November 15, 2011

Professor Paisley

Marc by Marc Jacobs dress and pumps
Spanx tights
misc jewelry

When I debuted this old favorite dress to my current semester students, it provoked a flurry of compliments as well as some inquiries about where I shop, whether I am into fashion, what my closet is like, and if I am always "dressed up." It made me feel flattered but also a little silly, so I tried to steer the conversation toward the semiotics of dress (since we were discussing de Saussure and language as a system of signs that day anyway). We talked about how within the culture of many colleges and universities, dress is considered a frivolous or even embarrassing interest. And on some level that frivolity might be embedded in deep-seated (and arguably, misogynist) notions about fashion as primarily a feminine and fluffy domain. It was a productive conversation. And it was fun to have something so mundane tie into the topic for that day. I couldn't have planned it better!

I learned yet again that this dress makes an impression on people. It is difficult to capture the richness of the wool in photograph. When I first saw it I remember thinking that if I was lucky enough to find it around second cut sale time, it would be my favorite purchase of the year. I did and it definitely was! In late 2009 and early 2010 I wore it to every holiday party, event, and mundane errand trip possible. I still bring it with me when I travel in winter to cooler climes. It doesn't hold wrinkles. It looks fun layered or belted. And it can speak for itself. This is one of the dresses that I liked so much I bought it twice (in the other colorway). With the influence of sale goggles and the incessant consumerist nag for "new"/"more" it can be difficult to know which purchases will have longevity and which will bore us, eventually. Although I cleared out some of my lesser worn MBMJ dresses on my shop blog, the ones I have kept are beloved. Even treasured. I might bring some of them with me for my upcoming conference trip to wear to dinner one night.


Marianne Canada said...

I love that this dress is wool! Warm dresses make me happy.

Tricia Mickelsen Thomas said...

I love that your dress tied into the lesson!  I feel the same way about a few dresses.  It is beautiful and so pretty on!

Terrie said...

I love this outfit! The colors look so great on you!

Being a scientist, I know all too well that female scientists usually don't "dress up" for much of anything and many actually seem to rebel against fashion altogether, wearing acid-washed jeans hiked up to their boobs, mock-neck t-shirts, and tennis shoes that look like Kaepas. I sometimes feel weird actually dressing nice around these other women. I wonder if they think I'm being frivolous or any less of a scientist because I put some effort into shopping and dressing! But darn it, it makes me feel good, especially when you've done fieldwork where you're wearing crappy clothes, sweating your butt off, and getting covered head-to-toe in dirt. Gotta clean up and put on a nice dress!

M. said...

You're right, I sadly can't see the wool, but I really wish I could. I do like that dress, though, and I'm glad it could be utilized as an excellent segue.  I find that things like fashion choices, which are ubiquitous, are easily analyzed by students as soon as it's pointed out. I've had similar experiences when talking about culturally coded gestures--how is it that we pick up on when we're supposed to give a handshake as opposed to a kiss on the cheek? 

snowymt 55 said...

love love love all things paisley!

BiblioMOMia said...

Totally dynamite.  The colors and pattern are just so rich!

I got in similar conversations with my students on a regular basis--they usually started with a girl telling me she liked my shoes, me blushing, and trying to steer the conversation to something about the rhetorical impact of clothing.  Sigh.  

Raquelita said...

It sounds like a good discussion and a great way to make semiotics seem a little bit more relatable for your students. Unfortunately, I have not had any similar conversations in a class in ages (this may be a fact that my classes tend to be dominated by 18-22 year old males). 

The dress is lovely!

Raquelita said...

A colleague of mine is going up for Promotion and Tenure and I was reviewing her portfolio recently. One of the letters written by someone who had observed her teaching noted that she arrived "professionally dressed, wearing a blouse and blazer." Admittedly, my experience is very limited, but this struck me as very odd. What if this colleague was transgendered or part of a goth sub-culture, would the letter writer have remarked negatively upon her appearance? I have seen remarks from (often older, male) faculty members that make me wonder if my piercings or if someone's visible tattoos might play a role in the informal conversations that one has with others and with oneself about a colleague's merits and abilities.


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