Fashion and Academia

I recently discovered author Ekaterina Sedia’s blog and I really like it. I skimmed through a group of old entries and, while she writes about all sorts of fascinating things, my favorite posts are those that deal with fashion. An especially good post is the one on “Not Sexy Dressing” that she wrote as part of a Feminist Fashion Bloggers group post. This paragraph particularly spoke to me –

“In academia, one is already looked down upon if one shows interest in fashion – and part of it, I think, is the conflation of fashion with sexualized images of women. It doesn’t have to be, of course, but sadly we live in the world of binaries: sexy or frumpy, slut or blue stocking, etc etc. So the shortcut goes from well-dressed to fashiony to sexy to vapid. The opposite is of course the stereotypical female academic who takes her work too seriously to spend even a minute thinking about clothing – and those are perceived as sex-hostile and/or mannish. Being respected and perceived as competent becomes almost impossible without personal style becoming a statement of self-denial. And we need this third thing.”

We really do need this third thing. Personal style is incredibly important and this post spoke to some of my worries about maintaining a blog under my real name where I post about fashion related things. I admit I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I want to post fashion related entries here because I worry that I will give up the perception of academic competence. I worry that people will look at my blog and call my seriousness into question, that it makes me appear vapid and superficial. At the same time, I hate that this happens and I want to go against it. I find fashion fascinating and my personal style is important to me. I admit that I like posting about what I wear, what I like, and what inspires me in this area.

As a folklore and literature academic, I do think that I have a bit more freedom in this area than, say, a graduate student in the sciences. Folklorists in particular have a reputation for being snappy dressers and I believe that what we study encourages the incorporation of unique and different fashions into our own wardrobe. Many of my favorite pieces, for example, are favorites because they have something to do with literature or folklore. I plan outfits inspired by particular books, I have bought much of my jewelry because it has some kind of cultural significance or folklore behind it, and I don’t mind admitting that I like to look like I just stepped out of a fairy tale.

I’m certainly not the only one in academia who loves fashion and I don’t think I should be ashamed of it in any way. I really like the manifesto of the great but sadly defunct website AcademiChic

“Cultural critic Fred Davis calls fashion “a visual language, with its own distinctive grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.” Theorist Judith Butler, in Gender Trouble, points to the power of clothing to create and constantly recreate identity. And even philosopher Charles Baudelaire praised cosmetics and garments for creating beauty where nature fails. In short, fashion is a powerful tool for creating identity, subverting class or gender norms, performing self, and appreciating aesthetic beauty.”

So I’m going to continue to make posts about fashion here. It’s part of who I am and I am proud of it.

P.S. On a completely other note, I have noticed the extreme issues with the individual post pages (and a few issues on the main page as well) so I’m going to a simpler theme until those can be resolved. I’m honestly not sure what the problem with the Atlantica theme is, it seems to have started with the last update. Hopefully this simple theme will make reading posts and making comments here much easier! Any feedback greatly appreciated :).

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One Response to Fashion and Academia

  1. Pingback: Experiencing Gender Differences In Spatial/Visual Abilities | My Sex Professor

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