Here at Museum Drip, we do not subscribe to the capsule wardrobe craze. Naturally I support consuming less and smart spending, but welcome to the side of the internet where if we don’t inject a little spice into our closet every couple of months we will lose our minds. For those who may not be aware, the name “Museum Drip” came from one of my brothers and I having an inside joke about things I would wear being “museum drip,” like fair-trade, brightly colored scarves, or Lotta from Stockholm clogs, or other internationally-sourced “unique” clothing items that broadly advertise “I work in the arts!” The joke is that “drip” = “swag” and these clothing items absolutely do not translate to “swag.” Museum Drip is nerd swag. It’s goofy swag. It’s a joke. “Drip” comes from hip-hop, money, and status. “Museum drip” is not these things.
Drip is your attire, the clothes you wear. My drip today man, I got on a Saint Laurent hoodie, some Balmain’s and some Chanel shoes because it’s Friday. I drip every day, all week, but weekends I’m really putting that shit on. I might wear a $10,000 outfit on a weekend, no cap.”Gunna, Atlanta rapper, https://genius.com/a/what-does-drip-mean
It’s corny as hell and that’s the whole point. It’s absolutely hilarious to roll up to a museum conference to find a sea of naturally curly hair (museum girlies don’t straighten their hair and yes girlies is gender-neutral in this usage), sensible shoes, bright accessories and lots of pockets. Sometimes it can feel like these $60 shoes and $150 glasses frames are still creating a cliquey, insider feeling and if you stand out in the crowd you somehow don’t fit into the field, and that’s a drag. There’s no right way to museum drip. But there are some shared characteristics of what we need from our clothes and I want to celebrate that, because my goofy ass is really grateful to be able to wear joke clothes to work!
We’re very open in the museum field these days about being overworked and tired and combating burnout by seeking out the things that will make us feel more like a person. Clothes can help with that! Remember the fun little Spirit Halloween memes from earlier this fall? Museumshift’s “Emerging Museum Professional” costume absolutely slayed. “The best blazer you can afford” and “glasses” are things many of us did to attempt to appear older/more professional in the early days of our career while our bosses made us feel like we didn’t even deserve to be there. As we settle into the field, we realize that 1. we do deserve to be here, 2. our creativity and individuality is an asset, not an impediment, and 3. we gotta be careful with our museum salaries and buying clothes that we don’t actually like ain’t it.
One of the reasons I want people to share their ‘fits on Instagram with me is to celebrate our “museum people” culture while showcasing the diversity of what that can mean. As I’ve talked about in other posts and is pretty common knowledge at this point, white women make up the majority of museum employees in the US. The linked source is from 2017 and I believe that there’s been significant progress on this front in the last 5 years, not only racially and ethnically, but on the gender spectrum as well. I want to see how we can broaden the archetype of a “museum person,” and have interesting conversations about what is universal and quintessential about how we express ourselves through our professional workwear.
“Style is a little excursion into self-expression through clothes. It is self-knowledge and self-confidence expressed through what you choose to wear, a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit. And for that reason, it always suggests that you are in control of your personal environment.”psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200507/the-value-style
So what do we look for in a quintessential “museum drip fit”? In addition to expressing our personalities through our clothing, there are practical logistics to take into account when we get dressed for a museum environment. While different job functions have varying levels of activity throughout the day and some jobs are consistently more strenuous than others, most of the roles in a museum necessitate walking, lifting, reaching, squatting/bending, and running up and down stairs throughout the day. Many of us need to be carrying keys or badges or loose crayons. Plenty of museum professionals work in a building or wing separate from the museum collections. And unlike a traditional office setting in which (I assume) amenities like the restrooms, refrigerator, coat racks (?) are desired to be near desks and office spaces, museums tend to have offices shoehorned in as the staff expands to accommodate the expanded mission and function of the organization. Right now I have to bop through two flights of back stairwells just to run to the bathroom, and my makerspace is in a different building. I was a heels girlie until this job.
But on top of the movement (which I love bc hello steps) we also simultaneously have to consider sitting comfortably at our desks/in meetings to work for the part of the day where we aren’t running downstairs to greet a tour or sprinting down two flights of stairs before a meeting or setting up furniture for an event or breaking down folding tables after an art class. We’re going into sketchy storage areas, climbing on ladders, putting away supplies, and then sitting at our desk for 4 hours working on grants and label copy. We gotta get a girl who can do both, as they say.
Some of our museum friends are a little less able to factor in the “expressing themselves” part of the equation than others and we see you, uniformed museum fashionistas! Or maybe you’re an art handler, or maybe you work in a building that has absolutely no temperature control and you’re either freezing or sweating and have to make your decisions based on that. At the end of the day, we all need clothes that function and don’t break the bank (unless you’re a six-figure salaried director in which case go off in your designer clothes).
My Museum Drip must haves: pockets or a wearable pouch of some sort; non-restricting clothing that I can easily squat & crouch (or do Charlie’s Angels stunts in the basement) in; dark colors that won’t show if I accidentally brush up against paint or ink somewhere; some personality to keep the light inside of me alive when I open my emails/stay late 4 nights in a row; shoes that I can run down stairs in without fear of breaking my neck; layers because lord only knows how much time I’ll spend in the freezing conference room, my sweltering office, outside, sweating over supply closet reorganization, etc. Transitioning back to the office almost full-time after spending the majority of the week working from home for two years has deepened my appreciation for wearing clothes that I love. We (unfortunately ??) have to wear clothes every day, so I think the way we choose to show up in them carries a lot of power in asserting our values and priorities. As Lizzo has decreed, we ALL DESERVE TO FEEL GOOD AS HELL. If you’re working in a field where it’s easy to feel undermined, undervalued and uninspired, let the parts of your day that are unavoidable – like wearing clothes and hydrating – bring you comfort, stability and joy!
My favorite places to shop for comfortable and silly clothes that can handle whatever the day might throw at me:
Fashion Brand Company: For durable, sturdy, made in the USA clothing that is silly, comfortable and functional. Price point is more like a $$$/$$$$$ but the clothes are super high quality. When I bought my craft pants earlier this year I told my husband they were an investment piece in that I was “investing in being silly.” Fashion Brand Company offers gender neutral pieces and their sizing is all by measurement and not at all tied to gender.
Cider: For a quick hit of color and pattern to mix up your sensible basics. Cider is pretty fast-fashion-y, but because the things you buy from there are just going to be mixed in among your more sustainable basics, they’ll last long enough. You can get things on one of their many sales for $/$$$$$ – I just bought 3 sweaters for like $75 and each one of them is warm and pretty. Cider offers a “unisex” section of the site!
Boden: For staple “grown up clothes” that put getting dressed on autopilot. Boden is a little on the preppier side, but I have 3 or 4 dresses from them now and they are all incredibly comfortable and look elevated while feeling like sweatpants. I love that they have midi lengths and full sleeves so that you can wear a dress to work without having to wear 53 layers just to make it work. It’s a $$$/$$$$$ situation but I have been buying 1 dress a year on sale. They wash very well and will last. Boden has men, women and children’s clothing.
Secondhand: For everything! For me, it’s hard to buy basics secondhand because of my body type, so it really depends on what works for you. I linked ThredUp here but if you are #blessed enough to live in an area with real live secondhand stores, you win! One of the best things about working in an environment where personal style and eclectic self-expression are encouraged is being able to fill in your wardrobe with pre-loved pieces. I emphasize this as a benefit because I think about industries where it’s acceptable for your workplace to tell you you need to upgrade your car or you need to “dress the part.” (I think the salaries usually justify that.) As creatives and education-minded folks, museum people tend towards thinking about sustainability and personal responsibility, and shopping secondhand relieves some of that stress about waste. The great thing about thrifted clothing is that the price point and gender expression are wildly variable!
Shopping Small: For accessories to freshen up your wardrobe and support real people. My MIL is the queen of buying me hand-dyed, fair-trade, sustainably made scarves and I just love it. I know those of us who wear jewelry love a handmade earring and an artisan ring. Shopping small keeps money in the hands of real, regular people, rather than giant corporations and can again help us to be mindful of purchasing and wearing sustainable pieces. Again, the cost can vary really widely and is obviously more expensive than shopping at Target or Amazon.
Clothing Swap!: I guess this is similar to secondhand but it’s a great idea! There was a Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums (GLAM) swap organized online this summer. It was Wedding Times for Museum Drip so I was not able to participate or amplify that initiative but I think it’s brilliant! Swapping with people in your same field can be more efficient than with friends. Great potential to keep sustainability top of mind and score new clothes for 0/$$$$$!
No swaps in your future and have clothes to get rid of? I just did my first Take Back Bag through the brand For Days. You pay for the bag, but the amount you pay becomes store credit as soon as your ship it back.
While you won’t catch me dead in a “Museum Nerd” tshirt, that absolutely does not preclude me from being a museum nerd and outing myself as such through my clothing choices. While it’s far from the first thing I worry about on any given day, leaning in to “museum drip” helps me to feel like I’m bringing my whole self to work. On a body positive note, keeping function top of mind when I get dressed for work helps me to be grateful to my body for everything I can do because of it. Dressing for silliness helps me to keep things in perspective. Drip has connotations beyond literal fashion — it connotes the confidence you deserve to show up with.