Fashionably Smart: An Oxymoron?

"Women who wanted to be taken seriously were supposed to substantiate their seriousness with a studied indifference to appearance. For serious women writers in particular, it was better not to dress well at all, and if you did, then it was best to pretend that you had not put much thought into it. If you spoke of fashion, it had to be either with apology or with the slightest of sneers. The further your choices were from the mainstream, the better. The only circumstance under which caring about clothes was acceptable was when making a statement, creating an image of some sort to be edgy, eclectic, counterculture. It could not merely be about taking pleasure in clothes." --Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "Why Can't A Smart Woman Love Fashion?" Elle Magazine February 20, 2014

Blazer: DEMESTIKS NEW YORK by Reuben Reul (Order from Belt: Banana Republic

Blazer: DEMESTIKS NEW YORK by Reuben Reul (Order from Belt: Banana Republic

While pursuing my PhD and in the various institutions where I have been employed, I have often found myself being embarrassed and borderline apologetic for my love of clothes. Often branded as "overdressed" wherever I would go, I quickly realized the reality of  Adichie's observation that in order to be taken seriously one had to exhibit a staunch "indifference" to fashion. Whether spoken or unspoken, it was always clear to me that in many academic settings a woman's choice to take great pride and enjoyment in hair styling, polished nails, makeup, and clothes was inversely correlated to  the level of respect she received as well as the level of intellectual capacity she was viewed as possessing. I was conditioned to believe that in order to appear valid, smart, strong, hardworking, and accomplished I had to actively not take an interest in my outward appearance. I was brainwashed into thinking that time spent relishing in fashion was time well wasted on nonsense.

However, at the risk of appearing anti-intellectual, superfluous, and immature I have and still continue to make the choice to express myself in the way that I desire.  In many settings I have become a spectacle or been labeled the "stylish girl" with people making snap judgements about my income as though it is an impossible feat to look chic and put together on a budget. I have been told that my style choices are "distracting" or too audacious in relationship to my academic and professional achievements. When I share that I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu people are taken aback that someone that dresses in such a feminine way could engage in such a "rough" or "manly" activity in their free time.

It almost seems a never ending journey as a woman to feel comfortable in your own skin, yet alone your own clothes. Thus, my fashion posts celebrate my decision to walk confidently in heels with a handbag twice my size. I no longer apologize for my love of bold colors, vivid prints, and Iris Apfel style layered accessories. To take pride and pleasure in my clothes does not make me any less smart, serious, or accomplished.

I grew up watching Phylicia Rashad play Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show and I knew that it was possible to be stylish and smart. As Claire waltzed into the Huxtable household with tailored suits and statement earrings after a long day at the law firm I saw that being fashionably smart was not an oxymoron.  


As  a Modern Mrs. Huxtable my choices in fashion are a call to women to use clothes to express themselves in all of their multifaceted complexities. Sometimes my style actively combats conformity and sometimes it doesn't, but what I do hope it always does is expand our society's limited views of women. My style is a layered method of self expression that cannot be reduced to a snap judgment, superficial spectacle, stereotype based assumption, or neat and orderly box of classification.   

My fashion posts are a salute to women everywhere who are unapologetic about the way they choose to dress!