Professional attire? Dismay!

Discussion in 'Student & Preservice Teachers' started by kilgore_trout, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. kilgore_trout

    kilgore_trout Rookie

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    Nov 10, 2007

    Ok, so I'm a little nervous/confused about professional dress. Yup. Preee-ty darned perrrr-plexed.

    Beyond the general principle of dressing like a professional to be treated like a professional, I feel like it's critical for me that I get my appearance just right for several other reasons. I'm young (I'm 28, but all the students think I'm about 23), I'm female, I'm new at this (obviously) and I'm teaching seniors. Sixth period seniors.

    So, obviously throwing on a business suit isn't going to solve all of my respect/classroom management issues, but it sure as heck can't hurt, I'm thinking. I even bought a pair of Danskos, like every other woman in the English department. I wear nice slacks or skirts with stockings, blouses, etc, and I feel like I look pretty professional, but the details are getting to me. I can't shake the feeling I'm playing dress-up.:confused:

    So, does anyone have any advice? I've looked and looked, and everything's really vague, and seems to assume people pop out of the womb knowing how to identify 'professional dress.' After University, I worked as a house-painter, a line cook, a telemarketer, a picture-framer and a bartender. None of these things prepared me for the 'nylons and ironing' situation!!

    Some examples:

    1) I have this denim jacket. It's tailored: cut like a nice, businessy jacket with a mandarin collar, but it's made out of denim. Is that a no-no?

    2) I have 1/2 plugs in my ears that I stretched to back when I assumed I would be a rock-star when I grew up. The earrings I have now are flat black, and pretty much everyone assumes they're normal earrings, but I'm paranoid someone will discover my dark secret. Problem is, I can't just not wear anything, because it looks straight-up WEIRD.

    3) I just never look as tidy as the other women, especially in the hair-do. I take the subway, and it's windy, and I often bike to school. What do other women do, in this situation?

    Sorry for the long post! Any advice would be helpful! :thanks:
     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Nov 10, 2007

    I think you can wear the denim jacket as long as what you are pairing it with is professional. I wear my denim jacket all the time! I love it! As far as the hair, how do you wear your hair now? Are you up for cutting a few inches off? Just a suggestion. I've often thought that I dress professionally enough, but that my hair could stand a new do.
     
  4. kilgore_trout

    kilgore_trout Rookie

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    Nov 10, 2007

    I'm glad! I feel silly, but I've had heated denim jacket debates with a few colleagues.

    My hair is being grown out, which is part of the problem. I need to have it long again, for my own mental health :) Mostly I just wear it 'back.'
     
  5. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Nov 10, 2007

    There is a teacher on our campus who regularly wears her denim jacket with the rest of her outfit dressed up a bit. It's nice. Very fashionable, and she's in her forties.

    As for the plugs... my husband and I were having this conversation today because the starbucks kid had big plugs in his ears.... I don't know what to tell you. If you are in a conservative area, just cover them as best as you can. It's kinda like a tattoo. Some districts and communities will care, others wont.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Nov 10, 2007

    I wear a denim jacket quite frequently; it looks quite dressy with black pants, a chunky black turtleneck (it's cold in my classroom), a nice scarf either tucked under the collar or tied around my neck, and black boots. Go for it!
     
  7. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Nov 10, 2007

    I HATE dressing up. I also teach elementary school kids with moderate to severe disabilities... so skirts and dresses make my "hands on" job really challenging. I have found that Target has some very nice slacks and blouses. That's what I wear. I don't look like an old woman, I don't mind wearing it because it's comfortable, it's cheap because it's Target, and I meet the "dress code" requirements and look somewhat professional.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 10, 2007

    The denim jacket actually sounds nice-tailored...wear with a shell or blouse and black pants or a skirt (but not denim skirt with this jacket)... Not sure what 1/2 inch plugs are- are they those things that make big holes in your ears so it looks like the skin was punched out with a paper punch? If so I would definitely continue with earrings that cover up the hole. Hair- a neat bob that you can comb after getting off the bike/subway? Headbands? Ponytail (low) with a beautiful clip?

    As far as professional dress- it doesn't have to be suits. You can wear nice pants- not tight, not low rise. Get the basic colors: black, khaki, brown, navy, olive, maybe a checked or pinstripe pair. Get some beautiful colorful blouses, shells, cardigans, long sleeve tees and mix and match with the pants and skirts.
     
  9. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Nov 10, 2007

    I agree. I couldn't stand wearing a jacket every day. Or even every week. Slacks and a blouse or sweater are fine.

    Those ear things should be covered by conservative post type earrings - there are lots of big ones out there that cover the whole lobe.
     
  10. kilgore_trout

    kilgore_trout Rookie

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Sigh! If only that were physically possible!
    Let this be a lesson to you parents: tell your kids to think about what a great profession teaching is before they get all decked out like wannabe rock-stars! :p
     
  11. kilgore_trout

    kilgore_trout Rookie

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    Nov 11, 2007

    And, thanks for all the great, concrete advice!!!!

    I know this is a little bit of a frivolous post, but it's helpful to hear everybody's specific recommendations! The school I'm at now, there's all kinds of tattoos and visible facial piercings among both faculty and administration, and the dress-code is pretty lax. But where I will get a job . . .??
     
  12. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    I think I kind of have a cancel out style for teaching...:) I just want to look semi-professional. Actually, that’s one of the things I like about teaching is not having to dress seriously most of the time. If I’m wearing a jean jacket, I wear a nicer blouse, t-shirt, or sweater and trousers with it. If I’m wearing jeans, I wear a blazer to dress it up. You could wear a skirt with your jean jacket or wear trousers like from the GAP with it. What I like about teacher clothes is I don’t have to have a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe, they’re compatible. :)
     
  13. bcblue

    bcblue Comrade

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    Nov 11, 2007

    And it's REALLY all about the school climate where you work. I've worked a couple different places and felt I had to adjust my clothing accordingly.
     
  14. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    My school is soooooo ridiculously casual it's scary! I love it!! I have always been more comfortable in jeans and gym shoes and here it's perfectly acceptable!! The kids are so used to teachers dressing this way that they don't even question our authority...just TRY it!! We wear school spirit wear daily. Everyone does. Not a problem!! The other places I worked at were too crazy professional dress for me. No thanks! I cannot do dress pants and blouses with blazers daily. And get that dress AWAY from me NOW!!!!! Are you kidding me!!!???
     
  15. GrandHighWitch

    GrandHighWitch Companion

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    Nov 11, 2007

    It definitely depends on the school environment. I like where I teach. It's not TOO casual - we can wear jeans on Fridays, but not any other day unless it's a spirit day or something - but not too dressy either. I usually wear khakis or dress pants and a sweater or nice top. When it's warmer, I wear skirts too, but nothing too fancy. I never used to like to dress up, but I've gotten used to the "business casual"/"teacher clothes" look, and I like it now.
     
  16. Poisontipped

    Poisontipped Rookie

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    Nov 12, 2007

    I had the same trouble when I was starting my student teaching, I had absolutely no idea what to wear or to get. I didn't want to get a suit because they are so expensive! And I was only going to wear it once a week for 10 weeks- in the end I decided on some black pants and a black button-up T-Shirt. Next year, I'll probably just use the black pants, have a blue shirt with a tie or something.

    - I think simple is the best, but I personally need to stop buying black cloths- a bit too bland lol
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 12, 2007

    The whole "what's acceptable" debate changes a bit from one school to the next. I'm in a pretty conservative Catholic HS-- we are NOT allowed to wear denim. But, again, I'm guessing we're in the minority there.

    I love wearing suits (again, I'm in the minority here) and I wear them a few days a week. I feel more professional and polished in a suit. I ALWAYS wear one on any time when I'm likely to meet parents. I'm building up a wardrobe of them; I had one before I took 6 years off with the kids, but that was a whole size ago. I buy a lot at JCPenneys. Their "wardrobers" are a 3 piece set: pants, skirt, and jacket and are sometimes on sale for $89. They're pretty standard solid colors, but they're a good base on which to build.

    Don't forget shoes. Start now to build a shoe wardrobe of comfortable shoes that go with your choices. Again, mine consists of a lot of pumps. But whatever your style: funky, Madison Ave, whatever-- keep your shoe wardrobe in mind as you shop. When you buy that funky new skirt and sweater, hit the shoe store and get something that will complement it. Otherwise you're left with a lot of odds and ends that don't really look like an "outfit."

    As to your hair: are you comfortable with how it looks when you're off the job? If so, then don't sweat it. But if you really feel that you "never look as tidy as other women" consider taking your hair and you analysis to a good salon and getting a good cut. I recently cut my shoulder length hair to a short, wash and go 'do. I LOVE it. Aside from the ease, it really does look so much better. Even when it's tousled (remember: 3 small kids :) ) it's obviously in a style of some sort, not just hanging there in my way. I should have done it years ago!

    Can you tell I'm a fan of "What Not to Wear" on TLC???

    Best wishes!
     
  18. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Love Stacy and Clinton!! Wish someone would nominate me...
     
  19. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Okay - I am going to take the tack of the mother of 3 teenage boys who would rather look down a female's shirt than in their textbooks. These are all things my sons have mentioned being able to see on some of their young teachers.

    Do NOT wear a white shirt that is so thin they can see your bra clearly. Do NOT wear a shirt that shows your boobs when you bend over. Do NOT skip a bra because you are small breasted. Do NOT wear low rise pants so the top of your thong shows if your shirt goes up or they can see down the back to check out the color of your thong (and butt). Do not wear pants so tight it is obvious you are wearing a thong. Do NOT try to dress like the kids. Do NOT wear dresses so short you spend half your time tugging it down. Do NOT bend over a student's desk if you have a short skirt. Do NOT wear shoes you would wear to pick up guys in a bar. Do NOT wear your clothes so tight that moms like me wonder if you spray painted them on. Do NOT wear clothes a size or two too small so you can say you wear a size 8 - tacky and unbecoming. Do NOT wear tshirts with inappropriate sayings or inneuendo. Do NOT take casual Friday too seriously - in some school jeans and the school tshirt are appropriate - not what you would wear to a bar.

    For young teachers, I think what you wear is very important. You can do it without spending a lot of money - dress slacks and a tailored shirt, for example. Keep your personality but remember whether it is correct or not appearances count.
     
  20. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    Alice, if you can wear pumps and a suit all day, wow, you go girl! ouch, my feet hurt just thinking about it. I wear barbie shoes, the kind that keep your feet away from the ground as much as possible! :)
     
  21. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    Nov 12, 2007

    The hair thing -I finally learned - in my 40's - how to get my hair to behave. My stylist told me what to use and how to do it. If your ride to school is windy, do your hair after you get there. Go into the bathroom, dampen your hair and smoothe it, put in a little mousse if you like the curly look, then some hairspray to keep it in place. My hair is no fuss. But the hairspray has made all the difference. Because of the lice issue, I usually wear my hair up or pulled back and secured, and the hairspray usually keeps it looking neat all day long. Just do it after you get to school! PS - my hairdresser did tell me to use a good salon hairspray. The cheaper Wal Mart variety make your hair sticky. She was right. My hairspray keeps my hair in place, it is not stiff, and not sticky - ick!

    scmom - great advice! Dress very modestly. As for the ears, maybe in the future, since they bother you so much, you could see a plastic surgeon to see what they could do for you?? Meanwhile, stick with the earrings that cover them up and don't worry about it. If the kids see at some point, it can be a good lesson about thinking before making permanent decisions.
     
  22. Learner4Life

    Learner4Life Cohort

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    Wow ladies! Plastic surgery, Madison Ave. Pumps, suits? Where do you teach? I want that kind of salary!!!!
    P.S. I LOVE LOVE LOVE WHAT NOT TO WEAR but need someone to nominate me because I don't have the budget to dress so well!
     
  23. terptoteacher

    terptoteacher Connoisseur

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    Nov 12, 2007

    My daughter is performing at a fashion show in Seattle this weekend. I want to go, but I don't want to look like a frumpy dumpy 41 year old. My daughter said, "Gee, you're too young to dress old, but you're too old to dress trendy.":eek:

    Our school is divided. Our third/fourth grade teachers dress very professionally (suits, nylons, pumps, ties). Our first/second/kinder and fifth dress casual/professional (kakhi's, jeans, pants, sweaters)
    Our principal wears very bright colored solid shirts with a coordinating tie that his daughter picks out every morning.


    I agree with the previous poster about wearing a shirt that the kids can see down or through--plus also busty women need to conscious of the button up blouse boob gap.:p:whistle:
    And skirts that come just above the knee--if your elementary kids sit on the floor, and you sit in a rocking chair or something, the kids can see up your skirt.:eek:
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The $89 3 piece suit I got for my birthday will last forever. It will never go out of style. I can wear the skirt without the blazer. (In my school, pants MUST be worn with a blazer.) In spring I can wear a T shirt with it; in fall and winter I can wear a sweater.

    Suits are a complete steal!!!

    And my pumps tend to come from Payless.

    I teach in a Catholic HS... high salaries are NOT our hallmark. But I've found a style I like that works for me. I'm comfortable, I feel professional, and I'm warm when our building gets chilly.

    What's not to love?
     
  25. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    yep, I learned this when observing one of my 1st grade teacher friends during TRA time... since then I only wear long skirts to work! LOL
     
  26. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Nov 12, 2007

    I very rarely wear skirts or dresses to school, but wore one for awards day my first year. (That was the point that looooong skirts were in style which was good because I'm 5 nothing!). My class won top AR class for the school and got to turn the principal into a chocolate pie (same day). I was standing there in my dress trying not to get pudding and whipped cream on it while the kids dump it all over the principal. As I'm standing there I realize that someone or something is rubbing on my leg. I look down and it's a little 1st grade boy. He said "Your leg is soooooft." :rolleyes: So there's an extra issue with dresses at school. Future players can't wait to get their hands on you. I smiled and told him to stop and he did for all of 2 minutes, then went back to rubbing. :p

    I'm on the casual side at school. Mostly khakis and school shirts. I do have to watch the neckline on my shirts, though. I am on the chesty side and sometimes a shirt that looks fine is very different when you bend over.
     
  27. kilgore_trout

    kilgore_trout Rookie

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    Nov 13, 2007

    Oh wow, Christy F, I laughed until I almost fell out of my chair reading your story about the 1st grader. Yeah, not so much a problem with seniors in high school :p OMG I'm still giggling :lol:

    I love hearing the stories about elementary education needs/criteria for dress. It reminds me of what my sister-in-law (who teaches 1st grade) said when my sister (a doctor) and I talked up Danskos (having to have all my shoes fit with orthodics, I'm not really a 'shoe wardrobe' kind of gal, unfortunately :)). She took one look and said "well, they look comfortable, but I don't think I could sprint across the playground and climb a chain-link fence in those if I had to." I love it!

    I love scmom's list. It, too, made me laugh (and then think deeply.) I, too, am a busty lady, but I have a tattoo on my chest I cover up, so I always wear a high-necked undershirt. But boy, it's good to be reminded. I was reading some random teenage blogs today -- yikes!

    BTW, after I posted this, I did some research on my own: you know who has some great professional clothes? Used clothing stores. Not like Goodwill (who is my main supplier of clothing), but the ones where they employ buyers who actually vet the clothing pretty rigidly based on its quality. Awesome! Now I have two jackets!
     

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