Friday, May 3, 2013

PhD Panic

Dear ESB,

Ummm, so... I’m having a bit of wardrobe crisis.

In ten days time I have the most important exam of my life so far. Obviously, as opposed to working, I’m busy stressing about clothes.

I am about to take the transfer (upgrade) exam from MPhil to PhD. The exam is a viva voce, although not as long or scary, as the one at the end of PhD. It's an hour and a half long in front of a panel of 5 academics.

I don't know what to wear and I know it shouldn't matter but it really, really does. The problem is I'm studying at art college (this one), in the fashion department. My tutors wear Comme des Garçons and Margiela, my co-students wear their own creations and I have been writing in my pajamas for the last three weeks

My style up until recently was sort of tangled vintage. The thing is I'm 32, I want to be taken seriously and I'm not sure 30s tea dresses and laddered tights cut it anymore? I don’t want to look like a manic pixie dream girl; I want to look competent and strong. I'm just not quite sure how to do it.

So could someone find me the perfect PhD exam outfit? Dress or skirt and top with awesome shoes would be wonderful. I'm a UK 10, blonde, pale and extremely curvy (big ass and big tits). I need to be able to purchase online (and preferably in the UK).

Demanding, I know….

Bit in love with these shoes, btw……

Budget: About £300? I am profligate as well as unproductive


go minimalist
a black dress (zara again)
and killer shoes, obvs

if you want snakeskin
i vastly prefer this pair
note: get your hair cut!


  1. I like your haikus
    but these shoe links seem broken
    or maybe I'm late?

    1. beat me to it, bess:
      like wasted reese witherspoon,
      those links are busted

    2. i think you have to
      log in to the outnet u
      k. lame lame lamesauce

    3. lauren wins best analogy award for life

  2. Not a PhD
    But I would assume a suit
    would be standard dress?


    2. I read it, but I guess I'm just old fashioned (or unfashionable, or most likely both). That seems too casual to me. No way I would wear that to a job interview and that's what I was thinking the "most important exam of my life" is like but again I'm no student. But I could not fit all that into haiku form.

    3. No suits, even for scientists. Maybe business school PhDs, but they are megadouches.

    4. @Lucy dude, a scientist could defend in BIRKS, couldn't she? not that i'd recommend that.

    5. Scientist GUYS defend in suits. Girls is much more cas but not Birks. I defended in a black dress (very similar to the Zara above) and some ridic Poetic License shoes. But I don't know if those are cool enough for this art person? Who knows I've been living in a cave for 5 years.

  3. This post is useful
    to this scientist. I will
    defend in that dress.

  4. My sister in law is a graduate of the RCA and has her own line. Search Teija on Young British designers website. She's done a great white shirt which would look good with some black trousers and interesting shoes?

  5. I defended in pants
    a statistics PhD
    fashion standards, low

    for you: great haircut
    don't try too hard to impress
    wear something like this

    1. YES on the don't try too hard. YESYESYESYES

      came very close to posting this puppy but was trying to respect the UK request....

    2. Yeah, I pretended I didn't see the UK part.

      I am totally feeling the anxious grad student pain so I can't resist giving more advice.

      1. Consider sweatstains. So maybe no silk (like the one I posted, sorry).

      2. Don't beat yourself up too much about your procrastination or nonproductivity or whatever. You're not worse than anyone else, and your exam is going to go fine. This whole process is set up to be a mindfuck, so try and cut yourself a break to the extent that you can.

    3. Totokaelo always has something. Or a dozen somethings.

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only 30 something who's feeling like the vintage dresses I rocked in my twenties just feel so...what's the word? inappropriate? twee? ragged? Can I blame Taylor Swift?

    Minimal is where it's at. And I second a great haircut.

  7. I think structure connotes "I have my act together," so I like something like this or this. But I'm definitely not an art student.

  8. "i don't want to look like a manic pixie dream girl"

    word up !! time to invest in some long term statement pieces to go with your simple black dress.

    i would shoot for THIS ... eventually. and hey, the silk is vintage. :-)

  9. But if you are not trying too hard then be really avant-garde and wear comfortable shoes.

  10. Like some Church loafers, for example.

  11. Had to share this, from my mom: "I wore Swedish clogs and a miniskirt to my thesis defense......"

  12. Hey,

    OP here, Thank you so much for taking time to help me with my ridiculous fashion crisis. You saved me from reverting to form and ordering something like this

    Today, I took procrastination to a new level and spent my breaks making a pinterest board
    of things that I liked, which was helpful. I learnt:

    a) I am never going to be a minimalist, I started off with black dresses and descended into ogling Marni
    b) I have a burgeoning obsession with orange. Who knew?
    c) If that probably the easiest way to transition between my current style and how I want to look is to ditch the ditzy prints and peter pan collars but keep the bright colours and retro shapes
    d) I love the Zara flatforms ESB posted.

    Lucy & ESB: Totokaleo is amazing, why didn’t I know about it before? Its like a guide book inside the mind of a tough looking cool girl. I have ordered the Black Crane dress for the next conference I speak at.

    Also I actually thought ESB might be able to see me when I read the hair comment. Mine is a disaster, I’ll it get it cut tomorrow.

    Also Lucy good point about sweat. Ick.

    K: I personally irrationally blame Zooey Deschanel, every time I see something I like I get the New Girl theme tune in my head and I no longer buy it. Also I’ve been having an increasing number of vintage related wardrobe malfunctions, which doesn’t help.

    Maggie: I think (and I may be wrong) that it might partly be a cultural difference. Almost no-one UK wears seems a suit, with the exception of people in law, finance or politics. And to be honest most of my friends who work in those sectors only wear suits for important meetings etc. It’s difficult as it does mean you have to think about formal wear in a different way.

    Vron: I’m not cool that’s the problem, also have been living in an array of lumberjack shirts and leggings for months.

    Rachel: Your SIL is awesome!

    1. Yes! Next time I am tempted to buy a floral shirtwaist dress, I'll cue the "Who's that girl...." theme music (from New Girl, not the Madonna version).

  13. Thanks Badbride. She says that the white shirts are coming back in stock (they were delivered to ybd mid last week). Hope you find something that suits you. I like the idea of you wearing a former RCA grad's work to your meeting! Anyway, good luck!

  14. I find your haiku
    second only to your fab