What's Your Work Style?

Conservative or a little edgy?

September 22, 2019

Maybe you did some back to school shopping recently? Was it fun or did you dread it?  What are you wearing? What is your style? Are you conservative? A little edgy? What is work appropriate and makes you feel your best? What do professional academics wear these days? 


Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, US

This time last year, I started a little Instagram project called #howmanydresses to encourage me to wear what was already in my closet (a lot of dresses) rather than fantasize about owning new (and completely unnecessary) dresses. How many days could I go without wearing the same dress? It made reflect on what I had in my closet, and ended up forcing me to pare down dresses that didn’t (to use the popular Kondo method) spark joy. I would wear it, document it, and then was able to let it go if I was just ho-hum about it. I like dresses because I only have to decide on one item of clothing to put on in the morning. I prefer bright colors (especially red) but a good solid black dress can always work when you want to blend in rather stand out. And I am someone who HATED dresses for a long time, which may also have to do with growing up in a place with cold winters; now that I live in a slightly warmer climate, I realized I didn’t hate dresses, I hated panty hose and tights. My favorite retailer right now, where most of my newest dresses are from, is Universal Standard, a size-inclusive, woman-owned clothing line. I love that you can see the dress (or really anything they make) modeled in your size, from 00-40. 


Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, BC, Canada

Now that I am back to full-time teaching, I like to dress up Monday through Wednesday and dress a little more casually on Thursday and Friday. I am fond of dresses and typically wear those at the start of the week, then pants and jeans at the end of the week with a blouse or appropriate t-shirt and swacket (sweater/jacket) or blazer. I tend to live in my birkenstocks and other sandals in the Spring and Summer and then move to flats and boots for the Fall and Winter, given the rain.

I also appreciate political pins on my clothes and jewelry. I have no issues wearing big hoops and bright lipstick, too. I often think that I am honoring my inner Latina I wear my bright colors and hoops. Because of the vagaries of higher ed, sexism, and racism, I have learned that I have to dress up more. I am a short woman and a woman of color, so I am keenly aware of how I am perceived by some. Thus, being more dressed up is perhaps my armour for academia. 


Yves Salomon-Fernández, Greenfield Community College, MA, US

The make-up and dressing up are my least favorite professional obligations. Until about 10 years ago, my wardrobe consisted primarily of button down, collared shirts with slacks. My colors were navy blue, grey, white, and black. I have since added bright colors, dresses, and skirts to my closet. The older I get, the more I resist looking too corporate. I aim for clothes that are comfortable, flattering, make me feel confident, are sometimes fun, and capture my essence as a later GenX president. I recently cut my hair, which turned out to be a liberating experience. I went natural, which can be an issue in the workplace as a Black woman. 

Shoes are also important to my wardrobe. As someone who suffers from chronic plantar fasciitis, living in rural western Massachusetts means that I can wear my Teva and Birkenstock sandals for as long as the weather permits. I wear real shoes/heels for meetings in Boston or fancy occasions. When your work day runs about 10-12 hours, comfort is critical. 

Overall, I want my total look to be one that communicates accessibility to students, my colleagues, and community. I want my appearance to be one that welcomes them, rather than exuding stiffness or too much hierarchy.

Melissa Nicolas, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, US

Just yesterday, I collapsed into tears over what I was going to wear. For some reason, over the past two or three years, I have become increasingly unhappy with the way I dress. I want to look fashionable, but I have to be comfortable. I hate when my clothes or shoes are something I am thinking about during the day because they are bothering me. And I am a woman “of a certain age” which means there are not a whole lot of stores that cater to me. Even if there were such stores, the closest mall is over an hour away, so I am also trying to negotiate online shopping to find something that feels good and fits right. Ugh. 

Recently, a store clerk, who had been valiantly but unsuccessfully trying to help me find just one outfit. suggested I try a “capsule” wardrobe. The idea is you stock your closet with the same color base (black pants, for example) and then you buy tops and accessories that add color and/or dress up/down your look. This way, she explained, when you open your closet, the choice is only about one item (the top), and if you have chosen a color like black as your base color, then everything in your closet matches and feels good. 

I’m expecting 7 different styles of black pants this week (sorry UPS!). I hope I find THE one. 

What's your style?


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