Tips for Dressing Like a Professional Teacher

How What You Wear Affects What You Accomplish in the Classroom

Teacher standing at whiteboard
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Teachers, like most other working professionals, don't have the luxury of dressing however they would like. Outer appearances tend to make strong impressions and teachers are not immune to being judged based on their looks. Teachers work with administrators, students, families, and other teachers on a daily basis and need to make sure to put their best foot forward for all of them. Dressing the part is a great place to start.

Above all else, professionalism, practicality, and comfort should control a teacher's wardrobe choices. Dress codes can vary considerably by school but there are a handful of universal rules. Dress for success by adhering to these general guidelines and suggestions.

Avoid Tight, Sheer, or Revealing Clothing

Avoid overly-clingy tops and slacks no matter what your body type and never show up to school wearing anything see-through or excessively low cut/short—this is basically true of all professional fields. There is no shame in wanting to look and feel your best but avoid anything objectively inappropriate or that could be construed as distracting or unduly sexy. Bear in mind that your clothes do not need to be loose-fitting or otherwise unflattering to be school appropriate.

Stay Age-Appropriate

Cultivate a professional persona by opting for age-appropriate clothing. It is not your job to dress for parents and families but know that you will probably be at least partially judged by your clothing. Think of how you would like to be perceived and dress accordingly—this goes for makeup too. That could mean keeping up on the latest trends, sticking with the classics, or something in between.

When in doubt, go for an approximation of business casual and avoid grey areas. If you're not sure of a school rule, play it safe. As long as you present yourself as the qualified professional that you are, don't wear anything that your students aren't allowed to wear, and maintain authority, your clothing can be as fashionable and contemporary as you want it to be.

Stock up on Wardrobe Essentials

Many teachers find that a reliable collection of clothing staples makes their life easier. You may want to simplify your daily choices by selecting a few neutral go-to's and a rotation of your favorite shades to mix and match as you please. Teacher clothes can be just as fun and colorful as any others and you shouldn't feel the need to shy away from interesting patterns or hues but a handful of basic slacks, skirts, dresses, tops, and blouses could save you time and money.

Choose Shoes for Comfort

Avoid any shoe that will be hard on your feet after an eight or more hour workday. Teachers spend most of their days standing, weaving between desks, and even squatting and kneeling. High stiletto heels and toe-pinching loafers are not kind to your heels and arches for long periods of time.

Stay away from overly casual tennis shoes and sandals except during days where you are outside a lot such as field trips or walk-a-thons. Other than that, any comfortable shoe that is sensible and easy to walk in is perfectly fine.

Layer Up

A school can go from frigid to balmy in the time it takes students to line up. Be prepared for inevitable fluctuations by dressing in layers during every season. Jackets, sweaters, suit coats, and cardigans are simple to put on even in the middle of a lesson. Some teachers choose to leave a few pieces of warmer clothes at school so that they are there when unexpected temperatures strike.

Leave Expensive Jewelry and Accessories at Home

It probably doesn't need to be said that teaching is a hands-on job. Don't chance an accident or put meaningful, expensive jewelry or watches at risk. When working with very young students, you might also want to avoid anything that can be grabbed. Accessorize as desired without wearing anything that you would miss if damaged or lost.