I am a college senior taking a teaching program next year and I am starting to think about what to wear as a professional. I have long legs, so dresses or skirts can’t be too short, but many of the clothes that are appropriate lengthways are too shabby for a young person. Any suggestions for brands looking for cute and matching clothes for a budding elementary school teacher? – Mary-Rose, Pasadena, California.
Right at the start of the pandemic, Reese Witherspoon’s fashion label Draper James came up with the well-intentioned idea of creating a free clothing giveaway in honor of the nation’s teachers who were suddenly appreciated in a whole new way. Unfortunately, the response was so great that the website crashed almost immediately, the company didn’t have nearly enough supply to meet demand, and many teachers felt really cheated instead of happy.
But it gives us an idea of what teachers liked to wear. The dresses tended towards the cheerfully printed fit and looked like they came from the closet owned by Emma Pillsbury-Schuester, the Glee consultant.
However, pop culture isn’t a particularly good place to look for role models for a teacher’s clothing. The classic teacher in the film seems to be either a man in tweed or a cardigan (see Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” and Richard Dreyfuss in “Mr. Hollands Opus”) or a woman who is grumpy (Tina Fey in “Mean Girls “). ) or totally inappropriate (Cameron Diaz in “Bad Teacher”). Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie was very chic, but that was a different time.
After referring friends and colleagues of teachers, I have a word for you: pants.
When you work with kindergarten through fourth grade kids, you’ll bend, sit, hop, stand, and otherwise move around so much that you probably don’t want to bother with a skirt. The same applies to dealing with the potential chaos that very active 5- to 9-year-olds can cause when, for example, they measure wheat germ for science. With pants you don’t have to worry about the hem question either.
You’ll also want something that conveys at least a touch of authority. The message should be that you are moved in and in control of your wardrobe just as you will be in control of your classroom. (Any clothing that is tricky or that needs to fidget to adjust a strap or clasp should be set aside.) And since you’re just starting out, you’re obviously working on a budget.
So remember to take some pants you might already have (even good jeans will work, if not the ripped or mended ones) and cover them with a simple blazer like this one from Mango. I would also look at overalls that are like a cool suit. Check out Banana Republic’s black dolman sleeve style and Madewell’s smock-waist version.
And finally, if you really want a dress, a sweater dress can be both chic and practical without looking calm. the same goes for a shirt dress. They’ll add up.
Your style questions answered
Every week, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question on Open Thread, which you can send her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are processed and compressed.