25 February 2010 – (No) Sense of Self

February 25th, 2010 § 10 comments

25 February 2010, originally uploaded by academichic.



Yesterday I had a meeting on campus that called for a semi-formal ensemble. It was one of those meetings where you can’t show up in jeans but is still casual enough that a suit would look like overkill. My attempt at semi-formal business ensemble resulted in this pairing of a burgundy sweater with a green cord tulip skirt, gray tights, and burgundy pumps. And, as a last nod to scarf month, I opted for a gold shawl wrapped à la Orchid Grey around my neck.

While a button down or trouser pants might be the more conventional approach to business-casual, I find this skirt and 3/4 sleeve sweater version to be more representative of me and my style as a whole. And since I wanted to feel at ease and confident, I chose something that would let me feel comfortable to the extent that I would not think about my clothes and just focus on my words. And this outfit did just that.

Shoes, originally uploaded by academichic.

Which is a nice lead into A’s question that she posted yesterday: How do we dress differently for different contexts or audiences? In her words: “How do different crowds of people, and your desire to connect with them, influence your style?” I noticed that without even trying, I automatically reached for a more conservative and professional outfit the moment I found myself back on campus and among professors and undergrads, in a subconscious yet undeniable attempt to align myself with the former group over the latter. While abroad and away from campus, I have been experimenting with cut-off shorts, wearing plenty of jeans, and often living in my hoodie. My living situation abroad has me staying with people a few years younger than myself and I find that I’m increasingly dressing as to “fit in” with this younger and trendier crowd. I like how that’s given me the freedom to experiment with new looks and styles and I kept thinking that I would want to bring that style back home with me, but now I’m wondering how well that translation of trends to my more professional persona on campus will work. While I aim to dress according to a personal sense of style and aesthetic, this oscillation between two cultures and lifestyles has shown me just how context-driven and malleable my performance of self is. S.

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§ 10 Responses to 25 February 2010 – (No) Sense of Self"

  1. Sally says:

    I think some sense of dressing to your audience is vital. If you wear something that makes you stand out too much, it distracts from what you might have to say or need to do. Not that blending in is aces, but understanding what will work and what won’t is an important knowledge set.

  2. I think that in a sense, we are all chameleons, subconsciously reaching for whatever will make us blend with our environment. The style-conscious among us may notice the difference more, or may stand out a bit more than your average bear, but I think we are all influenced by context every time we get dressed.

  3. Faux Naïf says:

    i love how you’ve tied your scarf!

    and you’re right, we do adapt ourselves to our surroundings. i often envy people who have very constant styles; who are utterly recognisable and very direct.

    i’m all over the place. i think i have many different selves, each a manifestation of a very specific ‘me’ called forth in a very specific context.

    i think i’d be bored if i had to be just one person.

  4. Those look like colors from the latest Burberry collection. Chic! :)

  5. Christina says:

    I have a scarf question: I recently purchased a short cashmere scarf but I’m not sure how to style it. The length of the scarf is barely enough to wrap around the neck twice. How would you wear it?

  6. Trisha says:

    Welcome back! Agree with Sal’s comment about dressing for your audience if what you want is to draw attention to your words instead of your person. However, I also have different friend groups whose different styles inspire me to change my look frequently — or maybe, more accurately, encourage me to incorporate elements of their look into my look. Sometimes, like Faux Naif, I feel that it keeps me from developing a consistent style of my own, but overall I enjoy the freedom.

  7. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts on dressing for an audience and how we express our identity through our clothes. For half of my adult life I have lived overseas (in Eastern Europe and Asia), where my body type is a little more curvaceous than the most of the locals making it very difficult to shop for new clothes, and mainstream styles are quite different in each of the countries than in the US (ultra-sexy in EE, and little doll-cute in Asia).

    I remember on a trip in Greece a saleswoman refused to sell me a pair of linen pants bc I wanted to buy a pair 2 sizes bigger than she felt I should be wearing (which is to say, “painted on” rather than relaxed and comfortable)! I wished I could have explained they wouldn’t be appropriate in the US… Conversely, after my first year in Korea, when I returned home in the summer, I’d forgotten how much shoulder and cleavage is displayed in the summer, because that is definitely taboo here!

    Even if I can fit in to what they wear, I still stick out by the way I carry myself. I have found that being a token foreigner is actually a blessing in disguise (meaning, no matter what I am wearing, I am still an outsider).

    I wonder if anyone else has ever felt this way while living overseas, too?

  8. Clare says:

    I love the posts that you guys have been doing lately. This is a perfect example of dressing for, or in response to, our environments. And this outfit is pretty damn awesome, too! I love those pumps and the scarf!

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