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?