I really hate to be picky and this feels like a really picky topic to blog about, but I think librarians have a bad rep when it comes to fashion sense. I used to think that was largely undeserved looking at my classmates and the majority of the staff and faculty in UA's library system; however, I have changed my mind. Librarians have terrible fashion sense. Rephrase: librarians have NO fashion sense. Being at ALA last week made me feel like I was living in a huge episode of What Not to Wear. Everywhere I turned there were outfits that would make Stacy and Clinton cringe. They made me want to crawl in a hole and die of embarrassment for my profession.
There were many, many, many outfits that could serve as examples of what not to do, but I felt that it might be a little rude to start snapping pictures of poorly dressed people just so I could share them on my blog. While no particular case stands out in my mind (although I do have a disastrous image burned forever in my mind of how hair should never, ever look), I will take out the time to point out some major fashion faux pas that I spotted.
1. Cardigans. I love cardigans of all sorts; they're great for tossing over a shirt when you're cold or wearing as part of an ensemble as has been fashionable this spring/summer. But cardigans, like all pieces of clothing, should fit. Cardigans should not be overly baggy; contrary to popular belief this does not keep you warmer. Cardigans should not have holes in them, possess unidentifiable stains, or be so old that they were purchased in another decade.
2. Pants. Pants are an excellent article of clothing. They are versatile and come in a variety of options. Nevertheless, pants, like all other clothing, should fit. Baggy pants make you look sloppy, thus bringing into question your ability to adequately pick out clothing. If you can't pick out clothing well, am I going to trust you with picking out a book or helping me with my research? Only if I'm desperate. And even then, I'm going to spend half the time wondering when the last time you shopped was. If you look sloppy and unprofessional, then you are sloppy and unprofessional. Pants, like cardigans, and any and all other items that you put on your body should not be stained, have holes, or look generally over-worn. And for goodness sake; don't pull your pants up beyond your belly button!! It makes you look frumpy and no one wants a frumpy librarian. :)
3. Inappropriate clothing choices. I'm going to be honest; this bothers me way more than old, holey sweaters and baggy pants pulled up to the chin. Librarianship is a professional job; we are information professionals. We should dress like professional people. Would you trust a doctor/lawyer/accountant if her skirt was obnoxiously too short or she had way too many piercings? Probably not. So why trust a librarian who looks like she's reading to hit the bars after a long day of cataloging? I saw so many librarians with super short skirts, multiple, visible body piercings and tattoos, and clothing/jewelry more suited to a younger generation. Dressing professionally doesn't have to be boring; but it is necessary.
Dressing professionally isn't a hard thing. I tend to dress very simply; plain shirts that can be mixed with a variety of pants/capris/skirts, but I always look put together.* I fix my hair nice, I do my make-up, I wear an appropriate level of jewelry. Don't get me wrong; I may dress boring, but I saw a ton of funky, awesomely dressed people at conference who looked like they knew exactly what they were doing with their lives. They had great personal style and were expressing it, but in an appropriate way for work. I would never wonder when the last time they shopped.
Maybe you think that shopping is for the frivolous and no one really cares how the librarian is dressed. Believe me, they do care. You send a message to the public by the way you dress. If you dress poorly because you simply don't care how you look, people start to wonder what else you don't care about. Simply put, people, on average, are more forthcoming to someone who is put together and looks like he/she actually wants to help you. And having forthcoming patrons is incredibly important; you know this if you have every spent time working the reference desk.
So keep the cardigans coming; they look fabulous now! But just keep in mind that the way you dress reflects your profession. If you want people to think we are just a bunch of frumpy old ladies shushing people all day then by all means dress that way; but if you want to see librarians project a solid professional image and reach out as a resource to the community, then please watch how you dress!!
*If you see my on the street in gross jeans and a t-shirt; please don't me mad at me!! I try to look professional at work, but can't keep it up all the time. (But if I ever look awful for work, feel free to redirect me to my own blog.)