Thursday, September 2, 2010

Motorcycle Mania, Older Women, and Academic Fashion

Apropos of recent posts by two of my favourite bloggers, Miss Cavendish and Une Femme, I hereby offer you the latest addition to my wardrobe, photo taken from the Mackage. website. As a female academic of a certain age, I should not, according to certain strictures regularly circulated, emphasized, and tsk-tsk-tsk'ed over, be wearing a motorcycle-style jacket.

Sorry, but not giving a fuck over here*.

Blame the defiance and the almost-never-used-on-this-blog (although very well-worn in my daily life) expletive on three days of best behaviour while my mother visits.

But I've been looking for the perfect black leather jacket with some edge for a couple of years now. Two years ago, I thought I’d found it in a bomber-style, but as Imogen could have predicted, what with my short- waisted H-shape, that just wasn’t going to work. The three-inch band of ribbing which stretched out just above my hips was disastrous, and I meekly bought a navy pea-jacket (which I love and wear regularly) instead.

So I was exultant and very, very hopeful when I spotted Virginia (the jacket’s name) last weekend. By the same company as the one I tried on before settling for my peacoat, this one has no band of ribbing, instead extending the length at the front in a slightly rounded gentle swoop. I tried it on and no, it doesn’t give me a slim, well-defined waist in a long hourglass figure as it does for this model (I know, technically she brought her own figure to the shoot). But the elongated front stretches my front visually, I feel great in it, and my husband assures me I look “hot” -- good enough for this old crone who is finally wise enough to know that if I can tick off that many boxes on my list, I can ignore the Fashion Police.

As Une Femme says, if wearing those boots or that skirt or, for me, that leather jacket, sets you right into a "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead!" frame of mind then wear it and own the look. You're the only one who can decide if or when it's time to pass on a particular style or skirt length. Trust yourself, you'll know. . . . don't let the Fashion Police cramp your style. If an item sings to you (and fits), chances are you'll feel and look fabulous wearing it. Let's retire some of those tired old tropes about what's "age appropriate" and rewrite the rules to suit ourselves.

As for the even more annoying self-appointed arbiters of Academic Style, adding to the rules about how older women should dress even more rules about academic professionalism, I can't agree more with Miss C, who says, with understandable impatience, presenting a drab physical shell doesn't consequently shine a brighter light on the ideas that one puts forth.

I'm going to quote my own comment from that post, and hope you don't mind -- the topic just really got me going:
I find this debate so tiresome -- smacks of that whole "life of the mind" attitude, the Cartesian separation, etc., etc., -- All kinds of partriarchal overtones as well.
I know we're supposed to view ideas/education for their own sake and not be concerned about relevance to the material specifics of the quotidian, but I heartily believe that when students see me engage with their world -- and style/fashion is part of that -- they are more likely to engage back.
Much of what I do in the classroom involves pointing out how discourse works, and trying to illuminate the many discourses we are caught up in at any one time -- I find style to be such a wonderful illustration of that!And besides, anyone with the aesthetic sensitivity to appreciate well-strung-together, exquisitely appropriate words may very likely have that aesthetic energy spill over into self-representation.
If Belle's daughter is correct in her assessment of her poetry prof's personality via the blue-streaked hair, does she not think that pretentiousness would show up in other ways? Causation vs. correlation and all that, and maybe it's just as well for students to have a ready marker: Danger -- pretentious prof in this class, drop course now!
Pretending we're above it all, living our lofty "life of the mind" in tired tweeds does a serious disservice to whatever we teach . . . I'm betting you've inspired many students to think they can love literature and rock some Pucci all at the same time!

Should you be in my small city this weekend and notice a curly-haired woman “of a certain age” wearing a black moto-style jacket, covering her ears and calling out “I’m not listening, I’m not listening” to the FP trying to hand her a ticket, that’ll be me. Say hi, would you?

*I anticipate your objection that generally when people say this, they do, indeed, "give a fuck." And I concede that I seem to have worked up a certain amount of defiance, if not outrage, about this. So be it. I'll try not to let it get out of hand . . .

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