Wardrobe Duplication and Mismatched Shoes. What, Me Worry?

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katBy Kat Kiefer-Newman

Have you ever been halfway through a lecture and thought: “Wait, didn’t I cover this last week?” Maybe it’s me, but sometimes the lectures start to run together and I get a little confused about if I’ve already said this or that thing; or, worse, whether I’ve already told that joke.

As a student, I remember one guest lecturer who was very wryly funny. Interspersed in her important points were ironic stories about her life—such as the time she and her husband were grocery shopping and there was a sale on knee-high stockings. She ran over to the display and loaded her cart with packages. Her confused husband grabbed one of the boxes and turned it around in his hands, reading all of the tiny white print on the outside. Finally, after spending many minutes puzzling over it, he scratched his head and asked, “Are these disposable, these hose?” She replied, “No, why?” Looking at the pile in the cart he kept his mouth wisely shut.

I was the only student in the class who laughed at the story. Later I discovered why. I was told by classmates that the week before this same guest lecturer had conducted the class (I’d been sick). My classmates complained that every point, every joke, even every little facial expression was a re-run from the class she’d taught the week before.

I live in dread of doing something like this.

I know. I know. So what if I have wardrobe duplication syndrome? I know that as academics (ratemyprofessor.com chili peppers notwithstanding) we don’t worry about how we look. We are serious scholars, and if we spend too much time primping or devoted to trends and fashion we risk seeming less, well, scholarly. (A recent funny piece here in The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses this issue. To read a more, ahem, serious piece on the subject of wardrobe duplication, click here.)

With that said, though, I do worry about clothing redundancy. Another time as a student, I had a fantastic professor who helped me develop a true adoration of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I wrote some of my best papers for this man, and he critiqued me ruthlessly and with happy gusto. I loved every minute of it. There were days, though, that I had to pretend not to notice that he wore the very same pair of pants to every meeting. His wardrobe duplication continued for several weeks. Who knows what was going on in the man’s life that he needed to do this? Maybe he owned 30 pair of the same trousers? We like to think we are kind to our fellow humans at such times. I wasn’t at the time, and  fell in with the other students in their snarky commentary concerning the professor’s recurring chinos.

Along these lines, I have spent many an early morning wondering and worrying if I’d already worn a particular blouse or pair of pants to the last meeting of this class. There are some early mornings when I sometimes dress in the near dark, trying to keep from waking my husband. Matching colors can be difficult (read as impossible) in the shadows.

In my graduate program, I remember a professor who came to school one time in two different shoes. They were identical except for the color. I suppose I should start double-checking my footwear. Maybe tomorrow morning, if I remember.

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