If it were only occasional cases of mistaken identity, I wouldn't mind so much, but something I read by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink has made me reconsider. He cites a study in which students viewed two-seconds of video of a professor they had never met lecturing with the sound off and made a snap-judgment of that professor's effectiveness. These judgments were identical to the evaluations made by students at the end of a whole semester. Clearly, something about appearance is forming students' judgments and showing up in course evaluations. Which made me think about the few comments I received on last semester's evaluations where students mentioned that I didn't seem authoritative, or lacked confidence, or seemed shy. I am curious to see how appearance might play into this. I did, after all, write a dissertation on how dress and appearance shape identity and can be manipulated to gain power. So, I am conducting an experiment: this semester, I have worn my hair up every time I step on campus, I teach wearing dressing, skirts, hose, heels, the works. The trendy bomber jacket stays home, as does the puffy blue parka. So far, there have been a lot more addresses as "Dr." rather than "Mrs." and definitely no "Miss."
I have tried several different hair styles and try to rotate between ponytails (the grown up kind, sleek, low, with hair parted in front) and various buns and braids. I like period-hair styles, like the Gibson tuck below, but try not to wear them too often--I want to look more authoritative, not nuts.
And PS: I know, the real focus should be--and it is--on crafting my teaching practice. The appearance-manipulation is just a fun side-project.