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Grad school attire?


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It's still very warm right now where I live, so I wear a lot of sundresses and dress them up with grown-up accessories like scarves and hats and nice shoes. I see a lot of the undergrads wearing spaghetti-strap tank tops, tiny shorts, and flip flops, but I don't dress like that on days when I have seminar, though I have worn such things on campus (at the library, cafe, etc.) and people mistook me for an undergrad.

 

I should mention that I am at a VERY casual institution where only one grad student in my cohort wears suits and everyone else thinks it's hilarious … a few of the cohort guys wear collared shirts sometimes … but almost everyone usually wears jeans and t-shirts, and none of the professors wear full-on suits and ties (though many wear slacks and blouses or collared shirts).

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My advisor usually wears t-shirts (often with graphics), jeans, and sneakers. Sometimes he will wear a turtleneck or collared polo shirt. He wears an ill-fitting jacket and tie at conference dinners. BUT, he can afford to wear whatever he likes because of his status as a tenured full professor. I notice that the assistant and even associate male professors tend to wear slacks or khakis and collared shirts, tucked in with belts and matching shoes (no white socks). The more politically- and socially-minded male professors wear suits.

 

None of the female professors, at any rank, ever dress super casually.

 

Like myself, I think that most everyone at my institution makes a conscious decision about how to dress... and how others will read their dress, whether as "text" or as "art." The message I'm getting is that it's okay to dress casually if you can afford to have people not care about how you look because of your high status. If you are a woman, you'd better be dressed well or at least neatly. If you are a young professor, looks still count. If you are a person of color, no matter the gender, looks count. What I think is interesting is that some of our professors are critical scholars, yet they seem to conform very well to American cultural norms about what a "professor" should look like, act like, or be like.

 

So, all of this is to say that the question of graduate student attire is no trivial matter.

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It is sort of cold where I am for most of the year. Since that is, I've stocked up on quite a few nicer quality sweaters in conservative colors (think navy blue, black, tints of gray/and taupe lol). I am less conservative with my shoe collection and scarves. I tend to worry more about looking clean and neat than looking fashionable (since I am poor). The department air is "more casual than business casual", so I try to fit in...with the exception of the shoes and scarves. I am a woman of color, and I look quite young despite being in my 30s, so I pay quite close attention to having an appropriate dress sense. I don't care if other people say that we should not care or act like we should not care...because the truth is, I CARE and so far, meticulous preparation to my presentation has worked for me.

Edited by i.am.me
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i.am.me makes a good point about how your race/age/gender may make a difference as to how you choose to dress. Personally, as a very-young-looking 24 year old female in a PhD program, I will be making sure to be well turned out, even if I'm wearing casual clothes.

 

During my undergraduate degree I would rarely wear any make up at all and not bother doing my hair. I carried cheap/free tote bags and would wear tank tops and shorts, or scruffy jumpers and oversized jeans. I guess I feel like there are minimal standards of personal presentation that apply in grad school, since it's effectively a job. If they're paying me to be there, I will happily get up 5 minutes earlier to put on a little make-up. It also helps me to be in a better mindset for studying if I present myself like I'm going to work.

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We have a dress code for clinic and since we are almost always going between classes and clinic or at least walking through the clinic, I basically go to all my classes in what is basically business casual with something bright colored in there to keep it interesting. As part of our dress code, everything has to be ironed and just sensible for meeting with patients.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I'm in a "neat" department (Politics/IR) in the main commercial city (Auckland) of a casual country (NZ).

 

My wardrobe gets a disproportionate share of my discretionary spending (I'm gay, so it goes with the territory).   The somewhat British town-and-country take on preppy I've developed seems to go over well in academia.  It's presentable in the eyes of "important" people (department chair, admin), low maintenance (a few pieces per year dry cleaning at worst), I'm comfortable/at ease/confident with it, functional (cool is summer, snuggly in winter), and it isn't subject to the reverse snobbery heaped onto businesswear/suits.  

 

Yeah, I over-analyse.  

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Last week, I was doing a lesson in my composition class on how to analyze rhetoric and used myself as a model. I wore hiking hoses, jeans with the bottoms ripped (I'm short, the pants are not), and faded from use, and a white tee shirt (one of a five pack, available in the Big Box Store of Doom for 7 bucks). We got a lot of mileage about what kind of assumptions and "common sense" we get from wardrobe. I wear math-geek tee shirts a lot, too, which is funny for an English teacher.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a field biologist, I am expected to wear t-shirts, long pants (jeans or otherwise), and hiking boots. When doing work in the lab, I'm expected to wear old clothes that I don't mind destroying if something should spill. So I pretty much wear jeans and t-shirts every day of the year, except that I sometimes wear special insect-repellent pants in the middle of summer when I'm in the field. I usually wear shirts with cartoons, jokes, or places I've been to on them.

If I were teaching, I would likely dress a bit better and go for plain shirts and blouses, and depending on if I was in a lab or not, I might even wear a skirt. My professors usually wear jeans and somewhat plain shirts (sometimes you see logos and pictures), and don't seem to care what's on their feet. There are a few people who dress well, like the department chair. He usually looks like he's going to a photo shoot.

I imagine students and faculty who don't get dirty or work in labs with hazardous chemicals probably dress better. Really, though, I don't see the point of trying to dress a certain way. There's enough stress in grad school already, so why fuss about your appearance?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I imagine students and faculty who don't get dirty or work in labs with hazardous chemicals probably dress better. Really, though, I don't see the point of trying to dress a certain way. There's enough stress in grad school already, so why fuss about your appearance?

 

My research requires very little lab work, and during the academic year (aka non-field season) I put time/effort into my appearance because I enjoy it. Also, I am not a morning person, so having a routine of clothes, hair, and makeup to go through each day makes it easier for me to get up and moving. 

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