo– I can never figure out how to make scarves and oxfords work, so thanks for this.

    I think that because my 2 main roles– mom and academic– are so different, I don’t dress with a lot of shades of gray. It’s either mom (and not always stylish mom like E) or academic. Although, now that I think about it, my mom clothes have more nuance– preschool drop/off pickup preppy mom v. baby gymnastics class yoga pants mom v. early morning grocery shopping in sweats and diamonds mom. Academic me is always skirts, sweaters, and boots these days.

  11. Joni says:

    Thanks for a fascinating post. I do dress differently when I am teaching vs. when I have a day in the library. I also notice that I try to dress a little more authoritatively this year when I participate in a seminar since I am now a postdoc and not a grad student anymore, although it is more of a reminder to myself to have confidence in my assertions.

  12. Clare says:

    This is such an interesting post. I am definitely affected by who I’ll be around when I plan on what to wear. My newest job is much more liberal and flexible than my previous ones. I’m surrounded by intellectuals, graduate students, and people with their own unique sense of person and style and place. So I’m more comfortable to wear more funky outfits and worry less about fitting to a “business casual” norm.

    I can’t wait to hear about the dressing in drag project!

  13. Ariana says:

    I have a top similar to that but have never thought of pairing it with a skirt! Maybe I’ll try that next time I wear it.

  14. Sara says:

    Thanks for this post. I have been dealing with this issue for a while. I am a psychologist and I have always been aware of how my clothing can give subtle cues about me as a person. When I worked in a student counseling center, I felt comfortable dressing in more trendy styles in order to convey that I was cool and approachable. Unfortunately, in my current job cool and trendy, especially combined with my young appearance, would probably make me seem flakey so I opt for a more polished professional look while still incorporating personal style (belting up high, colored shoes, fun scarves, dangly earrings). I am also careful to dress extremely modestly so that my patients don’t see me as sexually provocative in any way given the nature of our sessions is quite personal and some patients can confuse therapeutic intimacy with romantic/sexual intimacy. Because the setting where I work is also predominantly male, I generally wear pants to work. When I have new individual patients I also generally dress more conservatively than when I’m seeing a patient I know better.

  15. Julia says:

    I have that same scarf in blue/gray – I love it and find it goes with nearly everything! Here’s the last time I wore it.


    Those colors look fantastic on you – the pattern on the scarf works perfectly with the stripes on your shirt.

  16. First, love the scarf and shirt combination. The colors and patterns are so pretty and work so well together.

    I can’t say I do a ton of changing up what I wear depending on where I’m going. The only time that I find I consistently am aware of what I’m wearing is when I go to the kids school. For some reason I feel like I should be more conservative when I go there, but it’s not like I’m all that un-conservative anyway.

  17. Kate B says:

    Oh, that outfit is lovely! The popped collar, the scarf, the patterns, the brown shoes … lovely, I say!

  18. First, love the scarf and blouse pattern mixing. I want to try that!

    Second, I absolutely change my style depending on whom I am with. It’s half drawing inspiration from others and half a desire to fit in. Last year I imitated my housemates’ long tunics and statement jewelry. Now I find myself adopting the dressy wardrobe and ubiquitous scarves of my classmates. Many times this adaptation just requires leaning towards a particular part of my wardrobe,and maybe buying some new accessories.

    For a case study: occasionally I take classes with historic preservation folks, who have a VERY different style from us museum dwellers. My first day they teased me about my old tan cord jacket being too “nice” to wear in the field. I wouldn’t feel like myself in their hiking gear, but sometimes I worry that my skirts make me appear snobbish in their eyes.

  19. Sabrina says:

    Great outfit, first of all. Way to rock the bright pink (a color that I am terrified of).
    As for your question, I dress differently depending on my audience all the time. For teaching, it’s more tailored neutrals with “authority” shoes, most days (sometimes I’m too tired and go with comfy knits). When hanging out around town, I try to be creative. On non-teaching day like when I have a meeting to go to (unless it is with the Dean or Provost), I also dress creatively. As the youngest woman in a department that is very relaxed and quite accepting, I am happy to be wear colored tights, contemporary trends, and to have fun. While most of the faculty members dress more formally in school, I get a fair amount of compliments for my vintage and thrifted items.

  20. This is one of the best I’ve seen you in. That color is great on you and the whole patterns mixing works beautifully.

    As for me, I don’t change so much for audiences especially the US as I think the small variation don’t matter so much here. In Europe it would be another story. I can generalize my outfits as audience neutral. If it is an environment that can accept jeans (or pencil skirt, etc..) I would wear whatever outfit I can put together with jeans, not so much wondering about who would be there. Does that make sense? It’s a bit like going to an IBM meeting with an Apple sometimes (I might have done that, too.), but it works most of the time, LOL!

  21. Kim says:

    Conference always stump me too! When I’m presenting its easy, but the other days…especially when its a multiday affair and I’m only presenting once. I feel then that I need to maintain the ‘professional’ appearance I had as a presenter the whole time.

    I work with k-12 educators and have found that they don’t much care for the “suits” coming in. It doesn’t matter so much what your task is or what PD you provide, the “suit” is a turn off. So I wear separates and feel pretty free to be creative in them, as long its still clear that I’m a professional. So while I’m in my office today I have on wool pants and boots and a denim top with scarf etc, I would probably not do the denim with a group of teachers. Unless it was friday…

  22. kjlangford says:

    I somehow split my time between people a) college students and b) late 20s-mid 30s wives and mothers. and then somehow I also split my time between super creative artsy liberal (speaking more than political) people and people that fall into more traditional, conservative categories (again, more than politics- lifestyle, sensibilities, and personal style)

    So yes, I definitely change my style… college students and artsy people, I wear pretty much whatever I want and I let myself make more daring choices. And I usually get a positive response. The other groups, I’ll be honest I sometimes want to dress “up” more and try new things, but it’s often jeans and sweatpants land (which I totally get, style is not priority for all when you have 2-4 small children at home as a stay-at-home mom) and so I worry that I look too out of place and isolate myself ( which I don’t want to do since I’m already usually the youngest one in these situations) so I have a hard time with that group, because I always try to dress respectfully, but I worry that doing more daring things is gonna get me labeled a certain way… that sounds weird, but if I’m being honest, it’s true.

  23. evanadine says:

    i definitely have a tendency to dress for the crowd i will be interacting with. it’s not so much to impress or be accepted by them, so much as that i really do consider myself an eclectic person. when i spend time with each “type” of group, it gives me more opportunity to that part of myself. if i go to see my friends bands play, i can tap into my rocker chick side. dinner out with the fiance? dress up! when i spend time with the gals, i tend to dress a little more casual, but more on the “feminine” side. i imagine that if i were ever to attend a fashion bloggers meetup, i would spend some time in the closet trying to come up with something fairly cutting edge and interesting…
    none of those looks would be me pretending to be someone else, just me tapping into different elements of myself. thats one of the things i love so much about clothing!

  24. [...] I’ve loved readings everyone’s comments on A.’s post about dressing for different audiences and identity groups. As you can probably tell from my post about dressing to announce a cultural affinity back in [...]

  25. Shawna says:

    I’m so glad you introduced this topic so directly in this post! I obsess about audience-and-professional-context-appropriate attire and agree that clothing choices for conferences seem to require an especially delicate balancing act that depends very much on your role at the conference. When I’m there to support students at an undergraduate conference, I dress as though for teaching. But as you point out, this choice can establish an awkwardly formal distance between myself and students that is felt most acutely during coffee-break discussions.

    When I’m presenting at a conference, well, I’m still working this through. I used to want to present myself as a funky yet professional young academic. This desire resulted in a LOT of black sweaters paired with signature-piece jewellery and dark denim.

    Then I went through a “you want to hire me; just look how professional I am” phase. This translated into blazers and trousers over what I hoped were interesting – but not at all sexy – t-shirts and shells. But seeing other grad students who were trying as hard as I was to present this image made me sad for us. Especially considering the contrast between our attire and the jeans and t-shirts more established academics wear at conferences.

    This is getting way too long, so I’ll stop here. Except to add that I’m trying to work out a new conference look, but I’m not there yet. It needs to appear effortless, though, don’t you think?

  26. I really have nothing to say about dressing up to fit into a crowd mostly because I rarely see people. Just want to say that your pattern mixing is a great success :)

  27. gina says:

    The pink color looks great on you! I love the pattern of the scarf.

  28. Be assured this jewelry trend is growing and worth your investment. Chunky jewelry and bold cuffs defined the Fall 2011 runways of major fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, John Galliano and Yves St. Laurent. Oscar de la Renta’s own Resort 2011 Collection was highlighted on stage with giant floral broaches, disc earrings, cocktail rings, and multi-hued beaded necklaces.

  29. A says:

    I think this is my first time commenting on this site (although I’ve been lurking for months now, i’m a dedicated reader now!). So I should start by saying all of you accomplished women are so fascinating to me. thank you for this blog. I’m in my early twenties recently out of college and excuse the cliche, but I am “searching” on so many levels. The example you all set of professionalism, life-work balance while maintaining a core sense of authenticity…that’s so incredibly valuable to me. Plus your easy prose & cute pictures make it fun!

    But to comment on this dressing in context idea, it’s something that’s been bothering me as I’ve come into my identity as first questioning and then bisexual. I’m mean I’ve struggled with it in other contexts (i.e. not feeling as free to explore my style at home as when I was away at school).
    But as I learned about LGBT culture in college, it annoyed the hell out of me that people (whether male or female) felt the need to dress to communicate their orientation. Or that the metrosexual, overly effeminate gay man/butch lesbian stereotype is applied so often, or taken as a general truth. My ideal in dressing is allowing myself to be drawn to whatever strikes me as beautiful or comfortable…why does my femininity have to be at odds with my attraction to women?

    this comment is already monstrously long so I’ll just say thank you so much A for being yourself and putting that self out there in the blogosphere for people like me!

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