[Note: This guest post is the third in a series on The Academic Wardrobe by Courtney S. Danforth, an assistant professor of English at Darton College. -- JBJ, who desperately needs this post]
If you haven’t seen it yet, get a load of Cornell’s Pi Phi chapter’s dress code and be glad your campus isn’t so strict on faculty!
Previously on the topic of academic wardrobe, I’ve written about finding a style and stocking your closet and many of you have joined the conversation with good questions and good suggestions, many of which pertain to this post’s topic–getting dressed. Getting dressed is part part style, part stewardship and part stagecraft.
As Nels indicates in his earlier comments, the concern over style and clothing repetition do seem to have locally defined expectations. My campus takes a very dim view of denim and open-toed shoes for faculty while jeans and Crocs are fine on his campus (I’m jealous). Other commenters (The History Enthusiast, Chip Brock) have drawn our attention to the role gender may play in academic wardrobe. I think wardrobe tends to be more complex and carry greater expectations for women in general, but I haven’t noticed that discrepancy changing much specifically for faculty. Like Rana, I have both seen and participated in the disparity of dress between permanent staff and adjuncts. Drew, and Tria Wood have identified a logical explanation for those of us who gravitate toward formality–the age at which we began to teach and a desire to distinguish ourselves from our students. I suspect there are plenty of us who would be more than happy to blend right in with the students too.
A former colleague of mine had a point-based, student-centered system to determine his working wardrobe deviation from the “norm” of first-year students. As their instructor, he wanted to dress slightly “better” than his students, thus: +1 point for a collared shirt, +1 point for trousers other than jeans, -1 point for a baseball cap, -1 point for each visible stain or hole, etc. The great thing about this system is that the definitions can be changed for individual circumstances and the scale is both malleable and extensible. To put this plan into action, determine your own “norm”, define your expected deviations from that norm, and assign points. You’ll also need to set a goal. Thus, if your goal is to look 2 points better than first-year students on your campus, you may need to buy a lot more collared shirts and give up your cap habit.
Depending (or not) on what students are wearing on your campus, you might elect to leave them altogether out of your wardrobe strategy. In her very smart comment to our previous post on wardrobe planning, Jana reminds us to bypass a chalk handprint on your butt by avoiding black on the days when you use the chalkboard a lot. Likewise, if you’re going get all crazy with a whiteboard, maybe you should avoid wearing anything that will show those ink stains. Aileen Fyfe, draws our attention to the role of transportation in selecting clothes. Closed-toe shoes for the lab? Spandex if you teach dance? What are other daily hazards that dictate your clothing choices?
Diana Pemberton-Sikes advocates creating “clothing capsules” (sets of 5-12 items of clothing that can be mixed up in exciting new combinations) as a technique for creativity in dressing. Janice Liedl advises a similar idea in her comment on a previous post. She organizing her clothing around base colours which she alternates and staggers so she doesn’t end up wearing the same ensemble every third Thursday… very smart, Janice! I have a friend in publishing who travels five days out of every week traveling. She has two suitcases: the black one stays packed with clothes that work with black as the neutral and the navy suitcase is packed using navy for neutral. I wonder how she remembers what to look for in baggage claim, but it works for her. If you can bear to break away from your black and denim, organizing around variant neutral shades (black, navy, grey, khaki, olive, brown) seems a smart option to build, organize, and wear your wardrobe. Even if 75% of your clothes are black, making clusters could at least help you avoid wearing the same black sweater on the same days all the time. There are probably also non-colour based systems for making clusters too; I know someone who might organize his t-shirts in thematic clusters, for instance, or maybe he’d be better off making clusters of mixed themes. What other ideas are there for clustering?
When my grandmother lost her sight, my mother started arranging complete ensembles (clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes, handbag), each on a hanger so my grandmother could confidently dress herself for the sighted world each day. This hanger method should also work well for color-blind individuals who have a non-color-blind helper, or for those of us who prefer to be creative with our wardrobes as seldom as possible. Sure, you won’t be mixing and matching with this method, but it would be easy to stagger clothing throughout the calender. Anybody got another organizational system to share?
On the question of repetition, the iPhone apps I mentioned earlier have functions to record what you wore when. Dailybooth is a social networking application that encourages you to take photos of yourself each day (and share them), which I suppose could be useful if you’re trying to wear the same sweater as your best friend or something I suppose one of you can use in a smart way I can’t exactly imagine. Mac users are probably already familiar with PhotoBooth, which could easily integrate your clothing record photos straight into iCal for a more personal record. If you’re using my grandmother’s hanger method, how about spiking those hangers with pages from a page-a-day calender to remind you when you wore what. Or maybe you should just buy two or three of the same shirt and wear the same thing every day; it’d certainly be easier.
How do you get dressed? How do you organize your daily clothing, or do you? How do you respond to questions of gender, transportation, and campus status with wardrobe? What are the virtues of not planning or organizing your clothes?
Image by Flickr user Brymo / Creative Commons licensed