A Lesson in Fashion

For photos and complete transcripts of the interviews, click on the links for each professor. Laura Levitt Director of Jewish studies Her mother taught her never to buy anything that’s not on sale, and she

For photos and complete transcripts of the interviews, click on the links for each professor.

Laura Levitt
Director of Jewish studies

Her mother taught her never to buy anything that’s not on sale, and she refuses to step foot in Lord & Taylor except, “Every few years when I have to buy my perfume.” Laura Levitt knows what she likes. Her closet is a treasure chest of vintage finds from her favorite Philadelphia thrift shops, along with Betsy Johnson dresses from the 80s and a few of her mother’s 50s era cocktail dresses. Levitt has a passion for fashion – and she isn’t afraid to spread the love. Indeed, her mother taught her well.

Share the goods

“My clothes like to go out. And so sometimes I have people who need an outfit for something, I’m ready and willing. I’ve had friends come over and shop in my closet because they have an event and they don’t know what to wear. People do borrow stuff regularly, and I like that.”

You go girl

“I’m not so crazy about the whole belly button showing all the time, although I kind of have an admiration for the people who are bigger who just say ‘The hell with it’ and go for it. I kind of admire them.”

Vintage finds and friends

“What we like in Chestnut Hill [where she shops], is we go in and play dress up with the people. We met someone who was going to a wedding … she was just drop-dead gorgeous. And she would try on these fantastic shoes and we’d be like, ‘Oh, those are really good.’ And this other woman came in with her jogging stuff and she’s really fit, and she could just like wear things. And we would say, ‘Oh no, this looks good.’ And it’s not like we work for [the store], but it’s actually very therapeutic.”

For more on Laura Levitt’s style click here

David Farber
Professor of American history

David Farber doesn’t need style icons for inspiration. During his college days, the Chicago-born and raised professor looked to the streets for his dark, don’t-mess-with-me look. Today the professor picks up tailor-made dress pants from Indonesia for a mere $15 and pairs them with a tight black knit sweater to create a casually dignified look. Students rarely see Farber in coat and tie – it’s his cool sophistication that keeps things under reign in this urban cowboy’s classroom.

Bad boy for life

“I think I attempted to be some sort of cross between Lou Reed and Roxie Music, this kind of urban cosmopolitan Bryan Ferry band. I grew up in Chicago, so we were kind of into the dark, urban look – black, gray clothing. My hair was swooped back … There was more of it in my day, it was longer. [I had] kind of a tough look.”

To thine own self be true

“I’m too old to look to other people. If you don’t know what you want to wear by the time you’re in your 40s, then forget about it. You have to worry about your own style; you can’t be chasing other people. That’s kind of what’s really strange about getting older because you realize, ‘Hey, I better know who I am and not keep looking outside myself to know how to feel and look and think.'”

Bummin’ it

“I had a great old man jacket that I wore all the time. It was gray plaid and it looked like some bum should be wearing it walking down the bowery with a wine bottle in his hand. I just thought, ‘This is the perfect jacket, this is who I am.’ I stole it from the closet of one of my good friend’s fathers, who had just given it up because it looked too much like a bum’s for him. It must have been from the early 60s. It eventually fell apart … I wore it, and wore it and wore it … it was a wreck. It was a great jacket, I still miss that jacket.”

To learn more about David Farber’s fashion sense, click here

Catherine Luttinger
Professor of intellectual heritage

The braided hair, the weathered Mary Janes and knee high socks, the skirt with the eye-popping colors: at first glance, Catherine Luttinger could be mistaken for a student.

Maybe it’s the sophisticated glasses or her electric smile, but something about Luttinger’s mix of fashion flair pulls her blend of bohemian-punk-sexy style together for enough originality and sophistication to wear in and out of the classroom.

Whatever her fashion muse, Luttinger’s creative outlook on style, mixed with her open-mindedness and a Julia Roberts smile, helps her to maintain control in the classroom while still being as fun and stylish as possible.

Fashion flubs and insecurities

“Especially teaching college, I think if I had no concept of fashion … but because I know that I have 16 girls looking at me and appraising me, I know that I don’t want to make an egregious mistake.

I was in class last Monday, and I realized after class – I can be flaky sometimes – I realized that my shirt, it was a button-down shirt, it was inside out and stained. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Stairway to heaven

“I have two older sisters and an older brother. One of my sisters, she was like 13, embroidered a jean jacket with like Led Zeppelin, a unicorn, rainbows … I have that and I actually still wear it. She made it in like 1974, 1975.”

For more on Catherine Luttinger’s closet click here.

Adam Bailine
Professor of advertising

As an undergraduate student at Temple, he claims to have rocked the 90s grunge look way before Nirvana first sang “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Today the advertising professor flashes his colors with solid, striped or polka-dot dress shirts, and if you’re lucky, on the rare occasion you can catch him in his “little baby red” flannel shirt. Sure, Adam Bailine wants to look good, but sometimes comfort takes precedence over high fashion. And you have to admit, flannel shirts are pretty darn comfortable – just don’t tell his wife where he hides them.

So, what year are you again?

“I definitely get some strange looks every once in a while. If I don’t wear my ID around my neck, I automatically get treated like a student. Students who don’t know me, when I first walk in, they find it odd that I’m standing in front of the classroom. They don’t believe that I’m actually going to teach them.”

On the “m” word

“I’ve never considered myself to be a metrosexual, though. I don’t use products on my face, stuff like that. Hey, it looks cool, that’s great. If people happen to compliment me on it, I don’t care either way. I do it more to be like, ‘I know I look nice and I like it.'”

Flannel shirts: yea or nay?

“I have a favorite flannel shirt. Every guy has one … every guy has that shirt where their wife or girlfriend, if they threw it out, it’d probably be devastating. [His wife] knows not to touch it. It’s little baby red. We don’t mess with baby red – that’s a shirt that I’ve had probably since college.”

For more information on Adam Bailine, click here

Olia Prokopenko
Professor of Russian

The style gods, if they had a constitution, would write the “black” rule at the top of their bill of rights. “…The right to wear black every day, with anything and everything.” Olia Prokopenko knows the rules of style and she abides by them well, ceaselessly filling her closet with all things black.

The Russian professor’s signature look, a mix of influence from her home in Russia, her love of art, beautiful things and all things Ann Taylor, are just the right touches of suave and originality to create a memorably classic style.

With love, from Russia

“I’m from Russia, and what’s mainstream there is not mainstream here. I wear scarves a lot, and I wear lots of black, so one scarf can make it stand out, or a necklace … I cannot wear some of the things that young people can wear.”

The joy of art

“What I like about style and fashion is the chance to create something, to express yourself and to create harmony. I wouldn’t say I like shopping … I like beautiful things. I’m talking first of all about art. I’m very much interested in art. I like going to art museums, and I love beautiful nature, beautiful people. I like creative people. I like it when people appreciate beauty and they create that beauty.”

To find out more about style maven Olia Prokopenko, click here.

To read about Julie Latham’s sense of style, click here.

Sammy Davis can be reached at s.davis@temple.edu.

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