The students have to look at you all day long, five days a week, for ten months. Give them something nice to look at! The kids will appreciate the effort; parents and colleagues will notice your polished look.
Here are my Dos and Don’ts, aimed at female teachers because that is what I know. (I will start paying more attention to male fashion and develop a list for the guys.)
DO Wear lipstick. You can get by with less face makeup if your lips are bright. Lipstick gives any look instant polish and brightens your complexion. Tinted gloss can look good, but make sure it gives color to your face. The clear Bonne Bell look is for 13-year-olds.
DON’T Skip makeup. No matter how good your skin is, you need to wear a little makeup to look polished. The bare minimum: even out your skin tone with foundation, tinted moisturizer or mineral makeup. Then add blush and mascara. Don’t forget the lipstick or tinted gloss.
BEWARE of colored eye shadows. They look good on some people, but neutrals are always your friend. Remember that the point of eye shadow is to contour your eyes and give them more definition. This is best accomplished with neutrals.
DO find a flattering hairstyle and rock it. It might be a cute cut or a fun updo.
DON’T wear an unflattering hairdo for Crazy Hair Day. Find a crazy style that actually looks awesome.
DON’T wear a hairstyle the kids would wear. This goes for juvenile-looking braids (sophisticated ones are okay), childish looking barrettes or placement of barrettes, and punk ’dos best left to London punks.
DO wear more dresses. They give you a pulled-together polish and can be more cost-effective than separates. I hit the Ross Dress Sale every year and snap up washable dresses in my size.
DON’T wear sack dresses, the really baggy and frumpy kind that make everyone look bad. Whatever your shape, clothes that fit will flatter.
DO wear vivid colors. They brighten your face and kids love them.
DO make sure your clothes fit. They don’t have to be fitted, but they should fit.
DO balance your proportions: if the top is loose, the pants should be fitted and vice versa.
DO wear jeans, but with a cute top or fun blazer-style jacket. Look professional. Iron your jeans if you can—it doesn’t take long and adds a definite polish to the look.
DO wear dark-wash jeans. They always look more professional.
DO wear button-down tops with a collar. Make sure they fit well. Especially avoid a too-tight top that gapes at the bust. The kids WILL notice.
DO dress for theme days (Hawaiian, backwards, etc.) but keep it tasteful.
DON’T wear anything to school that you would wear to work in the yard. Grubby khakis and rumpled tee shirts are a bad look. So are big sweatshirts and jeans.
DON’T wear leggings—in most cases. The exception is if you have a really cute tunic or dress that covers your butt. Then it’s a do! (Check your district’s dress code first.)
DON’T wear logo tee shirts, especially the ones from educational organizations. The logos are often dorky, and the shape is almost always boxy and unflattering.
DON’T wear boxy tee shirts—the square shaped kind kids buy as souvenirs. Buy shirts with a feminine cut.
DON’T wear school tee shirts unless it is Friday or a field trip. And don’t wear them every Friday–it’s too predictable.
DON’T wear anything the kids might wear. This goes for clothing styles that only look good on those without curves and almost ANYTHING with butterflies or rainbows.
DON’T dress frumpy. If you have the sneaking suspicion your clothes or hairdo are frumpy, your subconscious is trying to tell you something.
DON’T dress like you did in high school. This goes for overly body-conscious clothing AND the jeans-and-a-hoodie jock look. Both are inappropriate for work.
DON’T wear khakis or button-downs unless you iron them. The rumpled look is bad for professionals.
DON’T wear a low-cut top that flashes major cleavage every time you lean over. Or, DO wear it, but with a camisole underneath.
DON’T wear Capri pants with sneakers, unless they are REALLY slim Keds.
DON’T wear something you’d be embarrassed to be seen in outside of school. That’s a sign you are just not dressed well.
DO wear shoes that are comfortable and stylish. It’s okay for the shoes to be more on the comfortable side so long as your clothes are pretty. Everyone understands that teachers are on their feet all day.
DON’T wear sneakers that look dirty. Have a nice pair on hand for days that require sneakers. And DON’T wear sneakers all the time, unless you are a PE teacher.
DON’T wear flip-flops or any shoes that look like they belong at the beach. Sandals that look polished are a DO!
Jewelry & Accessories
DO wear jewelry, real or costume. It completes your look. Plus, kids are attracted to shiny objects.
DON’T wear jewelry the kids wear—no rainbows, bumblebees, cutesy animals, or punk studded cuffs for you.
DON’T wear teacher jewelry. Apple pins rarely look good. Those craftsy pins with little rulers and stuff glued to them are a terrible look. If you have a collection from the kids, put some fabric and batting in a frame and stick the pins on it for a classroom decoration.
DO keep your nails nice and neat, particularly if you use a document camera. With a document camera, a close-up of your hands is on display all day. A manicure is nice; so are cool rings. At a minimum, use lotion for good skin.
Rules of Thumb
DO have a go-to outfit, hairstyle, and two-minute makeup routine for hectic mornings.
DON’T feel like you have to spend a lot of money. Shop discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. Hit Stein-Mart for fancier pieces, especially for fun little jackets and blazers. Steam or iron your bargain finds and the perceived price of your look doubles.
THE CARDINAL RULE OF TEACHER FASHION
DON’T wear “teacher sweaters.” EVER. Avoid anything with pictures of schoolhouses, pencils, rulers, and other teacher paraphernalia.