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How Should Teachers Dress?

By January 30, 2008

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I would never wear my weekend clothes to the classroom. And my "school clothes" rarely see the light of day in my personal life.

Teachers don't have a formal uniform, but our appearance really sends a message to our students, their parents, our colleagues, and the community. Follow these Tips For Proper Teacher Attire and you should be on the right track.

What factors do you take into consideration when getting dressed for work in the morning?

Have you ever been appalled by the fashion choices of your fellow teachers?


September 11, 2007 at 3:19 pm
(1) susan gill says:

The way a teacher dresses is very important as it is the most overt way in which the teacher exerts influence in the classroom. I am old fashioned enough to believe implicitly that a teacher, like a Pastor, must admit to a closer scrutiny in their behavior than those in other professions. Teachers have an obligation to model appropriate, modest clothing for the student body, and to realize that being in the business of teaching young people requires a certain amount of personal sacrifice.

September 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm
(2) Esther Ring says:

Teachers should wear business atire. No skintight clothing, no cleavage, nothing with out sleeves. Slacks should leave everything to immagination. Men need to stick to modest business shirts, ties optional, depending on weather. All shirts tucked in and modest belts. We leave an indeliable print on our students. My experience was in high-school, and some of the younger teachers were out of line, with fashion dominating self-respect. These things should be addressed in University coursework, and in the Teaching Practicums, students take. Teach the Future Teachers that they are not competing with their students for fashion points.

September 11, 2007 at 5:03 pm
(3) Shira says:

I find that to be true, especially with junior high school students. It’s the age where they are looking for means of expression. Naturally, a teacher is an example, and a classy and conservative look will go a long way for them, and for yourself. AN INCH DIFFERENCE ON YOUR CLOTHING MAKES FIVE INCHES DIFFERENCE ON THEIR CLOTHING.

September 11, 2007 at 8:25 pm
(4) Lisa says:

As a teacher, I also believe dressing appropriately is important. However, I refuse to wear business attire in a building that has no air conditioning. When the school board and superintendent treat teachers as professionals, then maybe they will dress like professionals. In addition to the lack of air, is the decided lack of money paid to “teaching professionals” to fund their purchase of a professional wardrobe.

September 11, 2007 at 9:46 pm
(5) Annette says:

Teachers and assts. must dress decent. Last year a teacher asst. bent over to help a child and there was her crack and two tatoos!! I wanted to yell “Don’t look kids!” So should the principals!! We had open house tonight. Our principal was in every day pants and a button up shirt on the outside. She’s the one that tells us to dress professionally. Dress does make a difference!!

September 12, 2007 at 11:18 am
(6) George Steed says:

Good question. Proper classroom discipline is often difficult to achieve. A teacher lounging about his/her desk in Saturday picnic attire invites chaos. Business suits are just that…and teaching is a business. Start the class wearing the jacket/coat. Too hot? Pause, take it off and hang it on your chair.

September 12, 2007 at 11:32 pm
(7) Kel says:

Teachers should dress conservatively. How we dress is important. I think the more professional we dress, the better our students behave. Would you take a police officer seriously if he/she was dressed in pj’s?

September 14, 2007 at 7:58 pm
(8) Janie says:

My young daughter’s teacher has a tattoos on her ankles and wears capri pants so that the tattoos are not hidden. I think tattoos on teachers should be outlawed. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to those things by their teachers.

September 17, 2007 at 4:09 pm
(9) Odujobi Kayode says:

Dressing very appropriatelly is more important to me and i have taken this very seriously right from my univesity’s days. However, i am parallel to coession into mental slavery kind of dressing, this to me, is professionally inapropriate and geographically sucidal – I teach in African school where the wheather could be extremely hot, i wear not just what is convenient but what is profesionally considerate. if this is not enough, i will suggest a finance or allowance for professional wardrobe

February 27, 2008 at 6:12 pm
(10) Lynn says:

I agree that teachers need to look professional, but to some extent, what you teach determines what you wear. I would not expect our PE teacher to come in a suit and tie. When I taught first grade and was in the floor with my students every day, I dressed more casually than I do now that I teach fifth grade. (Then there are the days that I just want to grab something that does not need to be ironed!) As for tattoos, I have one on my foot. My students know I have it because I caught my shoe on a desk and it came off. . . but to them, it is no big deal. (And I am 58 years old!)

July 5, 2008 at 4:17 pm
(11) Melissa says:

As a high school teacher, I too believe it is important to be an example for one’s students. HOWEVER, you do NOT need to sacrifice all stylishness or personal expression to be appropriate! Nor do you need to wear a business suit. Too conservative is just that. In addition to being appropriate (no mini skirts, low cut tops, etc.) you also NEED to be accessible—you want your students to relate to you in some way. A teacher wants to be a respected figure, yes, but to achieve this one need not dress like a an old-time librarian!

December 4, 2008 at 6:57 pm
(12) Bob says:

Like people who judge people by their sexual preferences, these dinosaurs who want to be judged by how they freakin’ dress will die out. Of course we shouldn’t wear Thursday-night-at-the-club wear, but business attire? Ties? Please.

January 1, 2009 at 3:10 am
(13) Everlyn says:

Hello. i was just wondering what could the effect of a teacher’s outfit to the students? say for example,if teachers wear colorful tops, will that helpthe students learn or will it hinder?

August 9, 2009 at 12:28 pm
(14) Fido says:

Appropriate dress contributes to an appropriate learning environment. If we “dinosaurs” prefer to see things that way, it’s because it’s true and it works. Oh, and I guarantee your administrators see things that way. Play the game, or have fun on the breadline, chump.

August 11, 2009 at 11:31 pm
(15) Sharon says:

By becoming a teacher, I have decided to become a role model in the community. With that, it’s important that I dress conservatively to school. I essentially have two wardrobes and my weekend clothes are very different than my “school clothes”. I have a lot of school teacher friends with tattoos–I’m not anti-tattoos (although i do not have any), but I do not like it when they can be seen by students. Plus, i don’t want my own child coming home saying that tattoos are okay because Mrs so and so has one. Not cool. i don’t think business suits are necessary, though, because teachers are not treated or paid as business professionals. We need to be comfortable while teaching students, but maintain professionalism with conservative clothing.

August 18, 2009 at 2:06 am
(16) katandra says:

In my opinion it all just comes down to common sense. Of course you shouldn’t be wearing blouses that show cleavage or skin tight pants. Especially with the older groups. But, sometimes it’s ok to dress comfortable. I mean you have to when you’re chasing 5-6 yr olds all day. And as far a business suits…yeah..I’ll start dressing like a professional when I get paid like one!! But, for now a nice blouse and some dress pants or lengthy skirt does me just fine.

August 27, 2009 at 5:56 am
(17) federica t says:

hi, I am a teacher of primary school in italia, when I teach in class I wear an apron black type a lab coat, this suit it allows me to move me in liberty’ and to introduce me in professional way to my pupils and his/her parents, thinks that my professional image is improved wearing this type of “uniform”

October 14, 2009 at 11:06 am
(18) JP says:

Why can’t we be both semi-conservative AND fashionable/trendy? As a young teacher, I find that I am in a very unique position to show especially my female students that you don’t have to sacrifice your self-respect to wear trendy clothes. What they see by us wearing super conservative, super boring clothes is that appropriate=dull. When out of school and faced with the choice how to dress, they’re going to choose the self-degrading option because they weren’t shown another viable option! I dress very trendy AND appropriate. My girls can see that I care to curl my hair, wear makeup, and buy fun shoes and wear clothes that flatter me…AND I can look really cute and trendy without baring lots of skin or showing cleavage. Plus, I have found that they feel as though they can relate to me easier, and will seek me out when they have tough issues that they are facing. (Though, this may also be because I’m not grouchy and mean to them like other teachers…)

December 7, 2009 at 10:52 am
(19) Wendy says:

I think the tips given were sound and appropriate. Think about it from the parents’ perspective. They are entrusting their child to you for the better part of the day. During that time are you showing them the best you possible? We all know that appropriate does not have to equal boring. But we also have to utilize some common sense. There is nothing wrong with dress shirts, blazers, ties, and slacks. In fact, since so many more children are wearing uniforms to school, many teachers have the option of wearing a very similar uniform. Takes away the issue of what to wear, doesn’t it? I taught high school girls at a catholic school and I have been a substitute for grades k-12. I can tell you that it is disturbing to see a teacher come in who is dressed no differently than the students. And leave the blue jeans at home unless it’s dress down day. For those of you who don’t want to dress like a professional until you get paid as one, grow and do the job you were hired to do. Otherwise find a job where you can wear whatever you like.

April 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm
(20) Evan says:

In my opinion kids should be taught at a young age not to discriminate. If the teacher is good at what they teach then who cares if they have tattoo’s or not. I do agree on people not showing cleavage and too much leg but who care’s about tattoo’s, it’s 21st century. people should not discriminate.

June 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm
(21) TL says:

I just started teaching High School in the South last year. I wear trendy cloths that are still appropriate. In fact, a lot of fashions right now don high necklines! I find that my students listen more when I am on their level, and that includes not looking like a 1950′s, 80 year old librarian. I have 4 tattoo’s, 2 which stayed covered up. My students know that I have tattoos on both my feet, and because I have a thing for cute shoes (cute heels are fashionable and ALWAYS classy!) they can see both of them. I don’t think they are going to run out and get tattoos just because I have one.
A great blouse that I wear all the time I ordered online.
Its cute and super conservative. I usually wear it with the slim leg dress slack from Ann Taylor. Cute vintage style, always modest!

August 3, 2010 at 3:41 am
(22) shaun kebonang says:

hi! a teacher is is suppose to wear in such a way that she does not expose her body.see through clothes may make learning process weird and distorted at last.

August 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm
(23) Torn says:

I am a middle school teacher that is floored by the amount of cleavage, bra straps, butt cheeks, and underwear I see from my students. Before parents pass judgment on what teachers are wearing they should check their own children’s attire. That being said, there are many teachers that should put away their own cleavage or wear something more appropriate. I choose to dress a little more conservatively, but because of what I teach there is no possible way to get away from staples that are not easily laundered. Comfy cotton, not a business suit, is what I can afford with how often my clothes get wrecked. I would love to see my students and staff members wear a uniform, khaki’s and school polo. It would ease the budget a little and make everyone look very respectful, bringing the focus back to education.

September 29, 2010 at 11:30 am
(24) Kyndl says:

The old way of teaching is broke.The reason why we cant fix our system is because we rely on the way we were taught.The way to relate to a child is to be the real you.We dont wanna dress too sexual either.The image of a teacher has to change if we want to reach a modern day student.The frontier old days of what a teacher looks like is outdated and obselete.We can,and must change.We have to be relevant and show a child that we kare before they will kare to learn.Teachers,KOME OUT,and stand out.Dont be afraid of your originality.

January 18, 2011 at 8:47 am
(25) John says:

From what I have just read in the above comments, I am more worried about teachers being able to speak and write with proper grammar, more so than I am worried about what they wear. I mean seriously, “the old way of teaching is broke,” “teachers must dress decent.” This is a sad state of affairs…

January 31, 2011 at 1:22 am
(26) Michelle says:

Although I do beleive your personal appearance and dress manner is a fundamental aspect of the way in which you are perceived, especially in the minds of young and impressionable children – those impressions should not then begin to dictate your own sense of taste and style.

To say that a teacher should not even be granted the exposure of their arms is going too far, especially given the nature of the climate in this country. It should go without saying that teachers are to conduct themselves in an appropriate and responsible manner, as positions of authority and role models – their dress should be of a similar example. However, we are living in an age that children are exposed to obscene clothing and exposure to butt cheeks, cleavage, tattoos, piercings and a whole list of obscene and innappropriate ways of dressing and representing one-self.

Having said this, I think it is fair for a teacher to always be conservative in their dress and respect the professionalism or their career, however in no way compromise their own sense of style, we don’t want to be teaching our children to loose their own sense of individualism – after all, aren’t our teachers encouraged to be creative?

Personally, i would rather our children have teachers who spend their time creating quality learning as opposed to wasting hours of valuable time fussing over what may or may not be deemed appropriate dress.

February 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm
(27) victor birkner says:

In Chile teachers wear business attire. The way the teacher dresses is the way that students behave in the classroom. The first impression that matters

March 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm
(28) Jaquie says:

When you’re teaching Kindergarten in an 80 degree room, bending and running around all day, wearing “professional” attire would hinder your ability to teach. I think teachers can pretty well decide for themselves how to dress; after all, they are adults, and university-educated professionals as well.

March 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm
(29) Katie says:

Friday my teacher wore something so inapropriet. A dress form cloth that just barely covered her breast. And it was all tied by a rope! if that rope came undone the whole thing would have fallen. And once in awhile she would adjust it! I could practicaly see her breast! Every time she bends down I did see it! EEW!

June 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm
(30) Mark says:

The problem here is those who want teachers to dress “conservatively” are uptight conservatives trying to force their beliefs and values on the rest of us. All of your assertions about professionalism, and respect, and discipline are totally unfounded; these are your opinions that you are trying to force down our throats. Conservative attire does not raise performance. Keep your conservative tendrils out of my classroom, let people be individuals, and keep your opinion to yourself. I won’t tell you how to do your job, if you stop telling me how to do mine.

July 30, 2011 at 11:36 am
(31) Jenna says:

I am a middle school teacher in the state of Florida and only in my early 20′s. My students know I am young but professionally I never tell them my age. When it comes to dress, long sleeves, long pants, or heavy conservative fabrics, are not going to work, especially while teaching in a portable with no air conditioning in May. However, that being said, I often opt for cotton pants or knee length skirts and blouses that have cap sleeves. I have also worn sleeveless tops but added a short sleeve high cut cardigan just so my shoulders are covered. It still looks professional but I’m not doused in sweat or worried about fainting half way through the day.

August 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm
(32) Sierra says:

Why has no one mentioned how great jeans and blazers look together? I think a great look for a teacher can be very simple. Here are two great looks for women: dark classy jeans (slim fit or trouser cut) with a nice blouse and a cardigan.
Jeans with a lightweight shirt and a blazer. Wear flats, low heels or those cute oxford cut shoes that are in style right now.
Keep the accessories simple. You are not trying to distract the students! There are so many classy/casual styles these days. Just look on the gap website or the H&M website for ideas.

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