File Under: At Least it's Not Yoga Pants, I Guess?

Yesterday, one of my students revealed that all semester she had assumed I’m a grad student. She was wondering if I had any final exams to take. Uh, no. So you’re already done with grad school? I’ve been done for a WHILE now, actually.

We laughed it off, like, hey, you just look so young! My secret potion must be working, I cackled. Awkwardness mostly erased.

But it stuck with me in an annoying way, and I found myself having an Imagination Argument this morning as I tidied up the kitchen before work. What is it that makes me seem more student, less faculty? I know I haven’t been dressing very nicely the last month or so — I’m sick of all my clothes and I’ve been wearing jeans more often than usual. The last couple of weeks, it’s been too hot for a blazer. My legs and feet are revolting against heels. All the little tokens of my wardrobe that tend to quietly point toward “professional” rather than “student” are therefore absent. I think I still put myself together in a neat and polished manner, but, you know. I’m not feeling it lately. So is that it? I’m not dressing for the part?

I’d like to think that at as long as there’s a firm line between my typical outfits and the students’ typical outfits (Nike shorts, leggings as pants, oversized tee-shirts, Chacos), I’m doing okay.  And let me take this opportunity to share this post on My Life as a College Professor, my new favorite tumblr:

When a Student Wears Their Pajamas to Class:


I’d rather it be the wardrobe than my teaching style or persona, you know? Wardrobe is easier to fix. But then I thought to myself, surely — SURELY — I demonstrate teaching skills and a base of knowledge that are appropriate for someone who has been teaching on the university level for thirteen years and has a terminal degree in the field. RIGHT? I refuse to imagine that this is the problem.

WELL. I see I have gone on about this subject for far longer than I had intended. Really what I wanted to say was this: Self, dress nicer and stop saying “like.”

Hot weather is here, though, and I just find it so wearying to try to look professional in hot-weather clothes. I don’t have any great summer-weight trousers; blazers and cardigans are almost always too hot (with some exceptions, maybe). Some dresses look okay, others tend to suggest that I’m on my way to a beach party. I can tell the difference, of course, between beach-party dresses and work-appropriate dresses. Maybe I’d rather be headed to the beach, you know? It’s just frustrating. Not a lot of what I have for summer clothing really works well at work. I’m not buying more this summer because I’m on a strict budget — which is also the case EVERY summer, so little about this situation is likely to change.

I also think I’m just tired of dressing up. It’s near the end of the school year and I’ve lost that feeling of fresh newness I had in August, when I wanted to make more of an effort. I was just fantasizing the other day about how I longed to just lounge around in sundresses and shorts and tee shirts for a while. I want to spend all of May and June just being relaxed and casual and even — if I feel like it — a complete slob. I will wear my flip flops every day! No one can stop me! You hear me?!


  1. OMG, I love that Karen Walker gif. Excellent.

    In May, I’m hosting a style challenge that might be a good chance to boost your motivation. Details go up on Monday. 🙂 Sorry to be all self-promote-y, but it seemed like kismet!


  2. What about jewelry? Could you fake “professional and sophisticated” with a strategic deployment of jewelry? Brooches come to mind…but I’m not sure if you’re into brooches!

    I am certain that I will fight that battle for the duration of my (not-really started) teaching career because I am so short. I don’t like wearing heels all the time, so I feel like my only real weapons right now are dressy skirts or trousers and maybe some nerdy glasses? Hmm.


  3. I don’t think the standards for professional get-up in this line of work are quite as clear cut as they would be in other sectors. My first-year linguistics lecturer (an eminent US-import) roamed campus barefoot. Me, I’m constitutionally opposed to buying new clothes, and am currently wearing my late grandfather’s cardigan and my late father’s socks (and, needless to say, a few things in between, none of them exactly corporate 9-to-5 wear). Otoh, I did get mistook for a student by a librarian yesterday, which confusion almost prevented me from being able to remove from the library the dvd I’d reserved for my class. Maybe it’s time to get a beard.


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