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Dressing Well for School Without Going Broke



Several of this year's fashion trends are particularly teacher-friendly, some fashion experts told Education World, and allow teachers to update their wardrobes with a few pieces.

"The good news for teachers is that layering is big; it works great for teachers," Cafazzo said. Temperature fluctuations in schools and classrooms often force teachers to add or shed garments throughout the day. "It [layering] is very comfortable, with oversized sweaters of all lengths, even long duster sweaters that fall below the knees, and deep v-neck sweaters. The fashions are very reminiscent of the 80s."

Just Starting Out?

Are you starting your first teaching job this year? Do you have a closet full of strategically ripped jeans and t-shirts you wouldn't wear in front of your mother, much less a class full of 10-year-olds, and a mile-long list of expenses vying for your first paycheck? Relax. You can go to work looking like a grown-up and still eat.

"For women just starting out, get a few nice sweaters, short, cropped jackets, and the white blouse; it goes with everything from pants to pencil skirts," said Amy Cafazzo, Marshalls' style expert. Newly-minted male teachers should invest in chinos in grey, navy, brown, and khaki and one or two long-sleeve crew or v-neck sweaters.

And remember to think practical. "Try to find something washable as well as versatile for the many jobs teachers find themselves doing during the day," said Target spokeswoman Kristi L. Arndt.

Boots also are popular this year, and many feature flat heels that are a welcome sight to educators who are on their feet most of the day. Ballerina flats are hot as well, and female teachers could wear them with opaque stockings, suggested Monet Cole, fashion editor for Fashion-411, a Web site that tracks fashion trends and offers fashion advice. Wedge heels also are in style, and provide more support than other types of heels, she added.

Other trendy looks this year include military and equestrian-inspired jackets and menswear-type fabrics for women, such as houndstooth patterns.


One of the benefits of the layered look is that you can adapt clothes from other seasons for fall and winter. "Layering means you can transform spring and summer outfits," Cafazzo said. "A white blouse is a must-have for spring and summer, so you can add an equestrian-inspired jacket or sweater for fall."

Women can convert city, or knee length, shorts to a fall outfit by wearing them over leggings or stockings, she said.

Suits may not be as fashionable, but the parts can be part of a trendy outfit. "You can split up a suit; wear the blazer one day, the skirt another," Cafazzo noted.

Other more classic pieces in a wardrobe can be updated into a newer outfit by adding sweaters or jackets, she continued.

Accessories are another quick and easy way to revamp an outfit. "Belts can change an outfit and oversize bags are popular, which is great for teachers," according to Cafazzo.

For men, classic looks will be in fashion, such as tailored pants. Layering also works for them; some men can update their look by adding a corduroy or velvet sports jacket to their wardrobes.

For men who do wear shirts and ties to work, there are ways to add a more personal touch to their dress. "Some men feel stifled by button-down shirts and ties," Cafazzo noted. "What they can do is go out and update their tie wardrobe. There are lots of ties in great colors and patterns that can help individualize your wardrobe."


Workplace attire overall has become more casual over the past several years, in part because of the influx of younger workers, according to some studies. "We are seeing fewer suits walking around -- on men and women," Cafazzo said. Even in many corporations, suits are being replaced by the business casual code of chinos and polo shirts, or even jeans and flip flops.

Teachers, though, may not have quite that much latitude.

"The focus should be on what is neat and clean and appropriate," Weaver said. "You don't necessarily need a tie or a dress. And you don't need to wear the same thing every day, otherwise the kids will be on your case. When possible, it's good to remain stylish, as long as the clothing is appropriate and makes you look professional."

"You want to find a few key pieces that reflect your personality and the trends of the season."

While jackets and ties and dresses and stockings may no longer be considered required dress for teachers, some districts became concerned that teachers were dressing too casually and instituted dress codes to clarify what was considered appropriate dress.

Many of the codes ban clothing such as blue jeans, sweat suits, tank tops, see-through and low-cut clothing, shorts, and flip flops, as part of an effort to have teachers set an example for students. (See Education World's Dressing (Teachers) For Success)

Districts with teacher dress codes are putting their energies into the wrong area, according to the NEA's Weaver. "I think they are focusing on the wrong things, and I don't think they can get away with that," he said. "If someone is dressed inappropriately, go to the union, and have the union talk to that person."