In college, I didn't give much thought at all to my clothing. Partly because I went to school in a rural area where the shopping options included Wal-Mart and a really expensive department store. In graduate school, I started teaching. I lived in the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahua desert regions therefore my clothing consisted mostly of culottes and a pair of white eyelet capri pants. My tops were not given much thought either, but I started wearing bright colors more.
My first year of teaching in the community college, I wore slacks (or jean-like pants that were not blue denim). I loved plants with spandex on the first day after washing, but after wearing them for awhile, they tended to be effected by the gravitational pull, exposing the top of my underpants. Or my belly. Either way, totally unacceptable. I found a large set of polo shirts to be perfect tops. Some were short sleeved, some were elbow-length, and some were three-quarter sleeved. They were in a variety of pastel and non-threatening single colors (absolutely no horizontal stripes). I liked things without prints.
When I started graduate school (again) I survived mostly on the same outfits that I had used for teaching but my dress got even more casual with days of working in the lab and no longer teaching. I dressed up a bit more if we were hosting an invited speaker, but nothing like a business suit and certainly no skirts or dresses (with the exception of my wedding!). I amassed a great collection of 'nerd shirts' which are given away at conferences and have slogans printed on them like "lab rat," and "give precise details of sample preparation."
After school, I landed a fantastic job at a private liberal arts college. My friend's mom had been a teacher and offered me two gigantic bags of her "teaching wardrobe" for my new work environment. She liked prints (flowers mostly) and the color purple. She gave me lots of dresses! I found a store called "It's A Wrap" that sells second hand clothing from television and movies. Each semester I spent at least $200 on work clothes. Somehow that doesn't sound like a lot, but it was a time that I felt free to express my personal style and invest in myself. I was conscious about my appearance and I wanted to highlight my femininity since I was teaching at a women's college (in the Spring semesters, at least).
For the fall semesters, I got a bunch of brightly colored skinny jeans from Express and a new pair of glasses à la hipster. I like to make fun of LA hipsters and their fixed gear bikes, but maybe I'm closer to one of them. I am artistic, but not pretentious, and I do incorporate vintage (read: thrift store) pieces into my wardrobe. When I left that school, I got a faux-hawk and my department chair told me they were losing the most unconventional dresser in the department. I still can't decide if that is a compliment or something that I should have considered during my appointment as a direction to tone down my wardrobe.
I moved to the school I'm at now and my style has evolved (or devolved). I backtracked to Old Navy for a half-dress, half-business casual wardrobe at the beginning of working there. Now I am sporting a $40 wardrobe from Goodwill. I do think it's a shame to wear brand new clothing that was probably sewn by child laborers in Bangladesh. That's why I prefer second-hand. I'm teaching labs again so I need all natural fibers and clothing that won't suffer sticker-shock if it is ruined by acid or dissolves in a solvent. I don't take the liberty to consider myself a fashion icon, but that doesn't mean I don't have a personal style.
I would like to think that I dress age-appropriate and work-appropriate. One lifestyle consideration is that I get to work by bicycle, which is why skinny jeans are so great. No excess fabric to get caught in your chain. I do enjoy biking in skirts, with bloomers or bike shorts underneath of course. It's fun to have a dress flapping in the breeze, but pencil skirts don't work so well. Neither do the trend of longer skirts. There are certain colors I like, such as turquoise. I think it brings out my hazel eyes.
I have a few pairs of shoes that I like but they're starting to wear out. One pair of red Pumas I got in Switzerland brings back good memories. Another pair of hot pink Nikes I bought for the Color Run makes me smile. I also love my tennis-ball fluorescent yellow shoes I found at Old Navy. When I completed the statement "I need more _________ in my life," one of the words that came to mind was "shoes." I would probably get this pair of Toms if they weren't $54. Another thought I had was "I need more flowers in my life." I still wear lots of solid colors, but I'm more open to prints, especially ones involving flowers. I won't say women in science have it easy, but we do have choices. What we choose to wear under our labcoats makes us unique.