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Is Teaching Still a Shirt-and-Tie Profession?

Construction workers wear hard hats; doctors wear scrubs. Teaching, however, is one profession with a large gray area in terms of what’s considered appropriate attire.

The continued casualization of America, coupled with increased pressure to set a good example, have left teachers reconsidering the wardrobe they have while trying to upgrade on a limited budget.

Mary Lou Andre, author of Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe, suggests that educators need not break the bank to dress for the job.

“There is no one dress code that works for everyone,” Andre said. “Our best approach is to use a lot of common sense. Start in your closet first. We, in America, wear about 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time. So there very well may be a whole new look right there.”

Although she believes that America has become far too casual, Andre feels this trend may have run its course.

“America has gotten more casual, and there is a backlash against it,” she said. “In tough economic times, if you're not getting work, you step it up a little bit. Teachers are no different. Clothing is a great communications tool, and people don't realize that.”

Andre warns teachers to be aware of what their clothing communicates. She cites a young teacher who was absolutely wonderful, but who wore clothing that was too revealing.

“She was great but [dressing like that] didn't instill confidence,” Andre said. “There is a real need for standards. When you are teaching children, you are in a position that should command respect.”

Andre offers her 5 Tips for Pulling Your Wardrobe Together and suggests that by following these simple rules, teachers can efficiently and effectively upgrade their look.

  1. Get clear on who you are today and make sure the things in your closet reflect that. How do you want to be perceived, and how can you use clothing to achieve that?
  2. Get organized. If you want to spend less money and get out of the house faster, get organized. Our standard rule is for every new thing you bring in, five things go out. That doesn't mean throwing stuff away. Get creative with charity and hand-me-downs.
  3. Shop in your own closet. Train your eye as to what looks best on your frame today. While you're doing this, you're putting outfits together. For men, I recommend five pairs of good dress trousers. From there, ask yourself how many dress shirts you need. For women, a couple of great pairs of black pants or skirts can be very versatile. Then put together a couple of colorful tops, which are cheaper, and you've got the look.
  4. Make a list before you go to a store. Think, “I need three new pairs of pants,” or “I have pants but need shoes.” This way, you won't buy things you already have. That's a big cost savings right there.
  5. Identify the stores. Know where you can go to fit your budget and build. Shop there, and you'll be less likely to go wrong.

Related resource

Teachers Who Wear Inappropriate Clothing


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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