Last minute packing decision (thanks, it was great!)

Last minute packing dilemma!

I'm packing as we speak to go to LA for a few days. I'm giving a talk at UCLA. It's the first time I'm giving an important invited seminar (not counting job interview talks) and I am less well established than most of the speakers in this weekly series. So I want to look grown-up, of course, but also, science is really casual and it is important to me that I don't look out of place by dressing up too much. Mostly I see it as a fun chance to pull out some of my slightly nicer clothing while still looking like myself.

I can't decide between a few options for bottoms. I'm wearing my square silk shirt from Everlane. The pants options are:

1. Everlane wool trousers, ankle strap flats

2. Helmet Lang wool cropped pants with interesting seaming - very me. The only shoes that balance out these pants are my chunky sandals. If I had a pair of refined, low ankle laced boots they'd be perfect with this outfit but I tried all my shoes and nothing else was quite right for my style. This is my favorite outfit, but I'm afraid the sandals are too casual.

3. Alice and Olivia high waist pleated pants with ankle strap flats. The dressiest option, and I feel like it is a bit too dressy for the situation and my comfort.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Sara L. replied 6 years ago

    I would go with #1.  That seems to fit the situation the best.  I agree the sandals look a bit casual for a speaker at a seminar.  Maybe bring that outfit along for any more casual after hour activities (happy hour, maybe?).

  • Nadya replied 6 years ago

    My favorite is 3, but if that doesn’t feel like you, go for 1 or, really whatever you feel best in. I’ve done some tech conference talks lately and for me the secret is to wear whatever makes me feel most awesome - even if it’s not the norm. There are few enough women in STEM we can make our rules to some degree!

  • annagybe replied 6 years ago

    Also vote for #1
    And do I see the fraternal twins of my LD Tuttle shoes?

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Yes, Anna, shoe twins! They only come out on special occasions.

  • Toban replied 6 years ago

    I'm also in science (mid-career) and also preparing to give an invited talk next week. Of these three, I vote for #1. I really like those shoes. Bring pants #2 for the next day :). For these events, I aim somewhere above everyday wear but a notch below job interview formality. I'm planning to wear a sheath dress, cardigan and pumps, but that reflects my East Coast destination and my personal style direction. When I have a West Coast talk, I am often in dark wash bootcut jeans, silky sleeveless shell/blouse, a blazer, and pumps or booties. 

  • DonnaF replied 6 years ago

    #1 since the sandals make you look like a student (even though I love them).

  • JAileen replied 6 years ago

    I like #1 best. It doesn't look that dressy to me. It looks more adult, making you look more mature.

  • Style Fan replied 6 years ago

    #1 looks the best to me.  Professional scientist but not overly dressy.

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    It looks like #1 is the clear winner. It's definitely a safe option - it just feels a little less like me, but that is probably inevitable. Anything that's not jeans feels odd.

    I put both options 1 and 2 in my bag. I'm at work now (heading to the airport later) so I can leave #2 in my office and save some weight.

    I, um, might have bought these boots while doing some errands this morning. They're so me, and they'd actually work well with #2 (marginally more professional, though not by much). But it would be dumb to cut the tags and bring them on a trip, right?

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Also, it's not very clear from the photo but the Helmut Lang pants in #2 are quite nice -- I often wear them with heels to holiday parties. In person they look less like sweatpants. ;-)

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    I like #1 too. I think it strikes the right balance for a science talk.

    Of course I am at a conference right now and some people are giving talks in suits and others in ratty T & birkenstocks. So you know, anything goes. ;)

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Yeah, my conferences usually feel like summer camp! Which reminds me, a month ago I was asking about my jean skirt and conferences - I wore it and fit right in. Lots of similar or shorter casual skirts. But I didn't wear it the day I gave my talk - it would have made me self conscious on stage.

  • chouette22 replied 6 years ago

    I, too, would choose outfit #1, even though I absolutely love the second one for you, including the chunky sandals - just not for the occasion necessarily. 

    By the way, I wanted to thank you for drawing my attention to the J Crew funnelneck top you were considering a few weeks ago. I ordered it in white and black-white-stripes. I was quite unsure as well whether it was the right choice for me and kept changing my mind several times. I decided very quickly against the white because it was too sheer and I am well covered in white tops. Today I wore the black-and-white striped one for the first time for teaching my college classes and am now certain that I absolutely love it! It needed to be road-tested as I was not sure whether the funnelneck might end up being fussy or show my bra straps, etc. It is just the right amount of weird and quirky! I folded the sleeves back as that looked much better to my eye. I should do a WIW!

    I wish you a successful talk. What a great professional opportunity!

  • Stagiaire Fash replied 6 years ago

    I don't think the pants in #2 look like sweatpants. I think they look like fashion, in a way that draws too much attention to your clothes/appearance. I like 3 slightly better than 1, but in my phone, it's hard to see the details.

  • Stagiaire Fash replied 6 years ago

    Congrats on giving the talk!

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    So I'm like a science (physics) brat like other people are military brats... and I like the sandals... maybe you could wear the boots if the sandals seem too much?

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Alas the boots are not an option, as I took them out of the box and the left boot has a big scar on the leather. I'll exchange them when I get back next week.

  • Jaime replied 6 years ago

    #1 and good luck!

  • kwood replied 6 years ago

    I am alone here, but I LOVE #2. Maybe with some large silver earrings? Looking professional is one thing, but you look like you own the place in #2.

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    I'm with you kwood. I think pants 2. Outfits 1 and 2 with the delicate shoes are awful conventional for you, and I think you really have to be you when you give a talk...

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Chouette, I'm glad the blouse is working out! Definitely post a WIW. I may regret not getting the striped one myself - it looks really great. I wasn't sure it would fit in my black-with-some-white palette. I mean you'd think it was perfect but I guess I have to expand very gradually... ;)

    (I did order it, to give it a try, but they were sold out of my size so I tried a petite instead and it was definitely the wrong shape. Alas.)

  • Laura G replied 6 years ago

    Either pair of (long) pants, but definitely the pointy flats. 

  • Firecracker (Sharan) replied 6 years ago

    I agree with Laura. What about the more fashion-forward pants with the pointy-toe flats? Have a great time and I wish you the best on the seminar!

  • elpgal replied 6 years ago

    Agree with the consensus for #1. It is polished without being distracting. Will you need a pocket for the mic or will there be a podium? Good luck with your talk!

  • Lucy replied 6 years ago

    I'm in the Humanities, and we do seem to dress up more :) But I think #1 hits a perfect note. 
    When presenting I want to wear something that is not distracting from my talk. I feel like the sandals in #2 might be distracting (though I love them, and would wear them in a heartbeat for other occasions!) 

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    The mic pack will probably clip on to the back waist of the pants, and the loose hem of the shirt will cover it. I always try to wear a buttoned shirt so the mic itself can go on the placket easily. 

    Firecracker, the pointy-toe flats have a BRIGHT PINK ankle strap, which I love as a hint peaking out from the trouser leg, but it's too bold for my style when it's fully visible.

    I do agree very much about needing to be me, but I decided to go with the conventional choice this time and left the cropped pants in my office. With some regrets. The dark horse candidate is trousers in #1 worn with men's oxfords - more me, in a way, much as love these pointy toe shoes. Will contemplate it in the hotel tonight (assuming my flight ever boards... an hour late, but at least it's a short hop).

    And once I have the perfect shoes, I promise I'll wear outfit 2 to give a talk some day, if I have a chance.

  • karen13 replied 6 years ago

    I vote #1, but like the sound of the oxfords, as long as they still showcase the ankle slit. I think the sandals are too casual.

  • Jenni NZ replied 6 years ago

    I vote 1 also. You still look like you, to me anyway. Love the shoes. Think the sandals make you look like a student, same as Donna F.

  • Scarlet replied 6 years ago

    I also vote 1 and I know that type of situation. It's perfect.

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. I wore #1 and the pants were perfect - somehow more sleek and stylish than I'd remembered. The slit at the ankle and the slim cut work well. I felt very much like myself. And my LD Tuttle shoes were comfortable enough for a whole day of walking back and forth across campus.

    My talk went really well and I had a good hair day, too.

  • Runcarla replied 6 years ago

    Glad everything went well, and a good hair day to boot!

  • Joy replied 6 years ago


  • Nadya replied 6 years ago


  • Style Fan replied 6 years ago

    Yeah!  Glad it all worked out.

  • Sara L. replied 6 years ago

    Yay! I'm glad it went well and you still felt like yourself.

  • karen13 replied 6 years ago

    Excellent! Thanks for the report back. YFL never steers you wrong.

  • bj1111 replied 6 years ago

    go stemi women!

  • Jenni NZ replied 6 years ago

    Yay and thanks for telling us. Am sure you were awesome x

  • Elizabeth P replied 6 years ago

    So glad you updated us, I was wondering. Glad all went well.

  • kkards replied 6 years ago

    a great talk and a great hair day! its a double WOW.

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