Every semester I have students in my Fashion and Digital Media class create an #ootd (outfit of the day) post OR write about how and why they will not, cannot, create one. Whichever assignment students choose, the results are always fascinating. I have them write up a reflection on the process, the labor involved, any feedback they receive, and anything else that comes up. This assignment helps me get to know students, and it also gets us all thinking about the work involved in social media and self presentation, the feelings it brings up, the attitude needed to put yourself out there, fashion in digital spaces, and digital genres.
There are so many interesting discussions from this exercise and I have to admit part of me is scared to ask students to do it. It’s a big ask. (Of course, they do not have to post the #ootd photo anywhere public!). So far, students are surprised at how much work it takes to get that one good shot, how physically exhausting it can be to stage an #ootd, all the steps involved; often, students end up pleased with their results. I’ll add more after our discussion this week. In the spirit of the assignment, I’ll post my #ootd here.
First off, I am fighting some illness and not feeling my best. Getting dressed was difficult and I didn’t have my usual energy for it. My lack of energy made me go with flats instead of mules or clogs, which I usually wear. I had to make a few stops before getting to campus and didn’t want to deal with tiring shoes. The clogs I’m wearing are not yet broken in so that’s no fun. I should wear sensible shoes all the time but I find that really constraining. I’m not wearing high heels but also not ready for Dansko’s 24/7.
The jeans I have on are newly patched by me! The little quilt square I found at a cabin sale in Nebraska this summer. The woman selling it told me it was from the turn-of-the-century, wow. At first, I had on sweatpants under the tunic/caftan top but decided to go with the jeans. (Sick dressing ftw!).
I didn’t have the energy to get a really great shot, I only took four photos, which is definitely on the low end. I often take more because I have to get the look on my face right/normal (not weird/fake), the entire outfit in the photo, and any weird angles or a messed up dresser out of the background. Here’s the best I got today:
I thought about posting this to stories, but felt too shy to do it. I worry that others will think I’m full of myself, or even worse, that I’m vain. I also worry that as an academic, people will take me less seriously. There’s a definite connection between fashion and frivolity, and this connection is gendered. Academics are not suppose to care how they look, they’re suppose to be so buried in their research they barely have time for basic self-care. Maybe this is changing, I’m not sure and not in a position to challenge it! (Meaning, my employment status is one half step above precarious). I also didn’t post on Instagram because I am vain! I don’t love the photo, I look tired, I don’t want people to see it and go “ew”.
Putting oneself out there, in digital land, is difficult and yet the spaces we inhabit have a way of inciting us to post, share, and take such risks. I would like us all to spend the semester thinking about how digital platforms induce this kind of sharing from users. How does one design something to make others share? Is it even the platform, or is it the network of followers and friends? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!