Art by Sacha Irick
Does your professor own a pair of Urban Outfitters jeans that are identical to yours? I have no objections to professors wearing jeans or shopping at Urban Outfitters. However, the simple fact is that a professor should dress the part — the word professor stems from the word professional, after all.
For you professors who are new to the game, you may see no point in dressing in a three-piece suit. I would have to agree with you. That doesn’t mean that you should dress in acid washed jeans and a polo shirt that has clearly seen better years. For new professors, I would suggest investing in staple pieces like dark denim and long sleeve button-up shirts in any colors that compliment your skin tone.
Dressing professionally in our day is radically different than it was 30 or 20 years ago. For some quick tips, I researched dressing for success and found that St. Bonaventure University provides its students with a very detailed PowerPoint on “How to: Dress for Success.” One slide reads, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This is sound advice. Educators should strive to dress like approachable mentors.Dressing approachable means mixing business casual with trendy items, like substituting black slacks for dark denim. It will make you more comfortable and friendlier toward your students. It’s a win-win situation.
Although the list by St. Bonaventure University has some helpful tips for growing professionals, it isn’t quite up to date. “Hosiery must be worn with skirts. Hosiery must be plain, neutral colored,” states one slide. Hello! It’s 2013!
Hosiery is not necessary for a professional wardrobe. While I do believe every woman should have a pair in case of emergency, I doubt it will be used. I still have a pair in the original package from more than five years ago. I understand how older professors find it difficult to steer away from comfortable modes of fashion. But that’s what fashion is: getting out of your comfort zone and experimenting. If you must wear hosiery, promise me you won’t wear it with sandals. Webbed feet belong to ducks only. If you still feel naked, try patterned tights, it helps to create a smooth yet interesting look.
Additionally, the list doesn’t seem to promote originality. It says, “keep it neutral, keep it classy, keep it covered.” While I always agree with keep it covered and classy, I take issue with their emphasis on neutral colors. In case you didn’t know, neutrals include black, navy, gray, tan and white. While a proper mix of these colors can be incredibly chic, it usually just ends in a big, boring mess. I think professional wear can include rich jewel tones such as ruby red, emerald and plum for people with olive or dark skin. Professionals with lighter skin tones should stay away from yellows and peaches because these shades tend to blend with the skin too much. Remember: Pastels are your best friends.
It may seem difficult to go out shopping when all you see is Brandy Melville everywhere. There are age appropriate and trendy stores around to help you. Stores such as Banana Republic, which has great sales at the end of every season, Old Navy and Ann Taylor or Ann Taylor Loft are perfect places to buy basics as well as fun, bold pieces to mix up your wardrobe. While SBU’s list says, “Don’t wear trendy clothing, keep it classic,” I disagree because the two can be mixed. There is no reason why you should continue to dress the way you did 20 years ago. You deserve to dress your best.
My parting words of advice are: Dress like a mentor, not a peer. Experiment with your side of the color wheel. Clean out your wardrobe every couple of years and remember, fashion is always fun.
Follow Jacklyn on Twitter: @jbizzmazzz
Follow Sacha Irick on Twitter: @GraphicSacha
As published in the Sept. 12 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.