Mary had this request:
Not sure if this is a good suggestion but I am switching careers from a creative industry to a serious academic/historian setting. My fun, twee printed dresses won’t really fly in this new setting. Easy ideas how to look more professional would be very welcome. Sounds cheesy but tweed items would really fit in! Really wish the the Academichic ladies were still around!
This is one of those questions that I totally want to address, but know that I will ruffle some feathers if I do so. What with the not working in academia myself and the knowing that working in academia has all sorts of tricky-to-navigate unwritten rules and norms that you can’t really understand unless you’ve experienced them personally. So I’ll get the ball rolling with a few suggestions and then ask you readers who are working or have worked in academic settings to weigh in.
Even if you don’t need to or want to wear actual suits, incorporating some blazers, pencil skirts, structured cardigans, and relatively heavyweight trousers will add gravitas to your outfits. In some cases, throwing a blazer over a fun, twee printed dress might even work!
Bold color OR bold shape
This is a best practice for interviewing, too: Bold colors and unusual shapes are both eye-catching, so pick one or the other. A bright red dress can work if it’s a simple sheath instead of a pleated fit-and-flare with an asymmetric neckline. And on the other hand a sculptural blouse or jacket can work if it’s in a neutral or subdued color. To keep the focus on your teaching, your words, your message, pick one or the other to minimize distraction.
Have fun with your footwear
Having spoken with many women professors, it seems like the unfair, utterly sexist scrutiny that women receive in academia focuses more on clothes than shoes. I don’t think wearing five-inch spike heels every day of the week will go unnoticed, but the occasional pair of funky Fluevogs? Your students and colleagues will probably love ’em.
I’ll stop there and hand the mic to you: Academics, how would you take a creative wardrobe and transition it to academia? Specifically in the history field, if possible? Any other general rules for professors and academics to keep things professional without getting cliched or boring?
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