By Samuel Boyne
Walking around campus every day, the variety of people you encounter can be both thrilling and a bit frightening. Members of the Georgetown community come from a huge array of backgrounds, and these backgrounds are reflected through the outward appearances of our diverse community. Whether it be that interesting girl in your morning class who’s always at her best with her hijab or that guy with the stylish shirts who passes by you after lunch, the appearances of people on campus reveal the efforts that students and faculty put into their fashion decisions here at Georgetown. Now, while many Georgetown students are pretty fashion conscious, we can’t forget about those professors who clearly put thought into their own style decisions and depart from the idea of monotonous professor attire. For this article, I interviewed a professor who succeeds in connecting with her students beyond her smile through her sense of style. Kumi Sato, known by the students of her Japanese language classes as Sato-sensei, presents herself in a style-conscious, semi-casual image on a daily basis.
Photo by Samuel Boyne
Sato-sensei’s style could be described as a blend of easygoing, modern, and professional looks. Rather than donning a formal and strict manner of dress that is often conceived when one thinks “professor,” Sato-sensei responds to the question of dress codes for professors with a regard for balance. She states, “I’m not sure if I do things right, because if I try to look ‘professor-like,’ I don’t think that I should wear jeans, but I think it’s okay to wear jeans in a language class. As long as it’s not too revealing I think it’s all right. I’m probably not going to wear short pants in class just because I don’t think students would be happy if I dressed like that. So I try to make sure that I cover my body properly, so that I’m not going to offend anybody.” She goes on to reflect the more casual elements of her style:
“I guess that since I talk with my students, and they’re 18, 19… they’re young. So I guess I see how they dress, and I think, ‘Maybe I can try that,’ so I guess I dress a little more casual than how people at my age dress.”
She also shares the difference between her class style and weekend style by commenting that “at school I try to dress a little more conservative…try to cover, but then at home I don’t mind wearing no-sleeves, dress, or short pants if it’s hot.”
I asked Sato-sensei what some of her favorite things about Georgetown fashion are, and she replied, “I think people here on campus are very fashionable – stylish – so it’s fun to see what they’re wearing. I like checking their jackets or shoes. I used to live in Iowa, that’s where I studied, and it was definitely more casual, but then here I think that it’s a little bit more fashion forward. Some students dress very nicely, and they have new items and all that, so it’s really fun to see how they dress.”
Now, when most of us think “professor,” words like “academics” and “teaching” come into mind, rather than “fashion-savvy” and “trendy.” So I asked Sato-sensei, as a Georgetown professor, how much she values fashion and dressing in style.
“I think it’s important. I mean, it’s not like it’s all I care about, but then I definitely care about how I look, just because that’s the impression I give to other people, so I’ll think about it because of that. I think it’s important to dress appropriately, but then still add your own taste to it.”
Furthermore, Sato-sensei answers that, although she doesn’t really have any favorite styles in specific, she likes to “mix-and-match.” This is certainly evident from her daily outfits, and while she does affirm that she dresses formally when she’s supposed to be formal, she also mentions, “for school I like to wear something casual, but then I’ll wear a jacket… and even if I do wear a jacket, I’ll wear a crazy t-shirt.”
In addition to these reflective questions, I also asked Sato-sensei a few quick questions of a more basic level regarding her fashion choices. Sato-sensei likes to shop at Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and Lucky Brand Jeans. Often you’ll see her style representing the three in a brilliant manner. Her favorite fall look is the combination of a light jacket, a scarf, and boots, while if she could only wear a single accessory every day, it would be a watch.
So if you happen to see this stylish professor on her way to Japanese class in the ICC, don’t be afraid to say “ohayou gozaimasu” (good morning) or “kon’nichiwa” (good afternoon) and complement her on her outfit of the day.