Thursday, November 11, 2010

Professional Conference Attire


Earlier Drafts:
I wore this jacket/belt combination over a dress in the spring.

faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
teal button-down (NY&Co)
navy blazer (Gap Outlet)
brown belt (Kohl's)
"mocha" trousers (Express)
teal mary janes (Seychelles)

First, I want to thank you guys again for your thoughts on my student conference attire.  I'm looking forward to telling you how they went and what I wore next week, after I've had a chance to meet with all my students and upload some pictures.

For today, though-- on to a very different type of conference!  I recently gave a paper at an interdisciplinary conference at my own university.  I was very intimidated to share a panel with a fellow grad student who is on his second yearlong dissertation fellowship award, a professor who is currently working on her second book on a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship, and another professor who is a premier scholar in the field.  It was also kind of nerve-wracking to give the talk in front of so many of my own professors. I knew they'd be stopping me in the halls to talk to me about it afterward (and they have).  I was completely prepared, though, and that always helps to calm my nerves.  My co-panelists' papers were really interesting, and I got some very helpful questions and comments about my own paper, so it was a definite success.

I kind of surprised myself by putting together this pants outfit for the presentation, given my recent reservations about pants.  Last spring, when I presented at an international conference, I wore a dress and swing jacket combination.  I came across the photo linked above in the "earlier drafts" section, which reminded me that I actually wore a different version of today's outfit to the first day of that conference.  This time, I thought I'd stick with something that had worked before while making it a little more "me."  I added the teal button down underneath, the turquoise beaded necklace, and what are quickly becoming my signature teal mary janes.  The belt was perhaps unnecessary, but despite how frequently I deploy this waist-cinching maneuver, this was the first time my husband has ever said "I really can't believe your waist is that small!" so I guess it made an impact.

I'm curious what you think about this outfit, but I'm also interested in how frequently you aim to give papers at conferences.  I realize that an article publication carries a lot more weight on the C.V. than conference talks, but while I'm still in coursework, I have very little time to work on revising the papers that my professors indicate have publication potential.  Plus, I'm wary about publishing something this early in my career and regretting its point of view later on.  I have plenty of time to revise seminar papers into conference papers, though, so my general approach has been to accumulate conference presentation lines on my C.V. until I'm ready to move on to getting an article published.  I'm really curious about how frequently you all aim to present at conferences, what types of conferences you're most interested in attending, and whether that has changed as you progress into your career.  I've discussed these things with my own professors, obviously, but we have such a diverse and interesting group of readers that I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the issue, too!


  • How often do you give conference presentations?  Every year?  Every semester?  Every time you come across a CFP that matches the work you've been doing?  Only when another University pays you an honorarium to come and talk about your current book project?
  • So far I've presented at a graduate conference, a very large, prestigious international conference, and this interdisciplinary conference at my own university.  What types of conferences appeal the most to you?  As a graduate student, did you work on getting accepted by the "prestigious" conferences or were you focused on getting any exposure for your work that you could find?  Or maybe both?
  • Have these things changed over the course of your career?  Does my model of focusing on conference presentations now and shifting the focus to article publications in a year or so make sense to you?
  • Do you have a go-to outfit for conference presentations?  Do you find that you tend to prefer skirts or pants?


Linda W said...

I have no thoughts on the papers, but I love what you wore. The belting and the shoes are wonderful!

The Auspicious Life

Anne said...

I can't weigh in on most of the prompts since I'm corporate and not in academia, but that said, I do have to give at least one presentation each year as part of my job. For as far back as I can remember, I always wear a dress for my presentations because I usually feel that I look my best and most polished in a dress. In fact, I have to give one in a couple of weeks, so I should probably start thinking about what to wear.

I really like the color combination of brown and teal together. And those shoes are so cute!

Scholar Style Guide said...

You make me want to belt things more. I like this look, especially the playful color of the necklace paired with the buttoned up feel of the outfit.

Also, did you straighten your hair or do something different on the day of the conference? It looked...straighter or smoother or something that day.


Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous said...

LOVE the pops of teal down your body. It creates such a strong visual line and they're so bright against the dark background.

There are more conferences than papers in my field (although I'm working on one publication - keep your fingers crossed!). In the museum field, people tend to be a bit more casual. The art museum people always look fabulous, and a lot of the other people come from the disciplines themselves and most paleontology dudes don't dress up too much. However, I always believe it's better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, so I usually wear a skirt and blazer combo.

Shakespeare's Feminine Ending said...

I also love the teal.

As for conferences I think the best thing to do is to pick the conferences that you know you will attend indefinitely. If you are, say, an early modernist and are writing on Spenser then you should zero in on Kalamazoo, the RSA, the SSA, and MLA. As a grad student it might be best to attend Kalamazoo (where the Spenser society meets) and the Shakespeare Association of America (SSA) conference since it is full of would-be colleagues and hires who study Renaissance poetry.

The important thing is to continue to make an appearance/give a paper/organize a panel at two of "your" conferences per year throughout graduate school in order to network among scholars in your area and field, to demonstrate your investment in the subject/organization and to do some territorial pissing--after awhile the hypothetical Spenserian should become known as "You know, the woman at University X who is [insert advisor here]'s student and is writing on Protestant epistemologies in the Faerie Queene." Then, when you're on the job market you'll hopefully have a reputation of sorts--and maybe have made a few allies on hiring committees.

I have two conferences I attend regularly--one in the fall and one in the spring--that are large, national conferences sponsored by well-respected organizations/societies. There are a few others that I would consider attending depending on the year, the proposed panels, and how my career goes (MLA, ATHE, Performance Studies International, Sixteenth Century Conference, Renaissance Society of America, and Kalamazoo).

I find smaller subject-specific conferences to be generally unhelpful and unproductive, at this point, but I was grateful to try new work out at one when I was an MA student working on a thesis. In general, I also prefer conferences with working groups/seminars and plenaries as opposed to the 20-minute paper on a panel of 3/4 format.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks, Linda! Anne, I normally go with dresses, too-- good luck with planning your outfit! Katie, I dried and straightened my hair that day. I am liking my curly hair more than ever, but it's kind of hit or miss. I didn't want to be distracted by a bad curly hair day, so I thought it would be better to eliminate that variable. IA Katie, I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed for your publication!! And I agree about being overdressed. I'd rather look like I tried "too hard" than like I didn't try hard enough. SFE, thanks for that detailed advice! It makes a lot of sense as a possible way to get a foot in the door for when you're on the market. (I know people who go to the Kalamazoo conference you're talking about, and I always think, really? That's the place they settled on? : ) )


Joni said...

I am in my first term of teaching a tenure-track assistant prof. I only gave 2 papers during my doctoral program and gave one last year as a postdoc. I think its great that you are giving so many papers. Its a great way to get a wide-range of feedback comments and to get to know people in your field. I wish I had time to pull one together for conferences this year but I am swamped with teaching. The past two years I was on the job market so I wore fairly conservative suits to conferences. As a student I wore either suits or professional looking separates. Your outfit looks completely appropriate. I have a conference next week and am hoping to tweak my style so that its a little more relaxed. I don't feel like I have to prove myself to anyone this year but I still want to dress like the scholar I aspire to be rather than a struggling first year prof.