Dec 4, 2023 - Business

An economist walks into a fashion website

Emily Oster

Emily Oster in M.M.LaFleur. Photo: Aisha McAdams

Fashionable is not how one typically describes economists — unless we're counting a good bow-tie game. But Brown University's Emily Oster looks positively chic on the website of clothing retailer M.M.LaFleur.

Why it matters: Oster is probably the first economist with a capsule clothing collection — a few favorite items she picked that can be easily mixed and matched.

  • "At this point in my career, and the stuff that I do, I don't think I could surprise people anymore with these kinds of choices," Oster said by phone recently. "But... I guess it's a somewhat unusual thing to do."

Zoom in: Oster said she's long worn M.M. LaFleur and was happy to participate. (It probably didn't hurt that she got to keep the clothes — the Gwynne Dress alone seems worth any hassle.)

Catch up fast: This isn't Oster's first foray outside the econ box. When she was just starting out at the University of Chicago in 2013 Oster published "Expecting Better," a parenting book that tore apart — with data —  much of the conventional wisdom around pregnancy.

  • Far from a typical dry academic publication, the book was, and still is, popular with mainstream audiences.
  • Her colleagues were less enthusiastic, Oster told the FT last year. She said the book was likely part of the reason she was denied tenure at Chicago.
  • Since then Oster has published another parenting book, and launched a widely read Substack called ParentData — she's also courted controversy over her stance on school closings in COVID.

The bottom line: The response to her capsule collection was pretty positive by comparison.

  • "I got a lot of very nice emails from different women economists," she said. "People are like, I need that dress. Let's not wear it at the same conference."
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