- Blazer: Gap, gift from MIL
- Top: Target
- Belt: (in picture below) thrifted
- Ponte pants: Ann Taylor
- Pumps: Madden Girl, via DSW
I think all of you had great thoughts for L. yesterday regarding her colleagues’ responses to her “dressing up.” In preparation for an upcoming series of posts, I’ve been reading a lot of older articles from the Chronicle of Higher Ed regarding academia and sartorial choices. While it seems that many people are willing to admit that it is unfair to equate care for one’s appearance with a lack of intellectual rigor, the actual advice dispensed tends to accept this state of affairs as normative: “Don’t look like you’re trying too hard but don’t look like you didn’t try at all.” Not so helpful.
My favorite quote from a 1998 article on professorial fashion comes from Nell Painter, then-professor of history at Princeton.
“There are prejudices against people who look too Jewish, too working-class, too Italian, too black, or too much of anything different.” She adds, however, that “if you look too WASPish, that’s probably all right.”
All of this has very little to do with my outfit today, except for this one question: are skinny or slim cut pants appropriate for the classroom and/or office?
I love these straight leg black ponte pants from Ann Taylor, but, as I am today, I have tended to wear them only for more casual outfits that I would not consider teaching appropriate. Weirdly, though, I always seem to wear them with a blazer. I’ve been happy to let these pants exist in my casual-but-not-too-casual register of wardrobe-dom, but now that even Ann Taylor is styling “work looks” with skinny black pants, I’m wondering if skinnies are mainstreamed, demystified, desexified, or de-whatevered enough to be considered professional garb?
But did you get what just happened there? For a garment to become “appropriate” for teaching or the office, I implied that it has to achieve some sort of vaguely defined neutral status as not “too anything.” But who is making that judgment? Is there really a “neutral” category for clothes (or how people wear them)?
What do you think? Are skinny pants appropriate office or teaching wear? In what scenarios? If you think they’re okay now, would you have thought that two or three years ago? If you think they’re inappropriate, what are your reasons?
And here I am, thoughtfully contemplating this question: