Here’s the thing, internet. I’m new to this dressing professionally thing. A little over two years ago I wore the same yoga pants everyday, rarely showered and was renowned for my morning hair, which often made an appearance in a public forum (seriously, I once ran into a colleague and his wife in the frozen food section and they could not refrain from stealing glances at my lid. I could not refrain from noticing.). I spent most days at my desk, in a mad panic, weeping and eating chips which I had to share with the Vampire Cat and Yelly Kitty. I taught, as an assistant, one day a week and I made a conscious decision on those days not to wear jeans and to assemble something that would command a modicum of respect from my students (with varied results). While I did not dress “professionally” per se, I did manage to cobble together respectable non-denim, non-yoga ensembles once a week.
When I interviewed for the job I have now, I wore a grey-taupe shift dress and blazer from Banana Republic that I could not afford, with grey tights and an excellent pair of pink and purple mary jane wedges. I looked like a nun on outreach (except for the excellent shoes). I wore the suit with the tags on and returned it after the interview (BR should be ashamed of themselves for charging a king’s ransom for an ill-cut blazer; I would have returned it even if I could have afforded to keep it.). What I discovered while desperately seeking interview-wear was that I do not look good in a suit. Something about all one colour on my average frame with my pale (read: pasty) skin and bottle-blonde hair made the suit look like it was inhabited by the invisible woman in lipstick. Not a good look.
So, I think suits are out for me. Even if I could afford them. That said, if I could dress like Veronica on Better Off Ted, I would. If I had Portia de Rossi’s figure and eyebrows and a wardrobe department tailoring adorable lady-suits for me, I would be all over that like some kind of clever simile (I cannot think of a single witty thing to be like). She is brilliant on that show and brilliantly dressed.
In any case, I’m not even certain that a daily suit would be the way to go for this department or for this university, but I find that dressing for work is one more challenge I did not anticipate being as difficult as it is, even laying aside for the moment budgetary constraints and a limited start-up wardrobe. I’ve tried to gauge the formality quotient of the department but it is difficult. One of my colleagues–an excellent scholar–wears jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops daily (even in winter). He is young, handsome, and male and gets away with casual socklessness, I think, because it is part of a persona (or personality?). I guarantee that I could not manage it, and I think it may well be due to my gender but also my own comfort level. Another of my colleagues–also an excellent scholar–is a super-styley dresser. She wears brilliant, edgy outfits: fab scarves, baby doll dresses that somehow do not seem babyish or dollish on her, long skirts (even though she is petite). She does not often wear a suit but she does rock a well-tailored suit (with a waistcoat!) and she also sometimes wears jeans (over-dyed skinnies with kick-ass booties). Another colleague whose dress sense I admire, who is also more petite than I, wears more conservative clothes than Edgy Modernist, but always looks well put together: crisp shirts, tweedy pencil skirts,gorgeous caramel boots. She also wears jeans on occasion, also over-dyed but with a tucked in shirt and usually a cardi. I think I should look to these colleagues, senior to me by about ten years, for inspiration and the tenor of the department/university/students though I’m still working out what my “professional” style is (and my teaching style, for that matter. Right now it’s bordering on goofy if enthusiastic.). So, internet, when I figure out how to work the timer on my camera, I’ll need you to weigh in on my teaching wardrobe, which is under review (as are many things).
Finally, however, I come to the question I’ve been wondering about. I do not teach everyday, though I often go in everyday during the week to work in my office as I’m less inclined to be distracted by cats and chips (and weeping) there. As I have a limited teaching wardrobe, I am loth to blow a teaching outfit just sitting in my office by myself in a mad panic. Nonetheless, I am among my colleagues, at work, so I can’t wear unwashed yoga pants and my grandpa’s plaid shirt (and the morning surprise hair). What do I wear? I can’t wear jeans (I don’t own any that are over-dyed and what I do own are all a little the worse for wear), but is there something less formal than standing-up-and-teaching attire that is still appropriate? What do you wear on non-teaching days on campus? Or at department meetings (many of my colleagues wear jeans to department meetings; I do not.)? The Chair of the department–a very laid-back guy who thinks of me as “one of the younger generation of scholars”–never wears jeans but I have seen him as casual as chinos and a sweatshirt, but still quite put together. I think I should follow his lead and avoid jeans for now. Academic Writer thinks I just need to blow a teaching outfit on these days and shop for more variety. I think she’s probably right a) because she is more savvy than I about these things and b) because shopping is awesome. What do you think, internet?