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Dressing Up Academia Workshop at Memorial University teaches students how to dress for the job market

Max Liboiron is associate vice-president of Indigenous research at Memorial University. On Monday she held a workshop on how to dress for your profession, and had donations gathered for students to pick from. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Max Liboiron is associate vice-president of Indigenous research at Memorial University. On Monday she held a workshop on how to dress for your profession, and had donations gathered for students to pick from. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

After Max Liboiron’s talk, attendees got to go through a room full of donated clothes

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

As a graduate student getting ready for a job interview, Max Liboiron found herself in a predicament.

“I had one set of good clothes and then I got a job interview that was a two-day interview,” Liboiron said. “(Graduate students) don’t have enough money to dress as the professionals they’re supposed to be.”

Clearly, Liboiron managed to make it work, because now she is associate vice-president of Indigenous research at Memorial University and a professor of geography. But she remembers the stress of trying to find something to wear, and knows it can be hard for people on a small budget.

With this in mind, she held the Dressing Up Academia Workshop at Memorial on Monday, to help students who find themselves in similar situations. 

Across six tables and two coat racks, donated clothes were displayed or hung, and after a brief discussion on how to pick the right clothes for the job, people who attended got their pick of the donations.

Melanie Hurley is a PhD student who teaches first-year English at Memorial University. She loves fashion, she says, but sometimes wonders if her personal fashion sense translates to the lecture hall. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Melanie Hurley is a PhD student who teaches first-year English at Memorial University. She loves fashion, she says, but sometimes wonders if her personal fashion sense translates to the lecture hall. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

 

Melanie Hurley is a PhD student who teaches first-year English, and says she struggles with whether her fashion sense translates to the classroom.

“Some days I wonder if what I’m wearing is actually appropriate,” she said.

For interviews, it’s hard to know how to dress for different professions, Hurley says. 

And that’s something Liboiron wanted to address specifically.

“It’s quite mysterious because there’s not a dress code,” Liboiron said. “Different disciplines dress differently (and) the same discipline in different countries dress differently.”

She gives the example of historians who dress in Converse sneakers and a T-shirt, whereas in business, that wouldn’t be as acceptable.

Onochie Umeogu is a recent engineering graduate and says understanding the norms of how to dress can be difficult when entering a profession, especially when you’re used to dressing for a climate like the one in his home country of Nigeria. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Onochie Umeogu is a recent engineering graduate and says understanding the norms of how to dress can be difficult when entering a profession, especially when you’re used to dressing for a climate like the one in his home country of Nigeria. - Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

 

Onochie Umeogu, originally from Nigeria, just finished his degree in engineering, and is looking for work.

“I needed to learn what it looks like to dress in the workplace because I really don’t know what it looks like in Newfoundland,” he said, noting that styles of dress between Newfoundland and Nigeria are different based on temperature alone, not to mention all the other factors.

Umeogu and a friend were eyeing the sports coats on the rack, trying to find something that suited them. They were going for a classy, clean and sharp style, they said.

In her talk, Liboiron emphasized discovering what your style is before you start buying clothes. This way, it’s less likely you’ll waste money on clothes you’ll end up hating, she said.

She describes this process as finding your fashion avatar. She says her own avatar is an androgynous ninja.

“Once I figured out that I dressed like an androgynous ninja, it was really easy for me to find clothes that I would actually wear,” she said.

“Are you a slightly gay Harry Potter, or are you a boyish pilot?” — Max Liboiron

It’s meant to be a fun solution to a real problem, she says. 

The point is to find your personal style and professionalize it, rather than try to predict people’s expectations of how you should dress.

“Are you a slightly gay Harry Potter, or are you a boyish pilot?” she says. “I hope people walk out with their fashion avatar in place.”

Other avatars she listed on her worksheet were wizard in the fall, slightly flirty Spock, dapper Dracula, and cute priest.

“I would say most people don’t know how to articulate their style, so when they move into a new area they start dressing like their aunt or something like that,” she said. 

“Not everyone needs to look like their aunt.”

Twitter: @andrewLwaterman


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