Help me build my teaching wardrobe! - Mothering Forums
Working and Student Parents > Help me build my teaching wardrobe!
Petersmamma's Avatar Petersmamma 01:37 PM 07-16-2007
Ok, mamas! I'm a grad student now (read: casual clothes) in a HOT city (read: flip flops). I'm going to start teaching high school in a year and I want to start building my wardrobe now because I'm poor and this way I'm not buying a bunch of stuff next August.

So, here's the deal: since it is so hot here so much of the year, clothing like capris and shorts are okay (as long as they are more formal looking....like the trouser shorts). Also, I think that jeans are acceptable, as long as they are tailored and a dark wash. I like to wear dresses and skirts, but HATE nylons.

I also like classic clothes because they don't go out of style. If I purchase something trendy, I'm pretty likely to keep wearing it after it's out of fashion since *I* still like it. I adore sandals, but flip flops are obviously too casual. I don't really like high heels, since I will be standing much of the day.

What do you recommend I purchase? What stores would you recommend (big city, we probably have any store you recommend)?

Thanks!

A&A's Avatar A&A 01:41 PM 07-16-2007
Let me tell ya' from 12 years of teaching experience: the kids will respect you more if you're dressed up. You will not receive as much respect in jeans. I hate nylons too, but force myself to wear them.
Artisan's Avatar Artisan 01:49 PM 07-16-2007
I live in a warm climate as well (and teach high school). My "uniform" is knee length skirts with nice T-shirts/blouses, bare legs, and dressy sandals. It lets you feel dressed up without killing yourself in the heat.

I shop a lot at J. Jill. They have grown up looking skirts that are still fashionable, and very nice quality. (www.jjill.com) They have great end of season sales, so you could possibly find some good deals in the next month or two.

Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft also have nice classic but fashionable pieces.

I think you also have to be mindful of not being too revealing in a school setting. I do have some younger colleagues who come in in sleeveless shirts that show cleavage, and I'm really opposed to that. Sixteen year old boys have enough distractions to deal with, they don't need to see what you have to offer as well. (This isn't to say you can't dress fashionably, just that you need to be aware of how things fit you.) I wear a lot of camisoles/tanks under my shirts as a second layer so they can't see too much. I'm self conscious of the air conditioning and what that tends to do to the chest area -- I don't need teenagers staring at my nipples. (Sorry if TMI. ) I also keep a light neutral colored cardigan on hand in case it gets too chilly in the AC.
Petersmamma's Avatar Petersmamma 03:04 PM 07-16-2007
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking! I'm pretty young, so I still want to look fashionable and stylish, but I also want to look professional.

I feel like jeans CAN be professional. When they are a dark wash, a tailored cut, and worn with a dressy top.

Artisan, where do you get your dressy sandals? I adore sandals (and love a reason to keep the pedi in good shape...which it isn't now)!
TirzhaZ's Avatar TirzhaZ 03:22 PM 07-16-2007
I have to dress nice for my office job a lot and I have to say I love, love, love Target. They have been carrying a lot more sophisticated styles and have great prices. Plus, they always have a ton of basics on clearance. I think knee length skirts are a good bet in the heat. I never wear nylons as I hate them, too. Just make sure you keep your legs clean shaven! Get a few pretty camis, too. They are great for layering under low cut blouses. Also, solid colors are the most versatilebecause you can wear them in multiple ways whereas a shirt with a print may only be able to be worn with one skirt or pair of pants. As far as shoes go, maybe get some kitten heels. They aren't uncomfortable like high heels, but are a little more sophisticated than flat sandals. Also, doctors reccomend having a 1-2" heel anyway for better back alignment, so kitten heels work perfect. I think you should try to stay away from jeans because you should distinguish yourself from the students. New York & Co. has great sales on dress pants including dressy capris. You can always show your individuality with some great necklaces and earrings, too, if you feel like slacks are boring. Best of luck with your teaching career!!
Petersmamma's Avatar Petersmamma 04:55 PM 07-16-2007
Ooh, Target! Gotta love Target! The quality is pretty decent then? I don't mind paying a bit more for my work clothes because I want them to last, and theoretically they won't be subject to child messes.

I was actually thinking of NY and Co. for jeans...they had jeans last year that were trouser cut. I actually am probably going to be hard to convince to NOT get jeans, as I HATE HATE HATE khakis (gah!) and find most trousers to be too formal. But I promise that if I get jeans, they will be professional and I will have them tailored, to boot!

Kitten heels, good suggestion!

Keep 'em coming, ladies! :
Petersmamma's Avatar Petersmamma 04:57 PM 07-16-2007
Oh, and I am a shave every day kinda gal. I hate how stubbly legs feel! I might need to break out the self-tanner, though!
Benji'sMom's Avatar Benji'sMom 05:32 PM 07-16-2007
Here's a suggestion for a work wardrobe on a budget. Someone posted this idea on MDC a while back, but not in this forum. But I tried it out for my summer work wardrobe and it's worked out so well. The basic idea is, you pick 2 colors that you like, that look good together and look good on you. Mine for summer are grey and tuquois. Then you make 3 bottoms and 6 tops that are all from these 2 colors. You can add a 3rd color in for some variety if you want, a neutral would be a good idea. My 3rd color is white, so I do have a white shirt and a print skirt that's grey, turqoise and white. (Prints should be kept to a minimum, like just one piece, and make sure it's a print that can be worn with all other wardrobe pieces.) The original post about this was a lot more complicated than this, but this is my easy version of it.

It makes everything so easy because shoes and jewelry will coordinate with all pieces, since everything is coordinating colors. It's kind of like a uniform, but not really, because you're not wearing the same polo shirt every day, you know?

And I love Target. I have at least 3 pieces from Target.
TirzhaZ's Avatar TirzhaZ 05:35 PM 07-16-2007
Go for the jeans then! As long as they are tailored and a darker wash (and maybe paired with a cute blazer??) they will look just fine. And yes, Target's quality is great. I've never gotten anything that faded over time or fell apart. I haven't noticed any shrinkage in the items either. And now Target carries a lot of lines by top designers like Mizrahi and Robertson, so they have a lot of chic looking separates to choose from. *sigh* I love clothes :
kofduke's Avatar kofduke 09:54 PM 07-16-2007
I'm starting as a guidance counselor this fall so I'm in a similar situation. I used to be an attorney, so my entire wardrobe was suits, which honestly is just a bit much for playing Guess Who on the floor with 6-year olds. I love coldwater creek, but they are $$. I recently discovered Christopher Banks, which carries similar styles but for less money. I like to wear nice trousers or a skirt with a blouse and cover with a jacket that I can take on or off - particularly being near the front office, lots of parent contact.
woobysma's Avatar woobysma 11:28 PM 07-16-2007
Another post for Target here, too. I actually really like their work clothes and they're really reasonable, price-wise. I have about 5 of their knee length skirts, they're so cute.

I also love Ann Taylor Loft during a good sale. Nothing beats their wide leg linen pants, IMO : Like heaven!

As for shoes, I'd try kitten heals or wedges. I'm a total flip-flop kind of girl, but I'm really comfortable in a good pair of wedge heals all day (and they're fashionable without being too trendy for work)
staceychev's Avatar staceychev 11:45 PM 07-16-2007
I'm a casual, young-ish-looking teacher. I wear a lot of a-line skirts with t-shirts or long-sleeved shirts and thin sweaters in the winter. I have blouses but I'm so lazy about ironing, so I fall out of wearing them as the year goes on. Anyway, I don't wear makeup, wear my hair in a ponytail or bun and can never remember to accessorize. That being said, the one thing I never do is wear jeans (unless it's a fund-raising day). Oh yeah, no sneakers, either. I'm a big fan of the Sketchers mary-janes that look like shoes but feel like sneakers.

Oh yeah, and if you've got a suit, wear it on the first day. Scares the heck outta them!

Edited to add: you may not be able to wear jeans, depending on where you get your job. NYC, where I started my career, isn't allowed to say anything, but my current principal would give me a really hard time if I wore jeans.
Michelle Renee's Avatar Michelle Renee 11:50 PM 07-16-2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by A&A View Post
Let me tell ya' from 12 years of teaching experience: the kids will respect you more if you're dressed up. You will not receive as much respect in jeans. I hate nylons too, but force myself to wear them.

The more I wore suits -the better I did
I got my suits at Value City and Burlington Coat factor and paid between 20-40 a suit


ASusan's Avatar ASusan 11:59 PM 07-16-2007
I teach college, and my teaching wardrobe comes primarily from Talbots. Their pants and skirts fit me particularly well. I never buy anything there that isn't on sale. The quality is very good. They have classic pieces that I have worn for years.

My warmer weather clothing is primarily Flax, which I buy insanely cheaply at their yearly Barn Sale in Ithaca, NY. (I no longer live in Ithaca, but I travel back for the sale.)

This is an online store that sells Flax -

http://www.wear-else.com/shop/cart.p...&category_id=5

For shoes, it's Birkenstocks (probably too casual for your sandal-loving self, but they do have fancier designs and are comfortable) and Dansko clogs.

I usually stick to a jeans-(or khakis)-on-Friday rule for my wardrobe. Keeps me from being too casual all the time. I agree with the "wear a suit on the first day" (or week or so) rule, and I always dress a little "stronger" on test days. It gives the air that you take the exam seriously, even if they're still in their PJs and hoodies.
Kirsten's Avatar Kirsten 12:00 AM 07-17-2007
I went back to work last August after a decade of being a SAHM. I work the front desk at my kids' private elementary school.

I had very little that I thought would work for work clothes. So I went out and bought quite a bit of new things. Trying to be budget conscious, I tried my best to find things on sale - that looked "grown up". Honestly, I dislike a lot of it, and rarely if ever wore it.

I'd have done better to leave stuff that was on sale but that I wasn't in love with. I bought stuff that "would work" but not that I loved. And I let the clearance rounder convince me of a few purchases that I now regret.

If I was doing it again, I'd buy only what I loved. You are still paying for it and you are still wearing it. Find a way to get pieces you love that will work for work.
mom2savannah_grace's Avatar mom2savannah_grace 12:55 PM 07-17-2007
Shop the sale racks at NY & Co. I have gotten some great deals there. I think 75% of my work wardrobe (I'm also a teacher) is from there. Also sign up for their email list. Almost weekly I get a coupon for $30 off $75.

My school has no dress code for teachers (a middle school) and some teachers, IMO, dress way too casual. I usually only wear jeans on Friday and even then I usually don't wear sneakers. If you like flip flops, there are lots of "dressier" ones out there. They look cute with skirts. Also, I don't remember the last time I wore nylons *yuck* Even my principal rarely wears them and she is in her 50s.
Artisan's Avatar Artisan 03:26 PM 07-17-2007
The NY&CO is a good suggestion, and I second Target, particularly for T-shirts. You can get nice fitted Ts for less than $9 in a variety of colors that go with your new skirt wardrobe.

I think tailored jeans are fine on Fridays if you dress them up, maybe with a fitted jacket and dressier shoes.

You'd be surprised at how much more students look to you as an authority figure when you're dressed more nicely than they are.

Do you have an H&M in your area? I've gotten a fewer dressier pieces from them as well. Good prices.

I buy dressy sandals and flats at Nordstrom, Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, Aerosoles, and J.Jill. They have to be comfortable, or I won't wear them.
ookami's Avatar ookami 09:33 PM 07-17-2007
I like Target as well. Also I've gotten some great button down shirts and blazers on clearance from the Land's End section at Sears. What I love about the button downs is that they are wrinkle resistant - my friend is waaaay into shopping (Banana Republic, Nordstrom, etc.) and she asked me where I got them because they look way less wrinkly at the end of the day than a regular buttondown.
Good luck!
liberal_chick's Avatar liberal_chick 10:18 PM 07-17-2007
I must work for the most casual district in the world! We wear tons of jeans, t-shirts, and flip flops. Even the principal!

I will 3rd (or 4th or 5th) Target. They have a whole section for work clothes and I love their stuff. I just picked up an adorable plaid, A-line skirt for under $20 and I think I have 3 or 4 of their basic, stretch, solid tops.

Most of the rest of my wardrobe is from Old Navy or Gap, but I'm currently in a clothing rut so my fashion isn't up to par at the moment.
Khourtniey's Avatar Khourtniey 10:30 PM 07-17-2007
You can wear black trousers dressed down enough to not look too formal.. I agree with the Target
jlpumkin's Avatar jlpumkin 01:10 PM 07-18-2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benji'sMom View Post
Here's a suggestion for a work wardrobe on a budget. Someone posted this idea on MDC a while back, but not in this forum. But I tried it out for my summer work wardrobe and it's worked out so well. The basic idea is, you pick 2 colors that you like, that look good together and look good on you. Mine for summer are grey and tuquois. Then you make 3 bottoms and 6 tops that are all from these 2 colors. You can add a 3rd color in for some variety if you want, a neutral would be a good idea. My 3rd color is white, so I do have a white shirt and a print skirt that's grey, turqoise and white. (Prints should be kept to a minimum, like just one piece, and make sure it's a print that can be worn with all other wardrobe pieces.) The original post about this was a lot more complicated than this, but this is my easy version of it.

It makes everything so easy because shoes and jewelry will coordinate with all pieces, since everything is coordinating colors. It's kind of like a uniform, but not really, because you're not wearing the same polo shirt every day, you know?

And I love Target. I have at least 3 pieces from Target.
I love this advice. It's sort of what I did when I WOH in accounting - but it was a very conservative place so everything is black or tan... I was surprised at how quickly something came together. I used Petite Sophisticat because I'm short.
Petersmamma's Avatar Petersmamma 03:48 PM 07-18-2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michelle Renee View Post
The more I wore suits -the better I did
I got my suits at Value City and Burlington Coat factor and paid between 20-40 a suit

Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2savannah_grace View Post

My school has no dress code for teachers (a middle school) and some teachers, IMO, dress way too casual. I usually only wear jeans on Friday and even then I usually don't wear sneakers. If you like flip flops, there are lots of "dressier" ones out there. They look cute with skirts. Also, I don't remember the last time I wore nylons *yuck* Even my principal rarely wears them and she is in her 50s.
I *think* the districts here are relatively casual (I say this because I seriously saw a teacher (a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher, but STILL!) wearing a gray sweat suit in class. OMG!! I just thought that was SO tacky. Plus, other teachers I have seen seem to dress casually.

I do have a suit, but I think it would be SOOOO out of place. I think I would feel uncomfortable in a suit when the English teacher next door is wearing a hoodie and jeans, ya know?

Although, my suit is WAY cute....it's pinstriped and makes me feel like a high powered exec!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Artisan View Post

Do you have an H&M in your area? I've gotten a fewer dressier pieces from them as well. Good prices.

I buy dressy sandals and flats at Nordstrom, Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, Aerosoles, and J.Jill. They have to be comfortable, or I won't wear them.
Sigh. I miss H&M. We don't have one near us.

Thanks for the shoe advice. I need comfy shoes, too. I refuse to wear shoes that hurt my feet.

And thanks, Benjismom, for the advice....I was kind of wondering how much of whatever to get.

3 bottoms and 6 tops. So, you do this per season....where I live, the seasons kind of blend together (I like to say it's either damn hot or just hot ). Summer extends till about Oct or Nov, and starts again in April. We really only have two seasons here.

Do you think it would make more sense to slightly vary my wardrobe by season and 3 bottoms and 6 tops for each season (that could still work in other seasons here) or to have, say 6 bottoms and 12 tops that would pretty much work all year? Hmmm.....

I'm off to Target and NY&Co (does anyone else remember when it used to be Lerner's?)
sweettalker's Avatar sweettalker 12:08 AM 07-22-2007
Sorry to drive-by post, but just wanted to pass on a tip I got from 2 different profs/friends of mine within days of each other (they don't know each other, either!). They both love a line of clothes by Max Studio -- they wear them all the time and just love them. And one works in the LA area, so they do well in hot weather too, apparently. The line has separates and some dresses, so you can mix and match. The clothes dress up or down and are very professional but cute, cute enough that you can wear them out for cocktails and not feel like a dork. And as a bonus, they travel really well (as in, wad them up in your suitcase, they are wrinkle-free when you arrive). They are really expensive if you get them full retail but they both buy them at Marshalls and TJ Maxx and never pay more than $30 a piece. I've seen many pieces on Ebay too.
TirzhaZ's Avatar TirzhaZ 12:59 AM 07-22-2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Petersmamma View Post
I'm off to Target and NY&Co (does anyone else remember when it used to be Lerner's?)
I do! Okay, that's all I had. no more advice from what I previously posted, but wanted to say I remember Lerner's....Wasn't it Lerner New York? And doesn't somebody still sell clothing under that label in a department store? I could swear I saw that recently...I think maybe TJ Maxx or Ross. Ross! It was definitely at Ross. Sorry, thinking as I type. Or typing as I think.
ecoteat's Avatar ecoteat 12:41 PM 07-22-2007
If you can sew, it is super easy to make a knee-length a-line skirt. I've made a few that are as cute as J.Jill (I LOVE J.Jill), but cost way less. I wear them with sweaters and well-made, feminine T's. I teach elementary school, and we are pretty casual here. Jeans are ok most of the time, although most of us only wear them on Friday, when we also often wear our school hoodies.
Up