Trying to Try

Cheers, StyleNation, and welcome to the new academic year! Yes, almost everybody in the Northern (academic) hemisphere is back to class now, except for the lucky few – our own E-Jo, for example – who are excused from teaching and will thus spend the term engrossed in their research.

To be clear, gentle readers, for all my griping about prep and marking, I enjoy my time in the classroom. Generally, my students are great, and I LOVE the stuff I teach. But the balance is off lately, and I dream of months of uninterrupted research coupled with some respite from student demands. With almost 200 students this term and very little in the way of assistance with marking, I must (and will) rally. But I’m eligible for leave next year (hurrah!) and am counting down the days!

Professorial rant (scroll down for outfit post)

In the mean time, I have serious concerns about young feminists/feminism. I have this fantasy that this is only happening in my city, but regular (and VERY annoying) exposure (at conferences) to feminist and/or queer cultural studies suggests otherwise. Here’s the problem as I see it: gender-queer practices are the new (so-called) feminism, and the new (so-called) feminism tends to be anti-historical, intensely preoccupied with (Euro-North American) selfhood/identities, alarmingly elitist, and often misogynist. In short, gender-queer politics, at least in the incarnations in which I witness them, are not feminist at all. Instead, there’s an apparent “need” to eliminate the category of “woman” because it is, apparently, reprehensible and ostensibly irrecuperable. In this context, too, gender-queer’s preoccupation with a representative gender-neutral “personhood” seems to over-value a form of (relatively young) slightly re-fashioned masculinity. Gender-queer politics names this refashioned masculinity “androgyny.”

If this is actually a thing now, then, in my not-so-humble opinion, we’ve got a serious – and very tiresome – problem. For my part, I grow INTENSELY WEARY of the refusal, on the part of gender-queer critics, theorists, and students, to interrogate the assumptions underlying their politics.

How does this politics manifest in the undergraduate women’s studies classroom, the nerdier among you might ask? Currently, I am informed on a semi-regular basis, by 17-to-22-year-old persons with carefully-styled “androgynous” hair and clothing, that gender binaries must be disregarded to the point where any research or activism that acknowledges constructed genders is irrelevant.

How many times do we have to learn that socially constructed ideas have real effects, and that “refusing” to engage with a particular ideology does not, in fact, negate its effects in culture? Why can they not hear when a vast and diverse body of feminist cultural critics and theorists points out that even their gender-queer counter-culture defines itself in relation to mainstream gender ideals (i.e. gender-queer NEEDS normative gender constructions in order to understand what it is not)?

Moreover, I am sick and tired of research examining gender-based cultural belief systems that result, for example, in “women’s” starvation and death, or in infant mortality being disregarded and dismissed because those who wrote up the research failed to problematize the constructed categories of “man” and “woman,” or failed to account for a “woman”‘s personal agency when she “chose” to feed her husband and children before herself.

Here endeth my ranting. For now.

Outfit #1: First day of class

No, it’s not exciting, but I wasn’t excited to start teaching, again:


Cardigan: M.A.K. (gifted from D-Med, remixed); Silk & lycra shell: Le Chateau (new to blog); Black cami: H&M (remixed); Linen trousers: H&M (remixed and redyed); Invisible black flats: MTNY (via Winners, new to blog)

Outfit #2: Teaching Day (today)

It’s chillier today. My classroom this morning was especially cold, so I lectured in this jacket:


Cotton velvet blazer: RW & Co. (gifted from the A-Dubs-Hubs ages ago); Printed polyester tunic: Smart Set (new this season); Black leather belt: Mexx (remixed); Pleated black maxi skirt: Reitmans (end-of-season sales this summer); Trouser socks: Joe Fresh; Pewter faux-snakeskin flats with hardware: David Wilcox for Town Shoes (love these, bought ’em in gold, too)

Then, it warmed up, so I took off the jacket for my second class in the afternoon:

What’s up with you, StyleNation?

Also, am I being crazy about this gender-queer stuff?

End-of-term, Awkwardness, Outfits

Sweet end-of-term, how I’ve anticipated your arrival. With just four classes left, I can sense your presence all around me – in students’ exhausted faces, in the reappearance in class of faces I’ve not seen for weeks, in the ever-lengthening coffee line-ups on campus, in the tense buzz of library study spaces, and in my own tendency to lose time staring vacantly at my computer screen or out my office window. End-of-term, you complete me. 

In just two short weeks, I will once again have great spaces of time in which to tackle my research, and coffee breaks on campus will feature some of my absolute favourite things about exam period: students gamely rushing the season, wearing flip-flops and shorts as soon as the temperature climbs a degree above zero, finding spaces to stretch out or to toss footballs between the remaining muddied-but-melting piles of snow and the still-brown and not-quite-thawed blades of grass. And let’s not forget the re-emergence of colleagues I’ve not seen for months, or the frenzied-but-sorta-fun preparation for all of those conferences it seemed such a good idea to apply to throughout the fall and winter. End-of-term, without you, this job would defeat me. 

In clothing related news, I offer the following:

1. A teaching outfit, worn because both the dress and cardigan are springy & cotton, and because it’s possible to wear shoes, again – if one jumps carefully from one patch of bare concrete to the next, avoiding the frozen puddles, and keeping a damp cloth in one’s office with which to wipe away the splatters.

Cardigan: house brand at The Bay
Dress: H&M
Belt: I forget (remixed)
Tights: Hue
Shoes: Aerosoles (remixed)

2. Next, a more casual outfit worn to chair an evening public panel with a guest lecturer I brought to the city and a faculty member from my institution whom I really hope to work with in future. I had planned to change before the event, but there was so much to do beforehand that I barely made it from campus to pick up the speaker at her hotel on time. So this was it. Panicked or no, I had to chair in jeggings.

Cardigan: Nygard (remixed)
Necklace: mall anchor store
Dress: Chapter One (remixed)
Belt: Mexx (remixed ad nauseum)
Jeggings: impulse purchase by the register (purchased after seeing how awesome Terri’s looked)
Boots: Rieker (remixed)

I also wore this for the painfully awkward dinner with the speakers and a couple of students before the panel. Why are academic dinners so awful? Awkwardness brings out the absolute worst in me; I always feel compelled to break the tension through jokes and silliness. The job market trained me out of these habits, or so I thought. I managed to hold it together this time, but I feel my patience with the strained silences and too-careful small talk waning. But maybe it’s just end-of-term.

How do you tackle the awkwardness, StyleNation? 
What strategies do you employ to keep the small talk flowing – but also to keep said talk from becoming painfully tiny and embarrassing?

Multiples and Remixes

Tuesday eve is such a pleasant time in a term of Tuesday/Thursday teaching. It’s a brief bit of respite in the weekly struggle to balance teaching with research and committee/service responsibilities. And as this week comes into focus, it’s feeling almost as crazy as last, deadline and grant-writing-wise.

Fortunately, I had the weekend away to recharge while visiting the indomitable, sharp-witted, and ever-so-stylish janey_em, of It’s So Involved Being Me. It was high time for us to reconvene, as we have once or twice a year for the last near-decade of friendship. It was also high time for an Em/Dubs shopping excursion, but more on that later (in another post).

For now, rejoice with me that the ever-profesh Ms. Em has agreed to do an IPF Guest Lecture on suit styling. And as soon as I get the following photos off my camera, we’ll get Ms. Em’s lecture up and running.

Let’s get these cleared away, then, shall we?

1. I taught in this last week. It’s meant to be the winter version of an earlier ensemble, but the warmer weather version worked better, I think. In fact, I’m only posting this because of how thin the camera angle – in concert with some strategic body contortion – is making me look. (Seriously. It’s like I’m a paper cutout. This is NOT an accurate image of anything except photo-magic.)

Everything’s the same as this outfit, except for the following:

Cuff: from cousin’s store
Poly-knit skirt: Nine West
Boots: Browns

I don’t love this look with the boots, in particular. But I have to teach in winter boots as my classroom’s a 15-minute trek away from my office and It. Is. Snowy. Here. Later, I switched out the boots for these black shoes; but really, the damage was already done.

2. I got talked into this weirdness by janey_em and an attentive sales associate. There’s a very good chance I’m either not cool enough, or not granola enough to wear this skirt/skort thingy. I gave it a go yesterday; but not for teaching. Perhaps never for teaching.

(FYI, this is an action shot. As in, my head is moving. That’s why my neck looks weirdly oily, or wet, or whatever. I’m neither a talented photographer nor a patient photographic subject.)

Top: Anne Klein (remixed)
Belt: Mexx (remixed ad nauseum)
Skirt/skort thingy: Melow par Melissa Bolduc (hurrah for a Canadian designer!)
Trouser socks: Calvin Klein (via Winners)
Shoes: Clarks Artisan (remixed)

Your thoughts, StyleNation? Weird win? Also, I could use some styling ideas. After this look, I’m kind of done.

3. Yes, it’s this skirt and cardi, again. This time with a t-shirt, purple belt, and black on the bottom. First, I wore it with the despised hegemony boots:

Everything’s the same as the birthday suit, except for the following:

Embellished T: Joe Fresh
Patent leather belt: Buffalo (via Winners)
Tights: Hue
Hegemony boots: Feet First (remixed)

Then, when I got back from the teaching trek, I switched into these boingy shoes, which were stored on the rack under my desk:

Shoes: Moda (remixed)

These shoes, with their increasingly elastic slingback, are excellent items in which to sit down. Or to walk across expanses of bare floor (but not stairs). Probably it’s time to replace them.

‘Suggestions, StyleNation, for comfortable,
 slightly platformed black winter shoe-staples? 

No Repeats: Hitting the High Points

So, I punked out of No Repeats. In fact, after this post, I pretty much fell into a fashion black hole filled with yoga pants, pyjamas, and before-bed showers (i.e. massive daytime bedhead). This happened in part because for three days of the holidays, I had a bedroom next door to my six-year-old niece who got all up in my business from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. My niece may be awesome, but I am an old, grumpy, academic who takes ages to recover from such intense “quality time.”

In addition, my Fuzzy Roommate was gone for a month, staying with the Hubs’s family in Ontario as we couldn’t find anyone to care for him for the four days both the A-Dubs-Hubs and I were travelling, and because the airlines have a stupid month-long black-out period during which you cannot fly animals because they need the cargo space for all the holiday travellers. In short, I was bagged, the university was closed, and there was no awesome dog here to make me go outside.

Explanatory blah-blahs aside, I’ve begun to dress, again, so I have things to share. Here they are – and for what it’s worth, I’m not repeating until Anne, Rad, & Cynthia say I can.

1. I wore this out for dinner and then to a par-tay on New Year’s Eve. Well, this, plus a black cardigan and some hose, because it’s approximately a zillion below zero here. I bought the skirt for a song with D-Med in England in 2007, but this is the first time I’ve worn it. (I know.)

Top: H&M
Skirt: (I cut the tag out. I have enough itchy to deal with in the cheap lace and polyester. There’s no tolerance left for tags.)
Boots: The Bay (ages ago)

As you can perhaps tell, especially around the flounce in the rearview, this skirt is made of cheap, scratchy materials. But it seemed Vivienne Westwood-ish at the time, and I couldn’t afford the real Westwood. Plus, D-Med had this Westwood-y skirt (see the brown wooly tights pic), and I wanted to be all style-y, too.

Cardigan: Kenzie (remixed)

2.  The next time I actually got dressed (in a good way) was my first day of teaching this term, when I wore this:

Dress: Chapter One (via Winners)
Cardigan: (via Winners, remixed)
Belt: Mexx (remixed)
Tights: Hue (via Winniers)
Necklace: mall anchor store (remixed)
Boots: Rieker (via Shoe Heaven, gifted from my sis-in-law, a.k.a. Designer Shoe Whore)

Something about this pose, the boots, and the draped layers is making me think of Katie over at Interrobangs Anonymous. ‘Too bad I’m not even close to being as ridiculously photogenic as Katie. Because maybe then I’d be tempted to put my face in a shot or two.

In other news, here’s what the dress looks like on its own. Also, here’s what the belt looks like without a cardigan to hide that it’s a bit loose over this thin dress:

Look at all that greenery around me. It’s almost like I live in the tropics, no?

p.s. Welcome to the gun show.

3.  And finally, here’s my birthday suit. Or, what I wore out for my birthday dinner with the Hubs last night. Mostly, I was going for non-teachy, even though my wardrobe is heavy on the teachy stuff, and much lighter than I want it to be on the sultry/sexy pieces.

Sequined tunic: Forever Fashion (via Winners, remixed)
Cardigan: (via Winners, remixed from the necklace/blue tights day linked above)
Belt: Mexx
Skirt: Mexx
Tights: Hue
Boots: as above (awesome, aren’t they? And lined for winter, too. This is very important as I have to hike across campus to teach this term.)

You can see the sequins a bit better in this shot. Also, how awesome is that light glinting off my decolletage? It’s like I’m all dewy, or whatever. You know, instead of merely shitfaced tipsy from all the delicious wine at dinner and trying desperately to create a waist through posing alone.

That’s all I’ve got, StyleNation.
What up with you these crappy January days?
Also, what designer-ish duds do you own? Do you regret buying the knock-offs instead of the real things? 
Or are the “ish” things working for you? 

No Repeats: Long Skirts/Wardrobe Orphans

Welcome Style Nation, to our next challenge. Well, it’s Be Fabulous Daily and The Cohabiting Closet‘s No Repeats challenge, and I am giving it a go. Thus far, the challenge has been a sweet bit of respite in a week of paper-and-exam-marking hell.

Today, I offer ensembles styled around long casual(ish) skirts, items I’ve not worn since the very early years of this millenium.

Orphan #1
I saw this Bebe jean skirt in fall Vogue in 2005 or 2006. (‘Strange, no? How often do Bebe items appear in Vogue?)  If finally became mine when D-Med, Kelly Bean, Rinty the Crusher, and I shopped in Vegas the following winter. And I’ve been struggling to style the ridiculous thing ever since.

As it turns out, a low-slung, super-long, curve-creating denim skirt is a weirder item to work with than I ever could have anticipated. Re-watching Season 6 of Buffy has helped. As have the examples of Sal, of Already Pretty, V, of Grit & Glamour, and Sheila, of Ephemera. Here’s what I came up with yesterday, outfit-wise:

Acrylic wrap sweater: Smart Set (old)
Black tank: H&M
Necklace: gifted (remixed)
Skirt: Bebe (via Vegas, Baby)
Invisible boots: Browns

~ This is why I don’t teach in this baby. You know, in case I need another reason in addition to its denimness.

Ha! ‘Awkward mannequin pose much? ~

Orphan #2
I thrifted this skirt in 2002 way out by D-Med’s stomping grounds in IPF East. I’d firmly established it as a winter item before I realized that the pattern is made up of tropical flowers. But whatever: they have winter in the tropics. Because of the floral pattern, it’s fun to wear with bada$$ boots and a lot of black.

Cotton jersey top: Max Azria (via Winners)
Belt: Mexx (remixed)
Polyester skirt: thrifted (VV at IPF East)
Boots: Fluevog (old, I forget what style; also, they’re no longer on the website)

~ Mid-breakfast pose. I never sit to eat breakfast on work days. Also, probably you are excited that I’m introducing a new prop.

And this is one of the reasons why I don’t wear this skirt very often. According to training my mother received in school (Seriously. In high school.) that she passed on to me during my childhood, one should take shorter steps when walking in a skirt. I’ve decided that this is stupid – why should I be hobbled in any way by my clothing? Plus, I’m always in a hurry; big strides get me there faster. But not in this skirt:

I’m tempted to shorten this skirt. But I tend to think of the giant pattern as a reason to keep its extreme length. Also, it’s just polyester with an elastic waist; what if it needs to be long to be awesome and not old-lady housedress-ish?

Are you rising to the No Repeats challenge? If so, what are your strategies?

Also, should I shorten skirt number two?

Sartorial New Life, from Vegas

Good Monday, StyleNation, from Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m en route to IPF North, posting from the airport lounge. But these are professorial, not Vegas photos. Because, somehow, we took exactly zero pictures this weekend. I’m determined, however, to reproduce this weekend’s ensembles for blog purposes later this week. Because I need to consult with you.

For today, here’s what I’ve got. This ensemble’s from last week, but I re-love this dress. It used to be a long t-shirt dress that I wore a million times back in the nineties. Then it sat in storage for ten years until I finally got around to having it shortened, and hemming the sleeves (which I’ll show you another time). And now it has a whole new life!

Black microfibre dress: Tristan & Iseult
(old – like fifteen years old)
Navy & gray acrylic cardigan: mall anchor store
Black belt: Mexx (remixed)
Tights: Hue (via The Bay)
Shoes: Clarks Artisan (remixed)
Bracelet: The Bay

Black absorbs light and is difficult (for me) to photograph. I realize this. But my teaching wardrobe has a LOT of black in it. In the coming weeks, I will find another location for morning photos.

In the mean time, have you breathed new life in to old items of late? How’d you do it?  

Competition, Outfits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about competition between or among friends. Graduate school gave me both an excellent group of friends and an appetite for competition that I assume we all share to one degree or another. (We are academics, after all; and academics compete for jobs, grant money, and other forms of research-related prestige of one form or another from our first weeks of grad school onward.) And maybe we compete a teensy bit with one another on occasion; but we all work in such different fields that this does not seem to result in one of us hurting another in any real way.
Outside academic contexts, how much competition can a friendship bear? How much is too much? Is it possible to stop the contest when things get nasty, or is there a point of no return?   
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten with this topic. Let’s stop for now and talk about outfits. Here’s one from last week when it was still so strangely, deliciously warm here:
Cream tunic: Dalia Collection (via Winners)
Cream cami: Esprit
Black belt: Mexx (remixed)
Black cropped skinny pants: Mexx (remixed)
Red slingbacks: Moda (remixed)
I had no meetings of any kind on this day, but there was work to be done on campus. Plus I had this pirate-y bamboo tunic I was itching to wear. Can you imagine how totally pirate-like I’d be if I wore over-the-knee boots with this? 

Do you find tunics difficult to style? How do you they work best for you, if at all?

Also, how much competition is too much for one friendship to bear?