Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Science of Wardrobe Management I: Basics

As noted in an earlier entry, meeting season is upon us. Weather is clearing, airports are crowding, and scientists are flocking to share data with their colleagues. One of the biggest get-togethers, Experimental Biology, will be in New Orleans in less than 2 weeks.

EB is not the most conservative meeting I attend; in general, gatherings with clinicians tend to be a bit more formal, unless they are in true summer months. However, I have noted some disturbing wardrobe trends at EB. Today I will review what should be common sense rules. Later this week the topic will range to planning and packing; you can get 5 days worth of clothes in a carry-on bag!

Rule 1: Be presentable

No matter what level of training or career you are at, you may meet someone who could influence your future. Does this mean a suit every day? Absolutely not! Jeans may even be acceptable in some venues. No matter what you have on, be sure it is neat, clean, and intact.

If you are presenting something, even a poster, you should be professional. The level of professional dress is inversely proportional to your position on the research food chain. Those lowest should err on the side of the suit, while those of us higher up can get away with less formal gear. Only those who have really made it can get away with very casual attire for a presentation. Invited neuroscientists often channel their inner lumberjack by wearing flannel shirts at the nephrology meetings. I would not recommend this strategy until you are certain that your name is on the Nobel committee's short list. Even then, why risk it?

Rule 2: Cover your midriff

I used to think this was a female problem, but others have told me that they have seen male students in cut-off tees. Even if your abs are in excellent shape and you have a cute belly-button piercing, THE WORLD DOES NOT NEED TO SEE IT. ESPECIALLY PEOPLE WHO MAY NEED TO THINK OF YOU IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY.

Now, if you are at the pool, you can show all flesh that is legal. If you are in the poster or exhibit hall, PLEASE DON'T. You never know when you will meet someone who will review your grant or manuscript next week. Do you really want them thinking about your tramp stamp while they are doing this? I thought not.

Another word about tattoos: they are forever, but your body is NOT. Now, I know you don't think you'll ever gain weight, but your skin will get saggy and lose tone as you age. Before you get that cute little heart on your butt, imagine what it will look like when cellulite attacks..... I'm a doctor, and you can trust me when I tell you that little heart won't be so cute when you're 60.

3. Watch the bling

Now, accessorizing is like candy for us fashionistas. Cool shoes, scarves, and jewelry are great and may allow us to stretch and vary a sensible travel wardrobe. The problem here is when one becomes inappropriately over-the-top. Sequined one-shoulder cocktail dresses may not be casual but are WAY too formal for a meeting. Unless you are on your way to a black-tie awards dinner, stick with business wear. Unless you're a beauty queen, the tiara can stay home.

Like I said earlier, most of this should be common sense, although I have seen these suggestions violated at almost every meeting I attend. I will be watching for fashion faux pas at EB and updating my "Wardrobe Science Don'ts." Will you be on my Hall of Shame?????

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