After a very successful week in Cairns, I have found myself back to the lab and back to the madness. Unlike most Monday’s back after a work trip, I won’t really have time to catch my breath and catch up on emails. There’s barely enough time to catch a coffee (though for that, I will make time). I have an overseas colleague here for the week to try to finish off a collaborative manuscript and run some experiments. And I have to admit, despite all of my self-confidence and all of the advice I spout about staying true to myself, I had a moment’s pause getting dressed this morning.

It’s kind of remarkable how, no matter how much time goes by and how confident in ourselves we become, insecurities can creep up when we least expect them. And they can hit with such a force they’ve leveled the world around you before you even have a chance to react. Throughout my scientific career, I have gotten a lot of questions about how I dress and a lot of comments about how my wardrobe is at odds with the general perception of a “scientist.” And although it’s difficult at times to hold my head high amidst criticism from others, when it comes to the babble of opinion about me, I’ve come to a point of self-acceptance where I (usually) manage to make my voice the loudest. But one of the things I very rarely admit is that every so often, the voice inside of my own head simply echoes doubt. And she is much more difficult to silence (she can be a loud little bugger).

Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic

Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic
Outfit styled using Dressed for iPhone

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As you have probably already guessed, I’m a planner. In pretty much every aspect of my life. And I’ve always been a planner when it comes to what I wear – even more so now with the blog and organizing outfit posts. I hate the early morning scramble and don’t have a creative bone in my body before coffee. Suffice to say, this outfit has been planned for awhile in Dressed and she hung in my closet, freshly steamed and waiting for me first thing this morning.

And although it’s hard for me to admit to a universe that sees me as somewhat fashionably fearless, as I stood in front of my wardrobe with coffee in hand, I felt conflicted. In a way that I haven’t felt in a awhile – or at least a way that I can’t recall not being able to quickly squash. Despite the fact that gendered stereotyping swirls in the air around me daily in science, in a way I have grown safe in the bubble of my lab, where they almost don’t know how to react if I’m NOT wearing vintage. But today, I paused with my hand midway towards the delicate flutter of this dress. My feet halfway into the cushion of these green heels.

I was greeted this morning with the unwelcome fear of having my visiting male collaborator (who I have primarily interacted with over email, Skype, and the occasional conference) in some way judge my abilities simply because of the way I’m dressed. This fear was confronting, like a long lost nemesis I thought I was finally rid of pulling into my driveway, knocking on my front door. Would my colleague raise an eyebrow at my rose-printed, knife-pleated fanfare? Or make a comment on my inherent girlyness? Would my input into the paper be subconsciously minimized, due to nothing more than a few hand-stitched bows and a pair of heels?  And then some pants-wearing demon took over my body and I found myself reaching instead for a pair of nondescript navy corduroys. My arms finding their way into a button down top, with my hands automatically scraping my hair into a ponytail.

Then I glanced over at this perfect, bespeckled dress, with her arms crossed, shaking her head in bewilderment at my paralysis. And I realize that I’m still fighting, in a way, against my instincts. Against a professional world that believes I cannot have an interest in fashion and still be committed to a scientific career. Against the paralyzing fear of not being taken seriously.

Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed AestheticBow-ti-ful - The Dressed AestheticBow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic Bow-ti-ful - The Dressed AestheticBow-ti-ful - The Dressed AestheticBow-ti-ful - The Dressed AestheticBow-ti-ful - The Dressed Aesthetic

If you look with a certain filter, you can see the world is full of dichotomies. This amazing wall of art becomes ugly graffiti to the next person who walks past. A candy shop can be instead distilled down to a breeding ground for cavities. This incredible dress, who traveled through time before she ended up in my arms, can somehow translate to a weakness if you let fear and insecurity win.

I definitely have a reputation for being more than a little fearless with my wardrobe. But I think it’s important to know that even the supposed “fearless” have their fears. And these fears exists in all of us every day – the face of the person changes, but we live in constant fear of being judged. Excluded. Rejected. Simply for being who we are, swimming upstream, straying from the norm. But as I said in an interview recently, life is too short to spend our time cowering behind what is ‘normal’ and saying sorry for what is not. The “abnormal” things about ourselves – the things we bemoan – are the very things that make us fabulous and need no apology.

All of these thoughts swirled through my head in the span of about five minutes this morning, as I stared at this stunning dress, forlorn when she realized I might be leaving her behind today. Leaving myself behind today. And she reminded me there is still a battle each of us are fighting – societal pressures, familial expectations, career stereotypes, you name it – but all of these pale in comparison with the battle we often face with ourselves. The truth is, every day is a choice. Every day is a battle to be fought and won and an opportunity to decide to stop apologizing for yourself. So do I choose the stereotype? Choose what’s ‘normal’? Do I choose the traditional me or the traditional science suit of armor?

And then with reclaimed resolve, the flick of a crinoline and a rustle of polished cotton, I chose me.

And I didn’t look back once.





Outfit Details:
Dress: Blue Fennel Vintage (similar modern or vintage hereherehere & here)
Headband: Modcloth (similar here & here)
Necklace: Adored Vintage (similar here & here)
Bag: Gift (similar here, here & here)
Shoes: Melissas, thrifted via Mo-Mo’s Vintage (similar here, here, & here or
same shoes in a different colorway)


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The Dressed Aesthetic



10 comments on Bow-ti-ful

  • Delaney

    Hi Kara! I so appreciated this post! As a soon-to-be first year pre-med student and fellow 50s vintage enthusiast, I identified so strongly with the sentiments you expressed. Our interests in science and fashion are seen by most as mutually exclusive; as things that can only exist without the other. Despite this, I’m trying to embrace the dichotomy. I like that we combine the clinical world of science with the creative one of fashion. I’m so happy to see that there is another fabulous, vintage wearing female scientist in this world! I applaud you not only for having arguably the best wardrobe I’ve ever seen but for dressing as you would like in spite of its unconvetionality! I hope that I’ll be able to continue dressing as I do if/when I go on to become a physician. You have inspired me to be true to myself no matter how much it might make me stand out. And, for the record, you look stunning in that beautiful outfit!

    • (author)

      This comment seriously meant so much to me – I can’t even tell you. There are so many of us smart, fabulous, fashionable nerds out there – it can be so hard to break outside of what is ‘normal’ in our field…but just knowing I’m not alone is a pretty amazing feeling. I still struggle with it (often inside of my own head), but more than anything we have a responsibility to stay true to ourselves. And if we don’t serve as a daily reminder that fashion and science aren’t mutually exclusive ideas, we’ll never challenge convention and it’ll never change. It warms my heart to hear you found inspiration on the blog – and I really hope you continue to honor yourself and your science and the fashion you love – and whatever else makes you happy. If you ever have any doubts – write me and I’ll remind you that you’re fabulous. 🙂 Thanks so m much for following along – it’s readers like you that make blogging worth it! 🙂 xo

  • Geeske

    LOVE this post!! I can relate so much! YAY for choosing yourself!

    • (author)

      Thank you lovely!! If you ever have a similar crisis of confidence, just know you can fight through it! I hope we all choose ourselves more often than not. 🙂 xx

      • Geeske

        Oh yes I know now! Wish I could send that message back to my younger self though… 😉

  • Sammi

    Such a great post, my dear. I love that you’re challenging the idea of what everyone thinks of when they hear the word “scientist,” and I think the dichotomy of a very tight-laced profession with your whimsical fashion sense is really amazing. This is also one of my absolute favorite dresses of yours, and I swoon every time I see it!

    xox Sammi

    • (author)

      Awww thank you hon! It’s so crazy that these kinds of stereotypes still exist, but they are definitely alive and well! I try to fight against it, but every now and then still have my moments. I love this dress so much, though…she just makes me happy to wear her! Thank you so much for your support. I get so much daily inspiration from you and other fashion bloggers – it’s nice to know we’re never alone. 🙂

  • Miss Amy May

    I’m so glad you honoured yourself and chose to let the outfit win over your fear! It’s totally understandable, though, that you had those doubts in that kind of situation, because people do make those surface, stupid judgements about our intelligence based on our appearance, and meeting your male colleague was an important moment. But you’re a badass and you carried on! Good for you. You’re incredible <3

    • (author)

      Thank you so much gorgeous! That really means a lot to me. 🙂 I think we all love to share our awesome moments in life…but it’s also important to confess the times when we have a crisis of confidence. I definitely have them from time to time! I guess it doesn’t matter if you have them, cause we all do, but how you react that matters. I’m SO happy I didn’t compromise myself…and managed to rock out some pretty complex multivariate phylogenetic statistics today in that dress. So yeah. 😉

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