Slouchy professional

One of my colleagues recently decided that, for her, thirty-six is the year of pretty. She's coming to campus dressed up, with hairstyles and jewelry, and she really does look good. If you click on the link to her post, you'll see that in the comments, I shared the following story:

A student told me last week, "Alison, you always look so...comfortable!" I was gracious and said "Thanks, that's what I'm going for," but inside I was thinking, Comfortable? Doesn't that just mean I look like a complete slob?
Perhaps not a complete slob, but probably not too far from that. The other day my brother sent me a link to this article, with the subject header in the email "Dressing like an adult." If you click on that link, you'll see pictures and descriptions of 23 "staples for every woman's wardrobe," none of which I own. Well, I take that back--I have a pair of black pants, a pair of jeans, and a daily purse. But on the whole, according to this article, I don't dress like an adult. I wear Chacos or Birkenstocks most of the time. I have a number of button-down shirts that languish in my closet because the thought of ironing them in the morning is just too much. Perhaps I can play my backpack off as my "signature accessory," but honestly I think you're not supposed to be carrying a 15-year-old backpack when you're an adult. And let's not even talk about my hair, which hasn't had a good cut since I was in DC in March.

Fortunately, I'm in a profession where being sartorially challenged isn't that much of a detriment. Being a faculty member means that there's no expectation that I'll ever get dressier than khaki pants and a t-shirt. Some professors on this campus wear Hawaiian shirts and shorts every day, and it hasn't hurt their careers (although let's be clear that these particular people are men, and I do think that makes a difference).

Earlier this week a student was in my office, and she mentioned her own style, which is very polished and feminine. I commented that my look is more slouchy professional. This made her laugh, and honestly, I think it's pretty accurate. So for me, thirty-six is the year of slouchy professional.


Ian McCullough said...

Looked at the link, screw dressing like an adult. I'll have to dress nicer when I start library work, but until then I'll take my comfy clothes.

mary said...

i get annoyed at those articles that tell you what you should have in your closet.
i have common sense enough to be clothed in a decent manner and not worry about what some article deems appropriate adult clothing.
it's boring and too fussy and gives off this very specific message about who you appear to be.
not to mention, why would i want to have the same look as all of the other women who went out and bought what the article said to?
and, i always have liked your style. you are extremely intelligent which could be intimidating but the message that your clothing & body language give off are approachable and respectful.
plus i appreciate that you haven't just followed suit to what these articles show because it's not always necessary. i would like it if my professors were similar.
viva la t-shirt!

Trey said...

You make it sound like I was pointing out that you weren't dressing like an adult. That wasn't my intention. I just was feeling that *I* was dressing like a 16 year old skater boy at 32.

I read the article about a man's wardrobe, and found it inspiring. I just thought I'd pass along the one on women for the hell of it. :)

Alison said...

Sorry--yes, I did make it sound like you were trying to get me to dress differently, but that wasn't at all the impression I got from your email--nor was it the impression I was trying to give in this post. That link just tied into some things I was already thinking about, so I wanted to talk about it.

And thanks for the viva la t-shirt, Mary!

Alison said...

Plus, as a web designer, aren't you supposed to be dressed as a 16yo skater boy at 32?

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I don't have any of this stuff. Wait...I'm a guy. Never mind. Where's the link to the other article, Trey?

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Aaron said...

On last seasons Ugly Betty, Betty had a realization that "fashion" can be a form of artistic & personal expression. My thoughts about how anyone shoud dress (adults, kids, what-ev's) is that the clothes should:

1)Warmth, protection and cover
2)Be used to communicate your personality, lifestyle choice, etc
3)Be used as a formal "costume" , for ceremonies, presentations,etc
4)artistic crazy-ass-ness.

If you have the luxury ($$$, flexible job, etc) to let you strive for all 4 uses, then knowing how to balance these 4 things in the different daily contexts we find oursleves in is the trick.

And in the end, James Bond always makes you question everything.

grace said...

I agree with Mary on "you are extremely intelligent which could be intimidating but the message that your clothing & body language give off are approachable and respectful." This is exactly how I felt until working more closely with you, if you had been dressed differently, I think that it would have taken longer for me to get to know you.

I like your style and your hair, always supporting the WGS t-shirts!

R.F. said...

I don't own any of these things, either. I know I'm only twenty, but I think that would kind of put me in a situation (under most circumstances) where I would actually give a crap about it, or where I would know it.
Also, not only do I not own any of those things (Except one, and that's the bra, and that's out of necessity.) I have no intention of ever owning any of them. It's uncomfortable.

Passing thought. Some women don't need heels. You're one of these women. You're already six feet tall.

We're not birds. Our plumage doesn't determine anything important other than first impressions toward the shallow.

emboogie said...

Alison, thought I would tell you - I like your style and agree that the way you dress contributes to your approachability : ) I will never give up my chacos and birkenstocks. I look forward to the days when all I have to do is roll out of bed and throw on a pair of scrubs. When im 36 i expect ill still be walking around in yoga pants, an i love vaginas/big on the pig shirt and a pair of chacos. Sounds great to me . . .

Anonymous said...

Follow your heart and head. One size doesn't fit all--literally.

Taylor said...

my advisor wears sweatsuits and tennis shoes--no joke. So, you got one up on her. Plus, smart people dress terribly. Also, I agree that if you did dress up, it would be intimidating.

Anonymous said...

At my institution, the reverse is true. If you don't dress up, both your colleagues and students tend to think you're dumb and treat you as such. Profs wearing casual clothes or shoes are sometimes mocked or called out by colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Halloween is just around the corner. The perfect excuse for a lawyer power suit and heels. It'll be your night to howl!

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