Friday, December 16, 2011

so you want to dress like a teacher

By Pernille Ripp

Cross posted from the fashion blog of Pernille Ripp:   Poor og Rich

    Teachers have a certain fashion ideal to live up to.  We certainly have been portrayed in either one of two categories; hopeless dork with mid-shin skirts and white sneakers or vampy vixen dressed more like 60's secretaries.  While both ideals are endearing in a way, here are some ideas on what to wear to school.
  • Think stylish yet comfortable - many of us get on the floor during the day so that pencil skirt better have some stretch in it.  Yes they are available, I have some in my closet.
  • Think layers - My schools goes from oven to tundra in the course of a day so think about how your layers will look separated.  I have had some pretty crazy get ups revealed because I had to peel off a blazer or a cardigan.
  • Check your pant length.  There is a stigma with teachers that our pants are too short, and not the good kind of too short.  So check that your pant length actually touches the back of your shoe, otherwise they are too short.
  • Nix the theme shirts/jewelry.  I know the kids sometimes thinks it is cute when we wear fun Halloween sweaters or tinsel from our ears but I always wonder if they think we are fun or just funny looking.  You can still embrace the festivity of whatever holiday by wearing shades of the color and not actual the whole theme.  
  • Go ahead do the heel but make sure you can stand in them,  I love my heels but they have to be super comfortable; after all, I am there to teach not strut my stuff.  So wear them around a whole day before wearing them to school, or in the worst case event, stash emergency shoes somewhere.
  • Know your size.  This is so important; if you want to appear heavier than you are wear too tight of clothing or way too large of clothing.  Instead, figure out your size and then embrace.  better fitting clothes means a better looking you.
  • Wear a smile - this will always be your best accessory as will a heartfelt hello to whomever you meet.  Everybody wants to be appreciated and welcomed.
And some don'ts:
  • Sweatpants are not appropriate for school and neither are pajamas unless it is pajama day. So even though your favorite sport team may be doing incredible and you really want to show your team loyalty, don't add the comfy pants to go with the shirt; this is not your living room.
  • Do the bend over test - and that means chest and back.  Trust me; no one wants to see too much skin.
  • Don't dress like a student.  If your students think something is super funky chances are you shouldn't be wearing it.  You may be young at heart but this is not the time to show off your weekend look.  Dress like a professional to get more respect.
  • Flip flops are for the beach, not for school.
  • Don't overdo accessories.  I once knew a teacher that had to take off extra jewelry before she could work with certain students - that is crazy.  If it is in your way or potentially dangerous; don't wear it.
  • However, that doesn't mean be super boring.  I always try to wear something interesting as an accessory (some days more successfully than others) but you don't have to pile it on.
  • If you're tugging - take it off.  I am a massive perpetrator of things not being the right fit, or rather I used to be, until I realized how much I tugged at it all day.  If you are fiddling and adjusting just get rid of it or get it tailored.
  • Don't be something you are not and take baby steps.  Wahoo to you if you want to overhaul your fashion sense.  Figure out what you like to wear and feel comfortable in then take it from there.  Ask other people's advice too, they usually have great ideas.
I hope this helps a little bit or at least gets you thinking.  I may come back and do some more concrete examples if anyone would be interested in that.

Pernille Ripp is a 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, proud techy geek, and honest to a fault. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project and believer in all children. She has no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in her students' heads every day. Follow Pernille on Twitter @PernilleRipp and read her teacher blog to be found at


  1. Great post. When I teach leadership courses I make it a point to wear something appropriate for a principal and something different to every class. I discuss the outfit and explain where you can shop for it on a budget. I tell the women to just talk to each other but now I can use this post. Thanks so much. Another theme would be what to wear and not to wear on Halloween. As a teacher, do you really want to show up as a witch or a hot nurse? I've seen this and worse. I have had to have conversations about too tight and revealing apparel with a number of staff. I try to do it so it sounds like I am giving them advice that is in there own best interests. When a student teacher shows up in tight, revealing outfits all I can think is that they are working the wrong room. When someone with a far less than ideal body shape shows up in a tight outfit I let them know that they are not looking their best. That seems to work. I will add this as a Net Nugget at http://DrDougGreen.Com. Keep up the good work.

  2. I love this! You don't have to wear holiday earrings and bedazzled sweaters! You can be stylish and appropriate. Model this for students to show them that one can look nice and represent oneself appropriately.