Looking for teacher outfits? Welcome to “This or That,” a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom. This month, we’re covering the teacher wardrobe.
Me: I can’t find anything to wear! I have nothing.
My husband (peering around the corner): Um…your closet is full. Didn’t you just go shopping?
Me: I know, but I hate all of it! Nothing fits right.
My husband: Okay…
If you’re not a bonafide fashionista, shopping for work clothes can be overwhelming (not to mention pricey). It’s difficult to keep up with all of the latest trends, and it’s nearly impossible to organize and coordinate matching outfits when you’re in the middle of a shopping spree.
In the past, I’ve gone out and bought whatever items I liked. This approach backfired. I would get home and lay everything out only to realize that while everything was cute and stylish individually, it was going to be difficult to devise matching sets.
So I got smarter. I realized my limitations. While I appreciate fashion and would like to consider myself a relatively stylish teacher, I’m not someone who has the time, money, or energy to keep up with fads. Instead, I work off of a few simple and smart style rules when building my teacher wardrobe.
Why does what we wear even matter? I suppose it matters a whole lot more to some people than to others, but for all teachers, there’s an element of professionalism that coincides with how we dress. When we stand in front of our students, when we meet parents, when we are observed by administrators, and when we cross paths with board members, our clothing tends to lead people to make assumptions – right or wrong.
I’m not an avid shopper by nature, and I can honestly say I only look for clothes a few times a year at most, but when I do, I want whatever I purchase to speak to how I carry myself and the pride I take in my work.
Whether you’re back-to-school shopping, updating a seasonal wardrobe, or spending your birthday cash, keep these style tips in mind to maximize your experience. My goal is to be able to mix and match the items I buy as many times as possible in order to create multiple outfits with them.
SIMPLE WARDROBE HINTS FOR THE STYLISH TEACHER
1. Pair comfort fits wisely.
Flowy is fun. Pair flowy tops with fitted bottoms, or fitted tops with flowy trouser pants or skirts. In general, it’s best to avoid pairing flowy with flowy.
2. Accessorize boldly.
I keep my clothing colors simple. Once in a while I’ll splurge on an adorable pattern I can’t pass up, but otherwise, I find it’s easiest to mix and match and maximize the pieces in my wardrobe if I stick to mainly solid colors. Black and white are my defaults – classy and elegant. Still, I like some sass, so I accessorize with statement pieces: bold jewelry, pretty scarves, hair barrettes, cute glasses, colorful shoes or boots, and stylish belts. Simplifying with solids actually allows for fun variety in accessorizing.
3. Layer for fashion and function.
School climates are unpredictable. I teach on the third floor of a non-airconditioned building, so it’s usually sweltering, but even when I take my classes to the computer lab, it seems to be freezing or stuffy. You just never know what you’ll get on any given day in most schools.
So? I always layer. I’m such a layering fanatic that in addition to the typical blazer, sweater, or jean jacket I wear on a daily basis, I also keep back-up options in my classroom. Layering is playful. It can be fashionable, and it’s definitely functional. Make sure you have a refreshing variety of layering pieces in neutral colors to mix and match with the other items in your wardrobe.
4. Pair bold prints with solids.
You can show off personality in your wardrobe by selecting a few bold tops or bottoms. Focus on choosing pieces that you can wear with neutral complements and that can be matched with different cardigans, jean jackets, and blazers. This way, you can make several outfits out of one eye-catching element.
5. Be kind to your feet.
When I first began teaching, I wanted the most fashionable shoes. After all, they are statement pieces, and what girl doesn’t love shoes? Over time, the practicality of walking in heels all day hit hard. For me, being comfortable so that I can move around the classroom and be active with my students takes priority now. I still look for stylish shoes, but comfort is number one. Wedges, boots, and flats with a cushy sole are my go-to pieces. After my third pregnancy, I started purchasing Vionic shoes because of their amazing orthopedic support, which my tootsies desperately needed.
STAPLES FOR THE STYLISH TEACHER’S WARDROBE
Keeping it even more simple, you will find it easy to shop for practical clothes for the classroom if you focus on these staples.
- Make sure you have at least one solid dress – black, brown, gray..something that you can pair with bold items, accessorize, and use over and over.
- Skirts are essentials. Pick a style you like most, and buy several different colors. They are so easy to throw on and to match with tops. Just remember to pair flowy skirts with fitted tops and vice versa.
- Pants. Thank goodness we teach in the twenty-first century. We can wear the pants, ladies! Find a style you love and buy multiple solid colors each year. That’s what I do, and it simplifies my cool-weather wardrobe tremendously.
- Sweaters, jean jackets, cardigans, and blazers. Purchase some in several colors and lengths so that you have options. These usually last for years, so the investment is worthwhile.
Tip: After a shopping spree, spend some time organizing your closet. Coordinate as many outfits as you can, and try them on for size. This way, you’ll know exactly what you have and still need; more importantly, you can avoid the stressful morning tears that often originate from wardrobe catastrophes.
WHERE TO FIND THESE LOOKS
Everyone has their favorite stores. What has made wardrobe shopping more enjoyable for me is knowing I can return to the same handful of stores every year and always walk away with everything I’m looking for. My favorites are Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, White House Black Market, Gap, Bergner’s, Target, and Kohl’s. After I exhaust my go-to shops, I rarely need to look anywhere else. That’s important to me. Time is precious.
Keeping your wardrobe simple makes it easy to mix and match pieces, to have fun accessorizing, and to get dressed quickly in the morning. In addition, either selecting your outfits at the beginning of the week or laying them out the night before can help to eliminate some of the frustration of the morning hustle.
Contribute your style tips, favorite stores, and other teacher wardrobe ideas in the comments. Looking for more teacher style inspiration? Fashion preferences vary from person-to-person. While I do this, Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom does THAT. Click on the link to hop over to her blog and read about how to shop for teacher clothes on a budget.