Sunday, August 14, 2016

It's August, so I must be panicking about fashion again

Oh this poor, neglected blog. There are always more pressing duties to attend to. I am entering my fourth year as an adjunct professor. The past few years, I've been very depressed and so busy I can hardly keep my head above water. I love teaching, but there's nothing about being an adjunct that is great. Yesterday the community college where I work published the list of expenditures (including salaries) for the last year. While I made less than $10,000, my boss made over $100,000, yet he likes to pretend he feels compassion, and wishes he could pay me more, but wherever would it come from?

I also had a pretty bad injury that put me in a leg brace, which seriously affected my wardrobe options. There was literally only one pair of shoes I could find to fit over the brace, and they were hideous. I ended up wearing basic grey pants and sweaters every day. Nothing exciting, nothing blog-worthy. I was shooting for whatever was professional and covered my body.

I have a new job now. I am still teaching at the community college an hour away, and now also working as an adjunct at a school in my town 8 minutes from my house. It's a fantastic school, and I'm hoping it turns into something more. They have a history of hiring adjuncts as full-timers, so I'm optimistic. It's a small, private, Catholic university, so there is a bit more of a dress code, and being excited for my job again has made me actually want to dress up.

My current dilemma: finding a cute, professional backpack to use to haul all my teaching supplies from place to place. The wear and tear on my shoulder and back from my messenger bag is sinking in. Also, trying to find a modesty layer I can don under dresses that display too much cleavage. I have a lot of really cute dresses, mostly from eshakti, but unfortunately they always tend to be far too low-cut. I tend toward modesty anyway, and it's a requirement at this new school. So. Pile on the leggings and cardigans and whatever I can find to cover up.

It's still such a struggle to find the right balance between professional and remaining true to my identity. As a professor, even an adjunct professor, I feel less free to wear the kooky outfits I wore in the past. I won't wear skirts as short or dresses as tight, and I want to cover my cleavage. I do, however, have a new haircut; I have the left side of my head shaved, so I typically wear all my hair parted to the right, showing off the shaved side. It's very easy to cover up if I need to, and I always do for job interviews, but I don't know if I will when I teach this year.

Other perhaps-interesting tidbits: I've never worn makeup for a variety of reasons, but I've recently become pretty obsessed with my 10-step Korean skin care regimen. I had a really bad reaction to some expired fancy American product and the Korean products calmed that down and I love taking the time twice a day to taking care of myself. And I've actually gotten compliments on how good my skin looks, which never happened before.

I might write about stuff here again, is what I'm saying. And all of these issues are things I might talk about. I have no idea if anyone is reading this, but ::waves:: hi. I'm still here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In the Midlands

As usually happens, the weather turned colder, and my outfits got blander. I've been so busy since I last wrote. In October, I bought a house and also picked up a class for the spring, as well as found out my other two part time jobs will continue, so while my income will be reduced in the spring (and the job hunt continues), I will survive. Thank goodness for my mortgage being dramatically cheaper than rent! In other good news, my boss observed me last week, and was pleased with what he saw. I was the only adjunct offered a class next semester, so that feels both flattering and perilous. The only good thing about being an adjunct is having more time to work on my own research and writing.

This is the first semester that I've managed to dress up for each class. That's four days a week and 12 weeks so far. It's the first time I've maintained the dressing up, and I think it has helped save my sanity a lot. In the past I've ended up with a uniform of nice jeans, and a long sweater coat every single day. I wish I'd documented each outfit as I planned, but it is stressful and difficult for me to maintain a blog. Seeing photos of myself is hard when I already feel so watched already.

An exciting thing about buying a house is that I turned a spare bedroom into a closet by putting up some closet hardware on the walls. It's not finished yet, but one entire wall is devoted to dresses, with another wall for blazers, sweaters, pants, skirts, etc. with split hanging racks. I love it.

I'm struggling to stay warm, and jeans under a dress has been my go-to right now. It's so much warmer than leggings. Which brings me to an amazing find: fleece-lined teggings from Re/Dress! Sadly they don't fit me, but I did turn them into leg warmers, so I've been wearing them underneath another pair of leggings. Layering tights and leggings and such is definitely something I'll be experimenting with as it gets even colder. Midwestern cold gets into your bones in a way that the desert cold never did.

Another way I've experimented with extending my wardrobe is wearing a neutral long-sleeved shirt underneath a shorter-sleeved or sleeveless dress. Maybe this seems obvious to others, but it hadn't occurred to me before. Maybe it says "Mormon fashion" to some, but it keeps me toasty warm.

Around the house, I wear an old-fashioned chenille housecoat/robe over sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Until I found my space heater, I was wearing three layers to bed. It's damn cold.

There's so much more I want to say, but I don't want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good; I thought any post was better than no post, so this is what you have. I've had a migraine all day, and last night had a bat in my house and this evening the Roto Rooter guy freeing my pipes from tree roots.

How do you stay warm in the winter? How do you keep your clothes organized?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Guest Post: Out of the Closet & Into the Classroom

{This guest post comes to us from Stephen S. Mills, a friend and colleague of mine I met during my MFA days. Stephen is talented and always one of the most dapper folks in the room! I'm so pleased to share his thoughts and outfits with you!}

If I’m going to be honest, I have to say that there are days when I spend more time thinking about what I’m going to wear to teach class than about my lesson plan for the day. Does this make me a bad teacher or maybe just a superficial person? Some might say yes. But what I wear is important to me, not only as a teacher, but also as a person. It’s not strictly about the clothes, but about finding that perfect combination for that specific day.
Worrying or thinking about fashion is often viewed as a silly or an elite thing to do. Fashion can easily be connected to social-economic status and class. But this is mostly true when you look at fashion in a narrow or label-fueled way. It doesn’t simply have to be about buying expensive clothes or walking down a runway (not that there is anything wrong with these things).
When I speak of fashion, I’m discussing the everyday experience of standing in front of my closet full of clothes (yes, I buy a lot of clothes) and deciding what pieces will make me feel good that day. These are decisions we all have to make no matter our status or class. For me, it is about empowerment and about making a statement that is mine. There are many things we can’t control about our appearance (at least not without the help of plastic surgeons), but what we wear is in our power. I buy lots of clothes, but I don’t spend tons of money on each item. I’m a good shopper. I buy things on sale. I go to stores often. I focus more on the fit and style of the clothing and less on labels (with a few exceptions). I did recently purchase a Jack Spade bag partly because it was a Jack Spade bag, and I was jealous of the other cute gay boys running around the city with them. The bag, however, is a great fashion piece and is really practical and useful, so it balances out.
As a teacher, there are a lot of considerations one has to make when deciding what to wear. Some schools enforce or strongly suggest a dress code for instructors. For men this leaves few options. When men are given a dress code it typically means you have to wear dress pants and button-up dress shirt (don’t get me started on the unfair gender bias when it comes to dress codes). You also want to consider how what you wear might affect the students in your classroom.
When I started as a teaching assistant in graduate school, it was suggested (not enforced) that we, as TAs, dress a little more professional to help create a separation between the instructor and the students. This makes sense on some levels. Many of us were fresh out of college and were only going to be about four to five years older than our students. Some of us, myself included, looked very young (even at nearly 31, I still get asked if I’m student). I followed this advice at first, but I’ve never been one for dressing “professional,” at least not in the traditional sense of the word. As my teaching style began to develop, so did my sense of what to wear in the classroom.
Over the years, I’ve realized that my teaching style is to breakdown the barriers between myself and the students and to come at them from a place of mutual respect. I ask them to be themselves in the classroom and to share with me their own experiences and skills. To do that, I need to be myself as well (at least to a certain degree) and for me that means wearing clothes that fit my personal sense of style. I don’t feel comfortable in certain kinds of clothes and that discomfort can be directly tied to how well I teach.
As teachers we are constantly fighting an uphill battle. We have to battle the changing times, the crumbling education system, the fact that many students don’t know what they should when they enter college, and the often-scattered attention span of our students. If I’m standing in front of them in something that catches their attention or makes them watch me a little longer, I see that as a win.
Currently, I teach English Composition courses at a career college in New York City. Most of my students are there to earn a medical assistant certificate or an associates degree in nursing. Some of them don’t have their GEDs and are working on those as well. These are not “traditional” college students. Most are in their twenties or older, and a good portion of them have children (many were teen-mothers). About 95% percent of the students are female and nearly all are Hispanic or black. When I enter the classroom, I’m a minority on all levels. I’m male, white, and gay.
In this environment, I’ve found that my clothing has proved useful. In my ten months at this job, I’ve gotten more compliments and comments about my clothes than anywhere I have ever taught. One girl recently complimented me on never wearing the same outfit twice to class (which is something I often try to do, especially with my classes that meet once a week). With this comment, I was mostly impressed at how observant she was, which is a necessity in writing.
Perhaps they’ve noticed my clothes more because my students are required to wear scrubs, so I’m the only one in street clothes. Maybe it’s because I’m one of the youngest people working there, and I do dress distinctively different from my co-workers. Maybe it is because it’s New York City and people pay more attention to fashion. Or maybe it’s because I’m not what they expected and my clothes are just one aspect of what makes me break the expectation of a college English professor.
I don’t have the answer, but I can say my clothing is a way to connect with the students and that connection leads to a better classroom environment. I don’t believe there is one way to teach. I believe that people must find their own style. Much like the choices we make in fashion every day.

About Stephen:

Stephen S. Mills holds an MFA from Florida State University. He’s taught college English courses for eight years. His work as a writer has appeared in The Antioch Review, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, PANK, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Assaracus, The Rumpus, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award. His first book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, is available from Sibling Rivalry Press and was a finalist for the Thom Gunn Poetry Award and won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. He currently lives in New York City. Website:

Monday, October 7, 2013


I found out on Thursday that my adjunct position won't be renewed for next semester, because enrollment is way down. Of course this sucks, and I'm really depressed. I have to finish out the rest of the semester, but I desperately need to found another job.

To be honest, I don't feel like this blog will continue with much regularity. I have a second interview for a retail position that will require a uniform, and if I get the job, I might write about what it's like to move from choosing what I wear every day to having to wear a specific uniform, but I just don't feel like talking much about clothing right now, even though I'm excited to transition finally to cold weather clothes.

Here is what I wore today: my favorite giraffe dress from eShakti, black Old Navy leggings, a cardigan from Lane Bryant, and boots from Old Navy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Still Wearing Clothes

top from Old Navy. Black pencil skirt (not pictured)
from old Navy.

I'm still here, still wearing clothes and teaching. I've been struggling. It's almost midterm, and I've managed to wear a new outfit every day and avoid jeans, which is usually my fallback when I don't feel well, and which I'm not actually allowed to wear as a professor. Boo. The weather is still frustratingly warm, and I've battled migraines and chronic pain, and students who don't even attempt to care and technology that doesn't work and foils my teaching plans. I've struggled with the Gaze of the Student on my non-conforming body, my fatness, my queerness, my disability writ large (pun intended) across me as I stand at the front of the room, as I turn my back and write on the board and whisper about me. I know I'm a good teacher, but it's difficult to survive this piercing gaze. Young people today have a cruel way of treating Others who don't fit their acceptable standards, and it's tough to withstand that sometimes. Yes, sure, I'm grading them, and therefore I have more power in the dynamic, but it sure doesn't feel that way, especially when they tell me outright that they don't care what grade they get in the class, when they don't try to even be polite and be quiet while I'm trying to teach. So many days I feel weary and sick and fighting back or working with them just feels impossible. My body is on display every day, and it takes a toll on me. I long for cooler weather, when I can arm myself with cardigans and coats and tights and leggings and boots and feel protected against the shame it seems they try to make me feel. It is not easy to be a body like mine at the front of the classroom, and I don't even have race as an issue to contend with, so I know my POC colleagues feel this to an even greater extent. 

So I still haven't gotten my camera fixed. These are not the best outfit photos. But this is what I've been wearing.

from eShakti, a dress with a butterfly skirt. The only
outfit I've reworn this semester.

Cardigan from Old Navy, Maxi dress from Lane Bryant.

my favorite giraffe dress, from eShakti. Only trouble is,
it's very short, so leggings are a must. This is the first and only
dress that got me compliments from multiple students.

I feel angry about how little money I make for how hard I work, and for how difficult this is for me. The teaching is not difficult, the lesson planning and grading itself, but being a sick, disabled, fat, queer body in front of other bodies is rough. Right now I'm on day two of a migraine, and the only way I'm going to survive today is that my students have a peer workshop in class. I have no idea what I'm going to wear today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bathroom Selfies

I never expected to get so far behind in my OOTD posts, but my life grew incredibly busy recently as I started the process of buying a home. I have a lot of complex feelings about becoming a property owner, both what it means to critique capitalism and participate in it in this way, and because it means I've really firmly made the decision not to pursue any jobs--academic or otherwise--outside of my hometown. I'd be lying if I said that decision didn't somewhat scare me. But I'm also excited, and I think it's the right decision for me. I love being near my family, and I've wanted a place of my own for a long time. The capitalism critique is outside the scope of this blog, but allow me to point you toward Enough where they specialize in that. I will continue to detail my rampant consumerism in regards to fatshion here.

What I'm most excited about when it comes to my new house is turning a small spare bedroom into a walk-in closet. It is going to be pretty incredible, and I promise to share photos here.

Now for a roundup of some outfits I've been wearing. I've been taking daily selfies in my car and in the bathroom at work, because it feels like too much work to use my DSLR, and I decided that something is better than nothing. Maybe once I have my own house (and fenced-in yard! I will take selfies w/o shame once again.

All dresses but the last one are from eShakti. The golden sweater is from SWAK Designs, and the final dress is from Old Navy. 

I have a lot of really wonderful dresses, but I want to challenge myself to wear skirts more. I have so many skirts and cute tops, but I never think to wear them. I don't know why.

What I've realized during this first month of teaching is that I hate trying to dress professionally in hot weather. Give me a cardigan and tights, please! Even wearing jewelry feels uncomfortable when I'm sweaty, so I just end up feeling underdressed and underaccessorized. Also, I've had a lot of stress and pain lately, and it is really difficult for me to feel put together when I feel like crap. But this is the longest I've sustained dressing nicely every day I teach, and at four days a week, that's saying something. My body has changed a lot in the past four years, and clothes fit differently for me. I have lost weight in my chest, and gained it in my stomach, and so my dresses hang differently. It's tough to navigate my feelings about my changing body and the fact that for 12 hours a week, 25 students are staring at my body. It's uncomfortable, and they laugh and whisper about me when I turn my back to write on the whiteboard. I know some of them aren't laughing at me, but I've overheard some of their comments, and it's difficult to hear and remain impartial towards them. These students are so much more disrespectful than I've had before. I'm focusing as little attention as I can on my teaching while still doing a good job. My new motto is "I'm a better teacher when I care less," which sounds horrible, but it means caring less about the rudeness and the texting and the bitchy comments and the insubordination and recalcitrance. I focus on the ones who work, and do my best to deliver a good lesson, and I leave my problems (though, unfortunately, not my grading) in the classroom so I can focus my attention on my personal life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Long Weekend

Catching up on an outfit from last week that I loved, and my fatshion-filled weekend!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the heat has been brutal lately, which makes wearing any clothes at all incredibly uncomfortable. I've struggled to remain professionally dressed while battling chafing and heat rash and other uncomfortable consequences of the weather. It has been a really difficult first two weeks. My commute isn't long, but the traffic congestion means I have to really pay attention and drive defensively, to avoid an accident with aggressive, thoughtless drivers. It stresses me out! The time of day that I return home is also right during rush hour, and last week, I had to sit on the highway parked for an hour because of an accident miles ahead.

My favorite part of the day is picking out what to wear. Sometimes this can be incredibly stressful when outfits don't work as planned, when things don't fit well or look how I wanted them to look, or when I'm having a bad body image day and I just can't feel good in any clothes, yet still have to get dressed and face the world, but I also love fashion and trying on new clothes and planning what I'm going to wear.

This outfit was worn last Thursday. I wanted to wear a yellow top with this new plaid skirt, but the skirt is actually a little big (as I prefer to wear it high-waisted), and I didn't like how it looked with just the yellow tank top. It looked too casual to me, so I searched through my closet for something else to wear that wouldn't be too heavy. It's definitely not cardigan weather yet! Finally I found this drapey white cardigan. The proportions were all wrong with it hanging loosely, so I tied it up and actually loved how it looked. I loved this fuller skirt.

I've been taking instagram selfies in the bathroom between my classes.

Skirt: eShakti
Tank: Old Navy
Cardigan: Old Navy

This weekend, I met up with some good friends in Cleveland for the pre-opening of Re/Dress's new location. Two friends drove down from Buffalo along with another fatty friend of theirs and we had a great time. The store is fantastic; Rachel has done a fabulous job. It was a very long 18-hour round trip drive to be in Cleveland less than 24 hours, but it was such a pleasure to see my friends. I really needed to recharge after a hard few weeks and a difficult summer.

selfie from the car

the front of the store.

Rachel, owner of Re/Dress, and my friend A. (sporting a fantastic eShakti frock)

I love how Rachel matched her store!

A's kickass boots!

another one of my friends, who I've known since high school

In this photo, I'm wearing a dress from Modcloth that I was thrilled fit me. They've slowly expanded their plus size offerings, and there is not much in my size, but I ordered this red and black striped dress, and the "universe dress," which I probably won't wear to work ever, but which (barely) fits. I'm glad to have another option for cute dresses and I even ordered another dress from them now that I know some things will fit. Fingers crossed that it does!

The Universe dress from Modcloth:

another item I got from Modcloth:

 Today I was excited to wear a dress I got from eShakti awhile ago. I bought it specifically as a teaching dress because of the pattern:

Apples! (I don't know why I always have such a sour look on my face in these photos!) Also: photobomb by my French bulldog.

More selfies from the car:

the apple necklace from Modcloth that I wore

another bathroom selfie

I'm not used to wearing dresses without stretch, but I am loving these eShakti dresses. I get so many compliments whenever I wear one, because people usually haven't ever seen the same dresses before. Though whenever I'm in fat community, I see a lot of eShakti dresses. It's funny because I first learned of them when I lived in Utah. My LDS friends loved them, because of the ease of customizing a dress to be more modest. I started buying dresses there because they actually came in my size!

I've been thinking a lot about Femme expression as survival, or as self-medication. I feel better at work when I'm dressed nicely and when I like how I look. It's my armor against rude students or dismissive colleagues or my own insecurities and chronic pain. Sometimes the only thing that gets me up in the morning is my eagerness to wear a new dress. That's depressing as hell, but also the truth. I started this blog up again because I still have all these questions about how to mesh my fat queer femme identity with the need to live up to others' standards of professionalization, and my desire to distract myself from things I hate about the adjunct system. If one dwells too long on the job market, it is easy to spiral into a depressive anxiety cycle. Sometimes I hate my body, my self, my job, my life. But I love this dress or that necklace, and sometimes that is enough, and sometimes that helps.