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Dressing Room General What should an academic wear to make friends and have influence?
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What should an academic wear to make friends and have influence?
I started a new academic job. first year. assistant professor. young and inexperienced. i want to make sure the students don't think i'm one of them. but i've never worn anything other than blue jeans and keen shoes - the lesbian kind. now i'm torn - i don't want to look like an aging psychoanalyst with silly foulards and make up, i can't force myself to wear high hills, but I also don't want my students to think I am a thirty-something lady who's trying desperately to look cool. I mean, i'm cool enough for my friends, but it seems this environment requires a different kind of coolness. WHAT SHOULD I WEAR FOR SCHOOL?
Hi Natalie, I’m not sure that I should be the person to answer, but I found your post very amusing so wanted to give it a thought and a little try. Let’s start with the shoes, I think it all starts there. If you are ruling out high heels, it means you are going for a more sporty look. A sporty look does not mean sneakers, this will take you back to the student look. A good sport shoe is a problem as well, usually worn by older professors for comfort. So that leaves you with the classical and comfortable mocassin shoe, or the cooler and funny designed sort of camper http://shop.camper.com/index.xhtml?lng=fr&gclid=CIeJh5TPtpYCFQxMtAodGlwVLQ which is very comfortable and trendy or repetto http://www.repetto.com/prodlist.php?CAT_ID=1&SUB_CAT_ID=36

After that you can decide on the rest, a more elegant 2 pieces outfit, or pants that are made out of a nice fabric (in my opinion jeans should be avoided, unless they are made of really excellent quality).

 
Hi,
congrats on the job!
Just wanted to add my two cents.
I would invest in some very good quality button-down shirts, in something simple like cotton, solid colors (say blacks and whites) and a few nice pairs of slacks (let's say a thin grey wool, though this will depend on your climate). The quality of the clothes is key. Having a well-tailored shirt that is not something you got off the rack at H&M will make a huge difference. When I started buying reasonably nice clothes my partner remarked that he now understood why women care about fashion: the effect of an expensive blouse was to make me look orders of magnitude better while not drawing particular attention to the shirt. (And as I learned, you also have to iron them.)

If you pair these with a leather belt and shoes, and a brightly colored sweater or cardigan in some color appropriate to the season, leave your hair down (or back in some uncomplicated way -- nothing involving netting or lots of bobby pins) and wear very little makeup, you shouldn't have to do much else. I would aim for a minimalist aesthetic: clean lines and a few really nice, surprising solid colors (dark rose, peacock blue, burnt orange...the best parts of the paintbox, against your backdrop of black/white/grey). I agree that makeup should mostly be avoided -- you want your good looks, like your academic genius, to appear quite natural (without, of course, appearing accidental).
Hi Natalie, here is my experience. I entered a class as a teacher, as opposed to a student, for the first time at the age of 23, some of my students being older than me. And I did look younger than my real age. I was very worried about what to wear, I had to tame a class of 130 students, and I did want to look professional and authoritative. I chose a ridiculous out-of-fashion over-feminine miss-the-teacher-with-the-red-pencil outfit, and I honestly looked like I was wearing my mother's clothes (and make-up and jewelery!). The students still mistook me for one of them, and moreover I was very uncomfortable in this outfit which was so much not me. The following year I wore my usual jeans and shoes, with a touch of grown-upness (a pretty shirt, a very plain necklace). Some of the students still couldn't believe I was the teacher, but it didn't last for long. And, being comfortable in my clothes, I quickly gained the confidence which finally gave me the teacher look which I was looking for. I still have pretty much the same childish features, but I do not worry about it anymore: it's very cheesy but, yes, authority is something that comes from inside, and you might as well be comfortable. Summing up: I would add a touch of elegance to your usual outfit, but I definitely wouldn't overdo. And, more important of all, I would choose a style that represents you, and not something that is completely not you. It will help you to overcome the initial shyness and awkwardness.
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Latest Post: February 2009
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