by Shauna Pomerantz / illustration by Daniel Chen
With all the television shows out there on how to dress and what not to wear, you’d think I would have an easier time putting together an outfit for work. As a new professor at a mid-sized Ontario university, I always figured my biggest problems would be tenure and promotion, navigating workplace politics, and keeping my head above water in the publish-or-perish setting of the academy. I had no idea I’d also have to deal with the distasteful possibility of wearing the same outfit twice in front of my students.
To be clear, I put this pressure on myself. Students have not written nasty things about my style on year-end evaluations or on the notoriously painful ratemyprofessor.com. In fact, I have received some kudos for my sartorial choices here and there. As one student noted, “You don’t dress like a professor!” This was meant as a compliment, and that’s how I took it. I try not to dress like a prof. My goal has always been to ride the line between professional and funky, conscientious and urban, adult and adolescent. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a midriff revealer or a whale-tail flasher. I just hate the idea that working in a university means I have to dress like a stooge. But my desire to look a certain way has presented me with some unusual challenges.
Case in point: Week after week, I’d strain my memory trying to remember what I wore the last time I taught a class. Did I wear the red crossover sweater already? Is it possible that I already combined these pants with this blouse? What I needed was a system to keep track of my clothes – a GPS of style to navigate through the treacherous waters of fashion repetition.
And then it dawned on me. On days when I lectured, I would log my outfits using iCalendar on my trusty MacBook. Each morning, as I picked my garb for the day, I dutifully typed it in.
January 10: black pinstripe pants, kimono-style top, red heels.
January 15: grey capris with chain link belt, pink blouse, tall black boots.
January 17: brown dress, turquoise sweater wrap, gold platform sneakers.
While some professors might not give a second thought to how they dress, archiving my outfits for future reference has given me some small sense of control in a chaotic world and a demanding workplace. It’s a small thing, granted. But for me, it works. Now, if I could only get iCalendar to grade my papers.