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She was an optimist when it came to humankind, unfashionably so, and so she thought the answer was ninety-eight.

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    so adverb (MENTIONED EARLIER) used to avoid repeating a phrase mentioned earlier Mar 13 at 9:59

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so refers back to her being optimistic about humankind,and qualifies the nature of that optimism; it admits further details that may follow. It was unfashionable to be optimistic about humankind. Pessimism was "in style".

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The TV news anchor was dressed, unfashionably so, in a paisley print from the 1960s.

There, "so" refers in general terms to how the TV news anchor was dressed, with the specific details to follow.

Here's a paraphrase from a pulp romance with some details changed, but not the structure, again showing how the specific unfashionable details can follow after "so":

Lord, but the man was handsome, unfashionably so — with his long black hair tied back with a shoelace from an athletic shoe — but handsome nonetheless.

P.S. This is a formulaic construction that foregrounds the adverb, a form of emphasis; writers of formulaic (aka "pulp") fiction often resort to it:

"She was trying to act so sophisticatedly [sic] and was no doubt spouting forth her father's politics—unconvincingly so—because he couldn't help but smile at her nonsense, and she blushed every time he smiled at her."

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    I don't find your example at all idiomatic. To my mind, unfashionably so in your exact context implies that her being dressed at all was unfashionable (naked newsreaders being all the rage these days). Mar 13 at 17:12
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    @FumbleFingers The specific unfashionable details don't have to precede unfashionably so; they can come after it, just as they do in the original question. I could quote you examples of that but I'd have to type them out by hand since there's no cut-and-paste available on many of these locked-down previews protected by copyright. But I'll add a paraphrased example of one.
    – TimR
    Mar 13 at 18:38
  • I agree with @FumbleFingers. In your example sentence, I would drop the "so".
    – mudri
    Mar 14 at 10:02
  • @mudri unfashionably so is a formulaic way of foregrounding the adverb, drawing special attention to it. That you would avoid the formula is not relevant to how the formula works. I might well avoid it too.
    – TimR
    Mar 14 at 11:19
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In the phrase "unfashionably so," the word "so" is used to emphasize the degree to which the subject (in this case, a person) is unfashionable. It implies that the person is unfashionable to a notable extent, and this unfashionableness is considered unusual or against the norm. So, in the context of the sentence you provided, it suggests that the person's optimism about humankind is considered out of fashion or contrary to popular opinion, yet she holds this belief strongly.

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    I don't think this is right. In "unfashionably so", "so" is just a bit of syntactic glue linking adverbial "unfashionably" back to the initial assertion that she was an optimist (in "standard" English, She was unfashionably an optimist). There's nothing to suggest that her optimism was excessive / notable, over and above the plain fact that it was unfashionable (for her to be an optimist at all, when it came to humankind). You're confusing the cited usage with things like She was [ever] so unfashionable. Mar 14 at 17:24

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