Around early April, this question is basically hanging in the air in our grad office (okay, maybe I put it there). I’ve watched so many grad students come and go, write frantically, and, for 15-30 minutes, pace the hallway while their committee decides if they have passed their defense. And during that time, I’ve seen a whole lot of defense outfits. So, what to wear?
The first school of thought here seems to be to go all out–somewhere between business formal and a festive party, there are the grad students in my department who have opted for the power suit.
Lilac suit: I had a friend defend her MA thesis in a seersucker suit and it was goals. And she passed. So, if you wear a powersuit you will pass (#logicalfallacies)
Checkered suit: Nothing screams “I’m about to be an academic!” more than this, and it’s under $90.
The second choice, it seems, is to dress like it’s any other day. I get the psychology of this. It’s best to remain (or appear) calm. Also, when the faculty aesthetic in your department is I-could-be-teaching-or-hiking-you-decide (ahem, Colorado problems) showing up in a suit can feel overly conspicuous. In that case, may I suggest a smart statement piece, like a cool blazer or shoes?
Pink blazer: This is the most millenial item ever, and would look great over a sheath dress or paired with white jeans.
Green block heel: The exclamation point at the end of any neutral outfit–would be fun with a black dress.
Checkered blazer: So warm and sunny for spring. I would pair this with a white t-shirt, black jeans, and black flats for a defense.
Red heel: I tried these on in store last week and can attest they are pretty comfy.
The last school of thought can belong in any of these categories, and that’s the I-want-all-the-focus-on-my-ideas (and my ideas alone) group. I have been thinking a lot about how to dress for my defense and I think this is where I’m at currently. But wanting all the focus on my dissertation ideas isn’t the same as not caring how I dress–I know, I know, “it shouldn’t matter how you look!” but it does. Even if the faculty in the room aren’t there to judge my outfit, I need my outfit to look good, and feel definitively unfussy, so I can do my job. So with that, here are my current picks for looking like a “casual boss” during my defense. Not quite business. Not quite jeans. Just me, ready to graduate.
Tahari Jumpsuit: This one is on its way to me right now after a friend suggested that I try a power jumpsuit. Instagram try-on forthcoming.
Tahari Sheath: This is a real bargain at $30.
Trench dress: This dress is an investment at $110, but it’s linen, which would make it perfect for starting a new job in the summer!
Utility sheath dress: I like the sheen of this fabric paired with the casual cut.
Which would you pick? Do you have a go-to power outfit combo I should try? Please share!