library chic, or manic depressive?

The “Ask the stylist” section of the Sunday Age this weekend featured a fashion guide for librarians. It went something like this:

Q: I work in a library, but I don’t want to look like a librarian. I’m on my feet all day, bending over a lot, so low-cut is out of the question and flat shoes are essential…

A: Sweet, clever, book adoring reader, wherever did you get the impression that bookish was  not stylish . . . I am thinking school girl geek meets chic. Pinafore dresses with sweet blouses or knits .  .  . It reminds me of something Sylvia Plath might have worn .  .  . 

and so on, and so forth, including recommendations for $2000 Sergio Rossi boots, Sonia Rykiel grey t shirt ($340), and Zimmerman wool pinafore dress, also in grey ($445). The other option was a Kate Sylvester mustard wool dress ($270). Oh, and of course rectangular black glasses. OF COURSE!

What I am wondering is what part of the above wardrobe style suggests “working in a library but not looking like a librarian”? This so called stylist has successfully reproduced just about every library stereotype there is.

Sophie the stylist is suggesting that librarians are not only allergic to colour (too loud, might disturb the patrons?!) they are suicidal manic depressives (Plath). 

I am quite aware that the fetishisation of librarians, like nurses and teachers,  has a long history. I also think that this is probably a high point in our profession in terms of exposure [and our lack thereof] so we should accept any media as postive.   In general, library stereotypes are so booooooooooooring. I know that some librarians do get into the whole representation of profession thing, but, like, just do your job and wear what you want to wear. Librarians should be concerning themselves about issues of library funding and literacy, not whether they are showing too much or not enough cleavage.

…but if you are one of those people who needs a bit of wardrobe direction, I advise you ditch Sophie’s guide and follow mine, which is much funner (and doesn’t require $200o Sergio Rossi boots):

  • fancy costumes, my personal favourites include the kimono and the muumuu
  • low cut is perfectly ok, if you ‘bend over’ according to OH&S guidelines you will be bending at the knees hence no visible cleavage (and in any case, you need to bring some happiness to the oldies who come in every week – it’s the only social contact many of them have).
  • form fitting t shirts with writing over the chest area (to promote literacy)
  • high heels, there’s really nothing stopping you
  • or Havaiianas thongs with toe socks in same colour (will pass OH&S guidelines as closed toe shoes if your adviser doesn’t look closely at them)
  • anything hot pink, or red, or preferably both at the same time.


Filed under library

7 responses to “library chic, or manic depressive?

  1. Bobo

    I think you should fully appropriate the library stereotype in order to subvert it. Didn’t you learn anything in Feminist Theory 101?

    I also thought the Zimmerman pinafore was very cute, and would very much like it myself. This ‘stylish with a hint of geek’ looks works on editors too. However, I cannot afford Zimmerman clothes.

    Blog post topic suggestion: Famous librarians. Philip Larkin was a librarian, if memory serves me correctly.

  2. Freofan

    $2000 for any clothes doesn’t make sense in my book.

    # form fitting t shirts with writing over the chest area (to promote literacy)

    Somehow I don’t think that most viewers would be reading, however.

  3. true bobo. but ive got a hard task ahead of me to perfect ‘library chic’, i must try harder to appreciate mustard woolen dresses. you on the other hand are so close, down to the square black glasses – it suits you. thanks a lot for the topic suggestion, i know there are some more famous librarians around but have to think more about it.

    freofan – i bet youre glad youre not an eagles fan. and of course they would be reading! the smaller the font the more scrutiny required.

  4. Bobo

    Another topic suggestion: Practical packed lunches for librarians.

  5. Jill

    Donna, love the site and very witty!
    I too have black rectangular glasses, but I’ve yet to own that matching twin set and pearls.
    Check out the “Nancy Pearl” doll to see the image librarians portray.
    I agree that flat shoes are a must, but keep a spare pair of heels under the desk just in case!
    Who ever gets lunch? Keep a jar of nuts on hand, and a bottle of water…
    Keep up the good work, JB

  6. Jill, I think I need to own a twin set and pearls. I am sure I have some ‘pearls’ (aka cream plastic beads) somewhere, which is a start.
    I am the opposite with shoes – heels mandatory with a pair of flats under the desk, just in case. Each librarian to their own, I guess!

    bobo – the practical packed lunches for librarians would extend to editors too, I think, so I expect some biblio-foodie recommendations from you.

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