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April 13, 2015

5 Teacher Wardrobe Must Haves

Written By: Brandi Jordan
Category: Career Path
X 5 Teacher Wardrobe Must Haves

5 Teacher Wardrobe Must Haves

When a soon-to-be college graduate asked me what she should keep stocked in her closet for teaching, I started rattling off a list that probably would have cost her her first year’s salary.  Sure, there are a lot of things that are great to have in your teaching wardrobe, but what do you really need?  Thankfully, a teacher friend and I were able to brainstorm for her and came up with our list of the top 5 teacher wardrobe must-haves. 

5 Teacher Wardrobe Must Haves

1.  Comfortable Shoes

By comfortable we mean really, really comfortable.  Yes, they can be expensive, but they’ll save your feet, your calves, and your back.  Hide the heels and go for a shoe that can go with just about everything else in your wardrobe (see below).  Support with a good arch, cushioning, and the perfect fit are a must.  And, if you’re a kindergarten or preschool teacher, make sure you can run in them…because sometimes you have to whether you want to or not.  I speak from personal experience here, friends.


2.  A Cardigan with Pockets

Classrooms are notorious for being either as hot as the desert or as cold as the Arctic, so having a cardigan on hand at all times is a must.  It doesn’t have to be super heavy, but it does need to keep out the chill.  Why with pockets?  Can you teach while wearing anything that doesn’t have pockets?!  Not so much.  Pockets are to teachers what peanut butter is to jelly.  They were just made to go together.


3.  Pants – Really Durable Pants

Pants should seem obvious, but really durable, fitted, and comfortable pants that aren’t sweatpants or jeans are a necessity.  Try them out in the dressing room.  Stand, bend, pretend you’re picking up the nine million pencils that are on the floor at the end of the day, sit on the floor (check for pins first), lean, twist, run in place (there’s that whole running thing again), and test those pants out.  If you feel like you’re going to fall out of them or expose something that shouldn’t be exposed, hang them back on the hanger and find a different pair.  Those pants need to be able to work and should, of course, have pockets.  When you find a pair you like, get them in every possible color…and maybe a couple of each.


4.  Wrinkle-Free Shirts

The less time you need to spend ironing, the better.  Go for a few dressier shirts and a couple more casual ones.  If you’ve already picked out your pants, wear them when you go to find the shirts.  Trying them on together will give you a better idea of how the outfit will come together.  Just like with the pants, you want to turn, twist, and move around in them.  And, just to be sure you don’t have a wardrobe malfunction or show more than you were anticipating, bend over in front of the mirror like you would if you were talking to a student at his desk.  Then actually look in the dressing room mirror.  If you’re seeing too much skin, so will your students.  Large armholes on sleeveless shirts can be a danger zone too – proceed with caution (and a tank top underneath).  Comfortable, professional, and modest should be the look you’re going for here.


5.  A Dress or Suit

You may not wear this a lot, but you’re going to be glad you have it come parent-teacher conference time.  Make sure it fits properly, looks professional, and gives you that authoritative-yet-approachable look so that you exude confidence.  Consider it your power outfit and wear it on days when you need that extra boost.


So, if you’re just starting out or simply need a teacher wardrobe makeover, start with the shoes and work from there.  Investing in clothes that will last and hold up to the wear and tear of daily classroom life will pay off year after year.  Teach on, Really Good Teachers!


TELL US! What did we miss from the list that’s an absolute must-have? 

Is there something you can’t live without? 




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  • susanboot
    April 20, 2015

    I have been a lecturer for pre-service teachers instructing them on how to present professionally. I always say for them to look around the school staff and pick someone they would like to model themselves on, especially some one in a middle management position.  Each school has a dress culture, and you need to fit into this. Being well dressed is important but over formality can also cause issues.  Wearing a  three piece suit and tie when the Principal wears an open collared shirt  is as unsuitable as a t-shirt when all staff wear long sleeves and a tie. If in doubt ask what the dress code is.   A teacher must be better dressed than the students. If the students have to wear ties and blazers then the teachers must wear suits. If the students wear t-shirts and shorts then the teachers could wear collared t-shirts or open necked collared shirts and informal trousers (not jeans). 

    With your list, all I can say is “agree,agree, agree”.  Even go so far as having a uniform with your school/ employer logo.  Business uniform shops are expensive but usually last longer and can be non iron.   Limit your colour range: black red navy or variation of school colours thus limiting the number of outfits needed. Currently I am wearing “harem “style pants with deep pockets and strong elastic waist band to hold them up when full of pens, a mouse, keys, smart phone for ClassDOJO. (Also good for quick trip to toilet)  If they are in black or navy they can be professional.   I have my keys on a lanyard but they can get heavy.  Some younger teachers wear dresses/shirts with leggings which can look great and are very modest.  Sports bras plus boob tube help with wardrobe malfunction.  Be careful with short tops which can ride up when you are writing on the board. Midriff  tubes/singlets/vests help with this. Comfortable shoes can be made more comfortable with low line socks.  The shoes need thick flexible soles for all those hours of walking.  I find it better to wear covered shoes all the time rather than changing for specialist areas like labs, kitchens, workshops etc as you never know when you might need to teach in other room.

    The other idea which students like are “subject specific” shirts such as Pi shirt, periodic tables, dinosaurs etc  or promotional shirts  for sporting/cultural events for special days or informal times.

    I am amazed that some teachers can teach all day in heels, tight skirts and buttoned shirts and do so for their entire career but  the rest of us mere morals need to be professional yet comfortable. 

    For the really busy, the hair style needs to last a term between visits to the hairdressers.  

    The only thing that the list missed was a hat. I am from Queensland Australia so wearing a hat (not a cap) is not only vital for your own skin but allows you to be a good role model.

    Dressing professionally and comfortably supports your standing with students staff and community and can make your life so much easier.

  • Pamela Hansen
    April 19, 2015

    Pants need to have pockets!!  Seriously, ladies need pockets in their trousers just as much as men.  I cannot believe how many nice pants I can’t wear to school on days that I don’t wear that cardigan sweater with pockets.  I hate having my keys around my neck — they are in the way when I bend over to help the students!

  • Kathleen McMahon
    April 19, 2015

    Nothing we wear to school should require a visit to a dry cleaner. 
    Also, get a big apron with a bib for those days when you are doing a creative but messy project that might leave you stained, dusty or damp.  I made mine, but aprons are available anywhere you can buy pots and pans. You want one with spacious pockets and adjustable straps.  You will be happy you wore that apron when the principal stops in on the same day that you did the vinegar + baking soda science experiment.

  • charlotteburn
    April 19, 2015

    Don’t buy white!!!  And pastels are iffy. Dark or bright colors are your friends…markers and paint are just a few reasons why I had to throw away some really pretty brand-new clothes!

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