What would a nerd wear? What probably comes to mind is some variation of Steve Urkel, but Tania of the blog What Would a Nerd Wear begs to differ. She is a PhD student in English Literature, and definitely considers herself a nerd, but what Tania wears evokes her classic, feminine and thoughtful sensibilities through clothing. She proves smart women can care about fashion and nerds can look good too.
Tania: It is funny that people actually read my blog, because I think of my wardrobe as pretty boring. But then again, I like to read people who dress more simply also.
Me: I found your blog through Clothed Much, which is another blog I really like. It's nice to see people doing interesting things with "normal" clothes.
Tania: I love Elaine's blog too. I totally agree. It really helps the morning writer's block with getting dressed, I find. And whenever I am indecisive I always end up changing into the first thing I put on.
Me: So why did you decide to start a style blog?
Tania: Well I'd been reading them for a little while and I thought, "Hey, I could totally do this, too!" Plus, I needed a hobby. Grad school is really all-consuming; I needed something outside of academics, and so What Would a Nerd Wear was born.
Me: What is the focus of your PhD?
Tania: I primarily study 20th Century British fiction, if you couldn't tell from the obsessive Virginia Woolf references.
Me: I saw that you went to the Bloomsbury district in London where Virginia Woolf lived!
Tania: Yes, that's where my sister is living! It was incredible. I really geeked out. And get this – I went to Foyles, this giant bookstore on Charing Cross road – and I bumped into Ian McEwan! He's a really amazing contemporary British author, I practically had an aneurysm but I held it together enough to get him to sign a copy of his new book (which weirdly enough I was there buying.)
Me: Do you get any wardrobe inspiration from literature?
Tania: In some ways, yes. I wrote a post about teaching The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot and wearing a bright color in the hopes that there is some hope in the text. I would say I am inspired indirectly by literature. I'm interested in various ways to narrate personality and clothing is clearly one of those ways we narrate ourselves. There is some kind of relation between dressing a character in words and dressing yourself in the morning. It's part of the story you tell about yourself. It is, as Mrs. Dalloway says, how she "drew the parts together, she alone knew how different, how incompatible and composed so for the world only into one centre, one diamond." So you're drawing a dispersed self into one whole, at least momentarily.
Me: Have you always been this aware of your personal style?
Tania: Ha! No, actually this is maybe funny, and speaks to your last question. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with historical fiction – I read Laura Ingalls Wilder, various British children's books, and things about pilgrims and early settlers. As a result, I wore a pinafore over my dresses every day and often a kerchief on my head. I would say I've always been aware of my own style, but not necessarily interested in fine-tuning it (i.e. during the pilgrim period). But I'd say since I've been an adult, I've cared more about looking like a grown up. As a college student, I wore yoga pants pretty often.
Me: Are your blog outfits put together simply for the sake of the blog, or do you dress that way whether you are putting the outfit in the blog or not?
Tania: Well, the blog definitely changes how I dress because if I know I am going to post, I am inclined to put a little more effort in. On the weekends, I still dress similarly but I like giving myself a few days off. When I'm not posting, I'm probably dressing more boring: Hanes tee shirts, jeans and flats usually. Which would be kind of boring to see all the time! But things aren't only for the sake of the blog. In London I still dressed cute (I hope) but I was too busy to take pictures! And I do wear everything I put up on the blog in real life, even when it pushes my comfort zone a bit.
Me: Have you found that there is a strong community of bloggers that you feel a part of? Do the same people frequently leave comments?
Tania: Yes, definitely. I mean, it is a virtual community so it is a very different type of community, but yes, I have a very regular group of commenters, which is wonderful. And there are certain bloggers I feel "closer" to for whatever reason. Like Elaine from Clothed Much. She and I very steadily comment and read each other's sites and have traded clothes and inspiration, so I feel closer to her than some of the other people on my blogroll, for instance.
Me: Do your friends and family know about your blog and the connections you have made through it?
Tania: My family knows, and my boyfriend and roommate know, but no one else in the department or other friends. I'm not trying to be super sneaky about it, but I like having my own space with it. My family loves knowing about it! But part of me I think feels like it is sort of a silly endeavor, something I definitely don't want my colleagues and advisers knowing about.
Me: I understand that, in academia there seems to be some frowning upon things that aren't serious enough.
Tania: Yes, for sure. That is the main motivation for the relative anonymity with it. I probably wouldn't be too bothered if a colleague or friend found out about it – I stand behind it and I'm not embarrassed of it – but I like a little privacy, you know?
Me: Finally, what is your favorite place to shop for new clothes? Do you have a favorite item of clothing?
Tania: My favorite place to shop for new clothes is definitely J Crew (even though it's a bit pricy for full price items), but goodwill is my all time favorite shopping locale. I always find something great there. I'd say my current favorite item is my little black belt, it goes with everything.