Melina and I have spent a lot of time thinking about dressing as femmes in the academy- so much, of course, that we decided to start this blog. We've considered ways to deal with teaching and interacting with one's home department, and have basically come to the conclusion that since we're in liberal humanities, it's ok to let our personal styles shine, whether it's with dramatic prints, a bold lip, or thick black eyeliner wings.
That said, there comes a time in every femme academic's life when one questions if these tactics for interacting people you see every day, like students or departmental colleagues, work just as well for conferences, talks, or other one-off events. A professor that hears your brilliant ideas weekly in seminar will respect you for your eloquent writing and professional demeanor, and not be distracted by clothes or makeup. On the other hand, during a short networking session with a visiting scholar or distinguished guest, the short sell about your project and interests is the most important thing to communicate, and is the thing that will help them remember you fondly later when you're getting in touch looking for sage wisdom or a favor.
These ideas were weighing heavily as I got ready for a formal event where I knew I'd be meeting a number of folks that will form an important community for me over these next few years. I decided to choose a look that would be representative of my personal style (eyelet, and a 1950s waist-centric sihlouette), but in a slightly more toned down way. This outfit feels totally natural to me, not like some sort of professional drag-- that's what makes it work.
Dress: J. Crew Factory (get the look) / Belt: from Marshall's a million years ago (get the look) / Flats: Ashley Bow Ballet Flats, Banana Republic / Earrings: J. Crew Factory (get the look) / Bag: Dooney & Bourke