Style spotlight: A chat with Spanish instructor Angela Maria Rodriguez Moreno

Sara Braun | Contributing Writer

When you think of a college professor’s wardrobe, what exactly do you think of? Blazers with elbow patches? Argyle sweaters?

When I first arrived at college, I definitely believed that my professors would fulfill the stereotype of the old fuddy-duddy that frequents just about every college movie. However, when I stepped into Eads Hall, Room 117 on my first day of classes, I realized just how wrong I was. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I head to Spanish 201, and, without disappointment, Spanish graduate student Angela Maria Rodriguez Moreno’s vibrant wardrobe greets me. She welcomes the class with an emphatic “Hola!” but what speaks louder is the bright colors of her outfit—from her lime green mini dress to the magenta Puma sneakers she pairs it with. I had the opportunity to speak with her about her style, her hometown of Bogota, Colombia and her hatred of pants.

Professor Angela Maria Rodriguez Moreno poses outside the Danforth University Center. Rodriguez is known by her students for her unique sense of style.Stephen Huber | Student Life

Professor Angela Maria Rodriguez Moreno poses outside the Danforth University Center. Rodriguez is known by her students for her unique sense of style.

Student Life:

What do you think inspires your style?

Angela Rodriguez:

At the beginning, it was my mother—she was really my inspiration. She had beautiful things, really beautiful things. She didn’t allow me to wear them, but I snuck around [and did anyway]. After her, probably “Ally McBeal.”

SL:

Do you think your background has influenced your style?

AR:

Of course. I came from Bogota, Colombia. We have a lot of opportunities to see beautiful things there because of globalization. I lived in London seven years ago, so I saw everything there, as well. I saw the cheapest clothes to most expensive. I could buy everything there—it was so cheap. The quality of the clothes was amazing. I still have clothes that I bought there.

SL:

What’s your favorite piece of clothing that you own?

AR:

Oh—dresses, dresses, dresses! Probably the little black dress. I have, like, 20. And red clothes. But dresses—I love them. They make me happy. You have to be happy every single day.

SL:

Where do you shop?

AR:

Right now, it’s H&M. It has a lot of affordable things. I like Forever 21, but they have a lot of slutty things. I get worried because I’m not so young anymore! But mostly, it’s H&M. Sometimes I find things on Amazon. And mango.com. They take so long because they come from Spain, but they’re still really good.

SL:

When you’re shopping, what do you look for? Certain styles or colors?

AR:

Colors, yes. Something happy. I hate pale colors. [I want] something beautiful that I can [wear] for many years—it’s not [just] for tomorrow; it’s not [just] for tonight. I think about what situations I can wear this piece of clothing in; for example, in a skirt and a beautiful blouse, I can be prepared for everything. And here you have seasons, so it’s different. I can wear [blouses and skirts], but it’s different. I can wear a winter jacket and still wear my dresses.

SL:

I’m sure the climate is different in St. Louis than in Colombia.

AR:

The fall here is like Bogota. Most of my clothes from Bogota [are ones] I use here in the fall. For example, my leather jackets—I love my leather jackets! I have one black and one red.

SL:

How long have you lived in St. Louis for?

AR:

Two years.

SL:

Do you have any current style influences?

AR:

Victoria Beckham. Angelina Jolie, too—I love her dresses. From TV, [I like] Sofia Vergara. We have a different kind of body, but I like her kind of dresses. She has the personality to wear them.

SL:

How do you think your style has evolved over the years?

AR:

I’m sure that I will never wear pants. I still wear dresses but no short dresses—I am sure I will always wear dresses. It’s just easier—a nice dress and a beautiful pair of shoes.

SL:

What’s the most embarrassing style choice you’ve made?

AR:

Oh, yeah. A pink dress—Barbie pink. I have no idea why I bought it. I remember [when I bought it], my mother looked at me and said, “Are you sure you want to go out wearing that?” The whole night, I felt like Barbie—in a really bad way. Everyone looked at me like, “What the hell is wrong with you?” It was terrible! After, I said, “I’m sorry, little dress, but I don’t need you anymore. Goodbye!”

SL:

What are your favorite TV shows or movies, either for their content or style?

AR:

I love “Mad Men.” “Mad Men” includes the history of when everything was changing in fashion. It was no longer the clothes of grandmothers. Everything was influenced by rock ’n’ roll—Rolling Stones, the Who, Peter Frampton. Oh, and “The Devil Wears Prada”; I love that movie. The dresses are great. And the third one…”Casablanca”!

SL:

Are you influenced by music?

AR:

Yes—I love Amy Winehouse. She was a different kind of person, I don’t have tattoos or anything, but she was special to me. Madonna, for sure. There are lots of Madonnas though—there isn’t one type.

SL:

In an academic setting such as Washington University, people don’t dress super boldly. How have you navigated dressing professionally and also expressing yourself with your clothes?

AR:

It’s really hard because you need to show respect. But I’m sure you can show respect, if you choose the right clothes. You don’t need to wear those horrible dress pants. I don’t want to look rigid. If you respect the boundaries, you can pull off so much. Students and colleagues can be so critical, so I try to be really careful. If it’s for a party, whatever. But for work, I try to be careful.

  • Professor

    Dear student and graduate student,

    This interview is disappointing. I do not see why it is relevant to talk about a professor’s wardrobe. The action of writing merely about how a female professor dresses is sexist because we are way more than a pink dress, more than mannequins. Furthermore, Rodriguez Moreno’s wardrobe is depicted in a problematic way because it exoticizes her as a Latin American person. In a world where female professors are evaluated differently than their male peers only for having a vagina, where female professors are judged by the way they dress and Latin American women are depicted as colorful objects, interviews like this shouldn’t be applauded.

    Dear student: I know that we professors tend to dress in a boring way– I personally discovered that students tend to respect me more if I am wearing a ‘blazer with elbow patches’ than my confortable, SLUTTY Forever 21 floral dress. Sometimes wearing a ‘blazer with elbow patches’ covers my worn shirt—it is cheaper to buy a blazer that a few professional shirts. I mention this because behind that ‘boring’ professor a structure is revealed: one that pays less than 30 grand a year to some of your teachers and where respect is given in relation to your wardrobe. But the way I dress shouldn’t be relevant. I am here to teach you and to learn from you, not to be a colorful exotic Latin American professor. So here is my lesson. Please inform yourself about systemic ways of oppressing people either by their race, gender, sexual preferences and class. Take a WGSS class, a history class and ask questions, a lot of questions. Think that your writing has consequences and ask yourself if you are perpetuating stereotypes or being sexist or racist. And if you have doubts, ask your professors, your friends. We are here to create meaningful conversations and learn from each other. A wardrobe can seem pretty innocent but remember that we live in a country where women who have been raped still hear the question, “What were you wearing?”

    Dear graduate student: it is time to grow up. You are going to be a role model for students. You can’t give an interview in which you talk about “slutty things” or how you have pretty things because globalization arrived to Colombia without being critical. I know patriarchy and imperialism are difficult to overcome but you don’t have the luxury to remain neither ignorant nor blind to oppressive structures. As a future professor, you have the responsibility to teach students why a female professor’s wardrobe should never be relevant. Please, I encourage you to take a WGSS class or talk to a WGSS professor or to other graduate students. Please don’t keep perpetuating clichés about our own identity. Please make students see that women professors are good professors–that they are more than a pink dress.