Tips to Dressing Like a Professional Teacher

How What You Wear Affects What You Accomplish in the Classroom

Teacher standing at whiteboard
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Most of us would prefer to wear sweatshirts and flip-flops to work, but when you're an elementary or grade school teacher, such luxuries are completely out of the question. Students, their parents, administrators, and the greater community all need to put their trust into educators to be mature, professional, capable, and competent. Like it or not, our outer appearance is their first indicator of these inner characteristics.

Here are some of the factors that should go into choosing your teaching attire:

  • Comfort
  • Professionalism
  • Individual personality

While keeping the attributes mentioned above in mind, if you also use the following guidelines when assembling your teaching wardrobe, you're sure to be dressed for success.

Loose-Fitting and Well-Tailored is Best

If you're on the curvaceous side, avoiding clingy tops and backside-hugging bottoms is always a wise choice. Leave the muscle tees and spandex shirts at home as well -- no need to show off how much time you've put in at the gym.

Stay Stylish, But Not Too Much So

You want to appear somewhat hip to your students, but you don't need to blindly follow every passing fad to a fault. A teeny-bopper persona is not a professional one to cultivate when dealing with parents who prefer wise and responsible as teacher attributes for their young and impressionable children. Look for the classics in your closet or head to the mall for the old standards -- button-down blouses, cardigans, and tailored pants. Men -- dress pants or khakis and tucked-in button-downs are always a safe bet.

It's a personal preference, perhaps, but depending on your school environment, sleeveless is sometimes considered too casual for the classroom. Consider sleeves or at the very least, no spaghetti or thin straps for a more put-together and adult look.

As for makeup, a peacock's palette on your lovely face is not exactly classroom-appropriate. Save the more daring hues for home or the weekend.

If You're Young, Be Extra Careful

No ageism here -- just realism. If you are just starting out or look particularly young, it's likely that you will be pre-judged as lacking teaching experience, so take steps to make your appearance more mature. This goes for men as well as women. In the age of Botox and obsession with youth, this might sound counter-intuitive, but teaching is one profession where a youthful look does not always inspire initial confidence; that is until your teaching chops show them what's really underneath your youthful exterior.

For Shoes, Comfort is King

Avoid trendy, too-high stiletto heels and opt for sensible flats or a shorter heel that can last all day. For both men and women, it's a general bet that tennis shoes or sneakers are a no (but maybe for field trips or walk-a-thon day, you could get away with it).

Leave the Bling at Home

K-6 teaching is a tough and extremely hands-on job. Don't chance an accident or the loss of meaningful or expensive jewelry. Simple, classic, and minimal are the keywords here. 

These general tips should set you off on the right track as a teacher -- putting your best foot forward and earning respect right off the bat.