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 . . .


  1. LOVE IT!!! I think these moto, asymmetric zip styled jackets not only bring a little edge, but are fabulous for we H shapes! I'm sure that Pater is right and that you do indeed look Hot in it.

  2. What a fantastic jacket which you are going to rock "the fuck out of"! Show us a photo on you...

  3. I need to know - what shoes will you wear with it? I have a similar jacket, but haven't figured out the shoes!

  4. Thanks, Pseu -- the asymmetric zip is part of what attracted me here -- and there's a nice feature whereby the central panel zips out either to fasten up more snugly (NOT my choice, hah!) or to hang open with less bulk.
    K: Thanks, tee-hee-hee! And yes, I'll have to rope Pater into some photo-taking soon.
    Kathy: Great to have a fresh voice here -- have to say I LOVE your hair in your profile pic! -- I'm still thinking about what shoes, and of course that will also depend on which jeans or skirts I'll be wearing. I have a few options in mind and I promise to put that post together for you soon.
    Lesley: Ah, sorority! Or even better, as you say, sistah-hood!Thank you!

  5. Heck, Mater, I'm eyeing a black leather motorcycle style jacket myself. May go tamer, just might not:). I think your jacket looks great and not a bit out of keeping with your personal style.

  6. Great jacket! Did you read Linda Grant's musings on the appropriateness or otherwise of leather jackets on women 'of a certain age'? Fascinating stuff. And regarding the expectations of an academic, it is all such utter bollocks - my absolute favourite academic when I was doing my Masters was probably 10 years older than me and wore AMAZING clothes, including insanely short shirts (she had the legs for it). It never occurred to me or any of my fellow students that she was less cerebral for having a strong personal style.

  7. sometimes you put on a piece of clothing that seems made for you in which case you can't not acquire it - cost, age appropriateness, whatever do not enter into it. I'm confident you will look awesome in this jacket

  8. LPC: Can't wait to see!
    Tiffany: Yes! I remember that fabulous debate over at The Thoughtful Dresser's, partly because I was thrilled that she cited me, at one point, but mostly because it was such a great discussion, rather a flashpoint for much of what has gone on blogverse-wise since then, re fashion and the woman of a certain age.
    And your recollection of a favourite academic who could also rock her own style is a reassuring and inspiring one -- thanks!
    Rachel: Thanks, sister! I'm looking forward to seeing your camel Burberry!

  9. Fabulous jacket and I can almost perfectly render you in my imagination in that jacket. I think it is probably far more interesting and flattering on you than on the model.

    The whole discussion of what women should wear at a certain age, or not wear, as well as the entire academic discussion is growing very annoying. Let women be women for goodness sakes. I'd like to think that given freedom and encouragement we would each find our place and dress to suit ourselves and the environment in which we find ourselves. (and that there would be some meeting of self and environment) But I don't work in an academic environment. But I remember enough from having grown up on a college campus.

    My favorite professors had style and intelligence and personality, and these characteristics complemented each other in both the way they engaged their classes and the way they presented themselves to the world. In short, they were engaged in their work and engaged in the world. The bland boring academic who buries themselves in blandness does nothing to inspire anyone.

    Enjoy your jacket. I am positive it suits you.

  10. Thank you, Mardel, for this thoughtful and encouraging--and just the right amount of indignant-- comment. I'm planning to enjoy this jacket!

  11. This doesn't read as moto to me, as classic motos have that standup collar thing, not lapels. I'd just call it a terrific fitted and zipped leather jacket and to hell with what anyone thinks as long as you feel great in it! And having actually MET you I know you will!

  12. Duchesse: Thanks for the encouragement. The zippers (also on the sleeves) give it a moto look, imo, and the collar has light wiring inside that lets it hold a stand-up shape should I want that. But I agree that it's more toned down than the rougher-edged Harley-style jacket. And I really love it!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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