Dispatches from London: Retail Therapy

Today I bought another pair of shoes.  From a fellow medievalist working in a shop.

It turns out the extremely charming Italian salesman had recently interviewed at the large research institution just up the road from the smaller college where I teach and had just completed a PhD in medieval Persian literature at UCL.  He is way smarter and has a much better academic pedigree than I.

This was one of those days–and there are many–when I wonder how I have a job at all.  I am lucky to get to spend my days in archives and my evenings at the theatre.  And my Sunday afternoon at Laduree with an old friend and violet-scented macarons.  And my nights  prowling the Thames in search of sleep in one of my favourite cities in the world.  I am lucky to have the job I have.

But I could just as easily be working in a shop too. I spent a miserable year in the late 80s working at Laura Ashley and looking like a flower garden had barfed all over me.  In fact, I wore a very similar pair of brogues to the ones I bought today with lace tights and a square-necked, puffy-sleeved, corduroy floral frock, with my spiral-permed hair caught up in a huge-ass velvet bow.  I was dreadful at retail.  It is a very trying job.    
I might work hard, at both the job I had before and the one I have now, but I don’t work harder than anybody else.  And hard work doesn’t mean I deserve this job anymore than anyone else.  And sometimes I wonder if I deserve it less … which is what keeps me up at night.  
Luckily there are deeply-discounted, Italian-made, kitten-soft, blue suede shoes that come medievalist-approved.  
I might sleep in them tonight. 

Legs Eleven

The other day, A-Dubs debuted some excellent superhero blue tights with matching wedges, but queried the quirk of her sartorial choice.  I often match my shoes to my tights and I wonder what makes it work and, more importantly, what makes it wonky.

Tights are a staple of my F/W wardrobe.  That means now.  I know that the rest of StyleNation is experiencing unseasonably bare leg weather, but here at IPF, Eastern Division it has been raining for over a week and now that the sun has mercifully returned, it is cold.  Puffy coat weather cold.  So I swaddle my gams and bring it.

This is what I wore the very same day that A-Dubs posted about her blue legs:

Skirt: All Saints
Purple Argyle Tights: Marks & Spencer
Purple Flats: Frye
Ladypose: Kicky

My mother always told me not to wear black tights with black shoes.  I don’t know why because this very advice led to an unfortunate incident in my early twenties when I wore a black velvet dress, white lace tights, and black patent leather heels to an important awards ceremony.

I can’t believe I just told you that.  I’m totally losing my credibility as a Style Icon.



Skirt: All Saints  Black Chevron Tights: Marks & Spencer  Black Illusion Shoes: United Nude.

This outfit is a lower-half staple.  The skirt is supposed to be bunched up like that but inevitably some kind soul informs me that I am experiencing static cling.
Why doesn’t anyone realise that I am a Style Icon?
Skirt: Closet (from Joy)
Brown Wooly Tights: Warm Legwear
Brown Shoes: Zinda

Here are some other ways I wear tights:

Skirt: All Saints
Grey Tights: can’t remember but I wore them for my campus visit two years ago so now they are my Lucky Tights
Blue Suede Shoes: vintage

One pair of tights, two ways:
Skirt: Comrags
Lacy Black Tights: Marks & Spencer
Leopard Print Flats: Topshop
Wellies: Hunter

The picture on the left is what I meant to wear.  The picture on the right is what I did wear when I forgot to pack my shoes.  Nothing says professional like wearing wellies to teach in.  Especially if they are wet and punctuate your lecture with aptly-timed squelches.  
Style. Icon.
Here are some ways I wish I could wear tights but have not done so outside of this photo shoot:

Skirt: Joe Fresh (grocery store)
Multi-Coloured Stripy Wooly Tights: bought them in Madrid
Red Booties: Fly London

Too Willy Wonka?
Yes, too Willy Wonka.

Skirt: Joe Fresh
Grey Wooly Tights: Warm Legwear
Peep-toe Sandals: Swedish Has-Beens

I’m still not comfortable wearing peep-toes in the classroom.  Even if I go all Prada 2006, it’s just not how I roll.  But I sort of like this.


I love tights.  I love how cozy they are.  I love how they can add sass or class to any outfit.

And I especially love not having to shave my legs because I am wearing tights.
What about you, StyleNation?  Do you love tights?  
Do I love tights too much?  More importantly,  you think I’m a Style Icon, right?

A Neutral Return

I’m back Stylenation! It’s been a lovely week full of trips to Austin and turkey. And shopping. One bad thing about having Canadian guests visit you in the U.S. is that they all want to take advantage of the wider shopper opportunities (or at least my guests do) and this wreaks havoc on my plan to cut back on shopping. I managed to control myself though–but once again Macy’s was my downfall where I bought a pair of sale shoes that I probably don’t need but which I love. Indeed, some of what I love is that they’re a little outside of my typical comfort zone. They’re high wedges with a seventies’ vibe that remind me of Style Underdog’s fabulous, fabulous shoe collection. But they’re from a comfort brand so they’re surprisingly easy to walk in (the wedge helps here too) and, of course, comfortable.

In fact, this whole outfit, which I taught in yesterday, is inspired by Style Underdog’s and Rad’s killer neutral-based wardrobes. I typically go for bright colors so this is a bit of a departure but I felt pretty awesome in this outfit yesterday.

Dress: Old Navy
T-shirt: Target
Scarf: Gift (from my sister, who’s currently in Morocco, and who bought this for me in China. I kind of hate her though enjoy that she visits these countries with a boatload of urologists. There’s a joke there).
Shoes: Aerosoles, from Macy’s

Here it is sans scarf:

Close-up of shoes:

Are you on Team Neutrals or Team Bright Colors?

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

As has become a tradition here at In Professorial Fashion, today’s post takes a look through my shoe collection. A near unhealthy obsession with shoes is de rigueur at all of the IPF locations and I clearly am no exception as these are most, but not quite all, of my shoes. Some of these you’ve seen, most you haven’t. One of the things that has been a great and unexpected bonus of fashion blogging (besides, you, our dear readers) has been the way that it’s led me to wear shoes & articles of clothing that I haven’t before or in a while. Shoe-wise, it has also helped that I teach in the same building as my office this term so that I don’t have to schlep across campus. Also, the library delivers books to my office. This is the greatest thing ever FYI. So here goes…

The Neutrals:

Black & bronze pumps (Nine West); Grey patent pumps (Madden Girl): Black patent pumps (Joe — more grocery store $3 shoes. Yes, $3)

Pros: As they’re neutral, they’re pretty all purpose & certainly professional.
Cons: They’re slightly boring (except for the grey patents which I LOVE); the Joe ones in particular look slightly school-marmy. The Nine Wests have stiletto heels which I’m not super adept in.
Solutions: Compensate with more colorful outfits? Really, there’s no real problems with these.

Colorful Heels:

Pink patent pumps (Nine West); Red patent heels (Max Studio); Blue pumps (Reaction Kenneth Cole)

Pros: They are awesome. I’m a big fan of the “pop of color” shoe. The blue ones saw Cher at A-Dub’s Vegas bachelorette extravaganza. The pink ones made an appearance at A-Dub’s wedding extravaganza. Apparently, A-Dub’s themed occasions bring out the colorful heels. And extravaganzas.
Cons: The blue ones are probably half a size too small. The red ones (which the picture do not do justice too) are, again, stilettos and slightly taller than I’m comfortable in but soo beautiful.
Solutions: Again, no real problems with these guys. Besides a helpful reminder that I stop buying shoes with stiletto heels (though I think this is the final pair I’ve bought).

The Wedges:

Nude patent (Nine West); Bronze (Etienne Angier); Grey Plaid (Gap Outlet)

Pros: Easier to walk in. More comfortable over a longer period of time. Frankly, I don’t wear these enough.
Cons: No cons here.
Solutions: Wear these WAY more. Hope they never fall apart.


Black patent (Target); “Snakeskin” (Old Navy); Brown (Joe — these are also leather which I just discovered which is awesome for what I paid for them. In other news, I’m desperately trying not to think about why they’re so cheap); Gold (Nine West)

Pros: As I’ve mentioned before, flat (particularly colorful ones) are a wardrobe workhorse for me. While these are my more neutral ones, they all get a lot of wear as well. I find they’re often not as comfortable as they should be. But that’s partly because I don’t think I paid more than $20 for any of them. And less than $10 for most of them. So really, what can I expect?
Cons: No real cons here either. Though perhaps I should look into insoles.
Solutions: Keep going into the grocery store that sells the greatest cheap flats anytime I’m in Canada. For reals, Superstore — I miss you like crazy. Way more than Tim Horton’s which I’m supposed to be pining for as an expat.

The Utterly Impractical:

Bronze (Nine West); T-straps (Seychelles)

Pros: They are awesome. And, someday, I will be the kind of person who will able to walk in these. Seriously. I’m working on it. Also, I think the photo doesn’t do the heel height justice.
Cons: The bronze ones are appropriate only in Vegas. These are exactly the kind of heels that Margaret Atwood means when she’s talking about heels as a tool of patriarchal oppression.
Solutions: Go to Vegas. A lot. Learn to walk in these so that I can literally be six feet tall.

Overall Thoughts: Apparently, Nine West has my number. I also seemingly refuse to remove the stickers from inside my shoes.

Sometimes It Just Helps to Shop

So today is the final weekday before the term starts. Both yesterday and today have been jampacked with errands in an attempt to get ahead of the term a little bit. Yesterday I went for coffee with one of the new hires in my department which went really well and met friends for $2 beers. Today, I got my headsuit altered, my car got its safety inspection, later the mini-FR gets to audition for doggie daycare, and tonight is the department meet n’ greet–an event that feels SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful now that I’m no longer one of the newbies.

I wanted something casual today then that could, with minimal fuss, transition into the department event.

Dress: Max Studio
T-shirt: Gap Outlet
Sandals: Birkenstocks

It’s nothing fancy but I think with a silver necklace & cuff and different shoes it’ll work for a casual event with colleagues.

And after I got my hair cut this morning, I succumbed to Target’s siren song where I bought a couple of shirts and a pair of shorts to replace a pair I got gum on when sitting down on the bus to Steeltown earlier in the summer while visiting Rinty the Crusher & Early Modern Cool Kid. One of the shirts I got made the cut for my first day of school outfit. It might be a little warm — though it’s supposed to be a balmy 93/34 so after the last two weeks of 100+, I can probably handle short sleeves.

Shirt: Target

Skirt: Old Navy
Necklace: Forever 21

I’m still working out this whole “photo taking” thing, I wasn’t able to get my shoes in. I’m planning on wearing the ones below:

Grey patent pumps: Madden Girl from the Macy’s Shoe Sale

And, because I forgot to include them before, these are the patent nude wedges that I would save in case of fire. They rule.
Nude patent wedges: Nine West

Who else finds that sometimes doing a little bit of shopping is all you need to do to re-think what you already own?

Friend Friday: My Private Parts

It’s Friend Friday and this week Modly Chic has some thought-provoking questions about blogger privacy.
And I have another picture of my boots.

Do you think privacy is something we should worry about as bloggers?

I think it depends on what you mean by privacy. This is a public forum, one that is given to discussion, so I think if I were truly worried about privacy I would not blog at all. I do, however, take certain precautions to hide my “real world” identity for various professional reasons. And I feel fully in control of that. That said, anyone who knows A-Dubs and me well in real life would know it was us immediately. And I’m in control of that too.

Do you use your real name or a pen name? What was behind that decision?
A pen name, though it winks at my public profession, often good-naturedly derided by the cool kids. Little do those Early Modernists know,
we are the cool kids, yo.

My work is also very public. A twerpy little man from mine and AW’s grad school days would often stress the importance of our job as “public intellectuals” and I remember thinking he was overstating the case. He was not. I am very much under scrutiny by students, by university administrators, by colleagues at work and by colleagues in my field and I need to maintain degrees of professionalism that adhere to the standards of decorum of the most conservative of those eyes. So I do not blog under my own name, which is an essential part of my professional identity.

How much personal information do you reveal about your life beyond the blog?
This blog is about our profession, and our professional dress sense, so this blog is very much a part of my “life beyond,” though that life can be tricky to navigate, especially as early-career scholars and probationary faculty members. As a result, I feel much more comfortable working on this blog anonymously. None of my colleagues know about this blog and very few of my friends know about it. At AW’s urging, this was an exercise for me to step away from my work with something fun and frivolous. It says a lot about our profession that “fun and frivolous” for us is still, in some ways, tied inextricably to our work.

And it has, I think, become something much more than just our teaching outfits, and much more than frivolous and much more fun, which has been an excellent, excellent surprise.

What will you never reveal?
My nipples. They’re pretty nice, but we’re not that kind of blog.

As bloggers, we have to an extent made ourselves ‘public’ figures. But still there are things that are intimate to each of us that does not need to be known by anyone that stumbles across our blog. How do you determine what is appropriate for public consumption and what is private to you?
As you may have noticed. A-Dubs and I do not show our faces in photos. For me, this is partly about remaining relatively anonymous but it is partly (okay a big part) about vanity. One of my friends (an early modernist cool kid) has observed about me that I am “much better-looking in real life”: a polite way of pointing out I do not work my angles in photographs, i.e. I am NOT photogenic. Not even a little bit. And since picture-taking is already a bit of a chore (I know, I need to get a tripod) cutting off my head is the best solution. Also, on those days I work from home, it means I don’t have to do my hair or make-up just to take horrible pictures of myself.

To demonstrate. This is my hair in public-consumption mode:

Clean, combed, jaunty.

This is my hair in early-morning-surprise mode:

Unwashed and insane. (I’m a restless sleeper.)

I feel it is best that I don’t subject Blognation to Early Morning Surprise Hair on a regular basis. Best for both of us. You’re welcome.

And, in case you are wondering, here are my boots.
I’m wearing them with my nightshirt.

Do you have private parts you keep from the internet?

On Shopping: Medievalist vs The Gap

Wordy, ranty post. I’m just warning you.

Remember these jeans? I know. We’d rather not. But I was on a quest for baggy ankle length (relatively cheap) skinnies and I momentarily erred. I returned them with nary a blink; in fact, The Gap didn’t even need my credit card to return them because they had it on file, which gave me pause. In any case, I thought I had found my baggy ankle-length skinny, again at The Gap, with their straight leg, some-other-descriptive-detail jeans, which Sales Associate Hilary was super-helpful with. I bought them on sale and with an extra 25% discount for about $50.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t wear them for a month (it turns out for exactly a month) and I have FIVE other pairs of jeans, not including the pair I just put in the giveaway pile. So I decided I didn’t need these extra Gap jeans I hadn’t even worn yet. Because obviously I don’t.
But here’s the catch. I (somehow) did not have my receipt for the jeans. This is rare as I am a chronic returner and never throw out receipts; A-Dubs calls me a Shopping Bulimic, which is alarmingly accurate. So yesterday, after a very productive, yet very trying, day that included a scheduled meeting with a colleague and a long, unscheduled lunch with another colleague, I decided (stupidly) to drive to the mall and return my unworn, still-with-the-tags-on jeans. Without the receipt but I was resigned to settling for a credit note if I had to.
You have 30 days to return things to The Gap. After that Sales Associates who were willing to search for your saved credit card via the computer will tell you they can do nothing for you. I left The Gap grumpy but then returned because I knew I was being fed a line to get rid of me–there is always something someone can do. I have worked retail. A lot. Usually as the non-manager underling unable to do a complicated return who is the first line of defense against an unhappy customer.
So I returned, because I was ONE DAY late returning the jeans (and there was a stat holiday during that time so I think I was on Day 30 anyway) and I asked if they could make an exception and I requested that I speak to the Manager. At which point the Sales Associate informed me, as she had not done so the first time I met with her, that she could issue me a credit for the current sale price of the jeans ($30 less than what I paid for them) despite the fact that the price tag was still attached to the jeans. I explained to her that I could produce a credit card receipt, if not a Gap receipt, to prove that I paid what I said (and what the tag said) I paid for the jeans. She said she had no way of knowing that I was telling the truth. Again I asked to speak to the Manager, whom she called.
The Manager was more sympathetic and friendlier than The Sales Associate and explained to me that there was little she could do because the computer system wouldn’t let her do anything. I suggested that there were probably manual overrides for the computer system and that if she needed to discuss the situation with a Regional Manager, I was willing to wait. She figured out a way to do the return. I have to wait for it to come in the mail, but it is for the full purchase price. I thanked The Manager and plan to write a letter to her boss commending her on her handling of the situation.
Here’s the thing. The Sales Associate was less than helpful, even skirted the territory of calling me a liar and she really did not have any proof that I wasn’t lying, I suppose. Still, why is assuming I am lying the first option? Though I think I kept my cool (even though I was seething) I know I was short and less than pleasant and, I’m sure of it, condescending. AND I was (technically) one day late returning the jeans, so she was justified, via her training, in refusing me help, even though she knew that The Manager could help me.
Now, I have a great job. It’s stressful. Very. But I have also worked at The Gap. For me, working at The Gap was a nightmare, with very poor remuneration and no benefits and little to no respect but I was a teenager at the time and The Sales Associate was not a teenager. I think that I pulled rank on her; she was not friendly or helpful but she has a super-crappy job, which I well know, and I no longer have a super-crappy job. Even though I was “triumphant” in my return quest, I was very unsettled by having to be a bitch about it, even though I knew I would have to be to get the staff at The Corporation Known As The Gap to do what I knew they were able to do. I resent this. I don’t resent the staff, who are only doing what they are corporate-trained to do, but I do resent the Corporation, who has put their employees in this first-defense position against reasonable requests.
I was super unsettled and ornery for the rest of the day and evening and I think it was because I don’t like having to be a bitch. But since when is being firm and reasonable and refusing to allow a Corporation to dictate their own version of reasonable to me, “being a bitch”? Since when is being firm and reasonable about anything “being a bitch”? This is a longer discussion that has more to do with things more important than shopping, but this post is already too long.
Finally, since I can’t have a post without a picture, let’s all admire my new boots again:
Yes, I am wearing them with my pyjamas.
Are you submitting photos? You should! You have until Friday.

On Shopping: Step away from the credit card, ma’am

I’m still immersed in writing and revising around the giant cat who insists on sitting on my lap while I work. And I’ve put a moratorium on moving my arse out of this chair until I get this done; the immovable Vampire Cat helps with this. This means no quick trips to the coffee place up the road where all of the employees are beautiful and they roast their own fair trade beans (those two things are unrelated but I feel like there might be an off-colour joke in there somewhere).

No going for a quick run across the bridge and back three times (three miles; that really is a photo of my bridge though I did not take it). No sitting on my balcony with a cup of lapsang souchong for a quick 15 minute break.

As I noted earlier however, my self-imposed exile does not apply to blogs nor, apparently, to internet shopping. Here are two things I absolutely did not need but bought anyway out of desperation for some distraction:

Tara Subkoff for Easy Spirit peep-toe pumps, used but not at all, via The Laws of General Economy. I’m going to get a pedi, wear a cheerful circle skirt and pepper my conversation with the word “swell” because of these lovely shoes.

Manor Garden silkscreen print via Etsy seller mengseldesigns. I’m going to hang it above my desk so I can gaze at its perfectly-ordered symmetry while I wrestle with my florid, hackneyed prose. Thanks to WWNW for the introduction (pssst, check out the giveaway she’s hosting).
I also bought an airline ticket to London. I leave the fur treasures the end of next week to present a paper at some big deal international conference and to hunch over some moldy manuscripts in chilly reading rooms under the watchful eye of miserable librarians.
I love my life. I know that’s dorky when there are cynical, beautiful barristas in the world, but I do.

Leading a glamourous life …

This is what I have worn for the last three days.
I know my sartorial splendour is blowing your mind right now, isn’t it?

Everyone thinks that academics have the summer off but that is a myth. A myth. Academic success, for better or worse, is measured by research output which means that I have been reading and writing and panicking over the fact that I need to read and write more since classes ended in April.Because I am a new professor, teaching new courses (new to me and new to the department) during the teaching terms I am swamped with course design, reading course materials, writing lectures, marking papers and managing students and I have very little time for my own work. So that leaves the summer months for me to publish or perish.

Now, I am very lucky to love my work, even though it often frustrates me.And I am very lucky to be able to manage my own time during the summer months, even though that can be like having enough rope to hang yourself (and makes it okay to have wine for breakfast, apparently). And I am extremely lucky to be supported by my institution as I do this work, but as the summer progresses there remains the mounting pressure to be an important voice in my field.

So this is the important ensemble I wear to be an important voice:

Plaid flannel shirt: belonged to a boy I broke up with over ten years ago
Denim skirt: Joe Fresh (from the grocery store)
Slippers: Chinatown in Toronto

(I only noticed that I had two different slippers on when I uploaded the picture. I love these slippers and wear them constantly indoors because I hate to have grubby feet. I buy several pairs in different colours when I visit Ontario because there is no Chinatown where I live and I have a pair in almost every room of my apartment. Sometimes they get mixed up. But I go with it.)

It’s comfortable. It’s got pockets. And it’s modest and sane enough to make a run to the grocery store for Kettle Brand Salt & Pepper chips at anytime of the day or night. It is neither flattering, nor professional.

But it is professorial.

What do you wear when you work from home? You work in the nude, don’t you?