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Fierce Fashion Tips for Teachers on a Budget

Emily Africano Hotz

Fierece Fashion Tips for Teachers on a BudgetStereotypically, educatorrs aren't necessarily known for their teacher fashion sense but those of us walking the hallways everyday know plenty of teachers who belong on the style honor roll.

Looking good does not come easily for those of us at the head of the class.  Classroom dwellers can face some serious teacher fashion challenges. Full days on your feet surrounded by dry erase markers, crowded hallways and dirty students' hands don't bode well for high-priced, high-concept style. Nor does a teacher salary or insanely busy schedules. It's hard to find time to think much less plan the perfect outfit.

To help, we've collected the Top 12 Tips just for teacher fashion. Break out of your wardrobe rut this fall and bring practical and affordable style back into the classroom!

School ID Discount

Several stores offer discounts just for being a teacher. J.Crew and Ann Taylor are two major retailers that offer teacher deals, but I'd suggest asking at the register wherever you're shopping.

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If a brand wants to celebrate our profession with lower cost clothing options, I say embrace it as a not-so-minor perk of the job! (Can you name another career where you get summer vacations and 20% off at J.Crew? I didn’t think so).

Build on the Basics

Create a wardrobe with classic pieces that can be worn a multitude of ways.   I know buying a plain dress or white button-up blouse doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but if you think of these staple pieces as canvases that can be styled an infinite number of ways, it opens up a world of opportunity.

Dallas Stylist, Valerie Elizabeth’s little black dress experiment" illustrates how easy it is to look chic without spending a fortune. 

Elizabeth wore the same dress for 30 days and, by using different accessories, shoes and layers, was able to create a new look each day of the challenge. I am not advocating wearing the same article for an entire semester or anything (I think our students would catch on), but I encourage you to look to Elizabeth for inspiration on getting maximum mileage out of great basics.  

Target is Your Friend 

I love Target. I do. I am consistently impressed by the high-quality, fashion-conscious items that are available at your local Target or online at Target.com. You can find everything from statement pieces (Check out the Mossimo, Merona and Designers for Target lines) to great versatile layering tops. 

Bonus tip: Shop the Target junior’s department for the softer, lighter weight cotton tees. 

Vintage Values

It seems like fashionistas everywhere salivate upon the mere mention of the word “vintage.” Lucky for us, vintage is (more or less) a fancy way of saying thrifted finds, so why not head over to your local thrift shop to find your own low-cost treasures! 

While thrifting, read the labels! You will be amazed by the number of items you find by major fashion houses - not to mention, all of the pieces that come from Italy or France. Oooh lala.  To make the search easier, try the touch test. Run your hand down the rack and you'll easily feel the difference between the high quality fabrics and the polyblends.

Not sure about how to incorporate vintage pieces without looking like you raided your mother’s closet? Check out the blog, What I Wore, for daily photos and advice on how to successfully integrate older pieces into a contemporary wardrobe!

We Can’t Afford Designer Clothes… or Can We?

Gone are the days when the only people with access to designer clothes are the insanely wealthy and the handful of New Yorkers with the time to visit midday (midweek) sample sales held in designers showrooms. 

Designers are increasingly turning to online sale sites to clear out their fancy-fancy merchandise, which is basically awesome news for us common folk! Sites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, and Hautelook host clearance sales with up to 80% off of apparel and accessories from designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Juicy Couture and Theory. 

Be a Fashion Student

Turn to the professionals to track the season’s hottest trends. There are hundreds of free online fashion resources, meaning you can get cutting-edge style advice without shelling out the $6 for your copy of Vogue. You just have to do your research!

Sites such as Who What Wear, Intermix and Shopbop all have well-styled (free) lookbooks for you to study. 

And my favorite fashion learning aid definitely comes from celebrity stylist, Rachel Zoe. Ms. Zoe just launched The Zoe Report, a daily newsletter with her recommendations on hot products, brands and pieces. Her selections are often under the radar, but are always exquisite.

Lucky for us, every edition of the Zoe Report also features a low-cost alternative to that day’s highlighted trend.

Teacher-Appropriate Trends

Once you begin to study the great stylists, certain trends will emerge that inspire and excite you. Go for it! Embrace the trends, but please, please look age-appropriate. We don’t, after all, want to be confused with (gasp!) one of our students!

Go Librarian Chic

We all know how the temperature in our classrooms can vacillate between Dante’s inferno and arctic blast over the course of one period. Embrace your inner librarian and layer, layer, layer! Oversized cardigans paired with belts, scarves and tights will help you seamlessly navigate the change in seasons, not to mention the schizophrenic in-school climate.

Button-up collars and long skirts/dresses are also in this season, so your first librarian layer will give you a fashion-forward look!

Fall for the “Boyfriend Blazer”

Last fall's big hit, the boyfriend blazer, is still very much in fashion. To keep it fresh and new, add hanging earrings, an architectural choker or other statement-making accessories.

Oversized jackets are getting a lot of attention. We are seeing the traditional blazer look being shaken up with a disregard for structure and an appreciation for unexpected editing. To find the right relaxed jacket, shop in your closet. 

Take advantage of this professional yet trendy look by throwing a boyfriend blazer over almost any outfit!

Make a Statement with Accessories! 

This fall, jewelry is big, bold and ornate and is designed to bring flair to even the most basic of outfits. Have fun with it! There is no reason to spend a lot of money on pieces that will inevitably go out of style next season, so I say turn to less expensive stores and let your imagination run wild! Forever 21, H&M and Topshop (the chic & cheap British store is now available online) are my go-to places to find maximum impact bling

A warning: the opulent statement necklaces (like these expensive, but to-die-for pieces from Anthropologie) may be hard to pull off at work, but would be a great way to transition some of your basics from day-to-night, if you have after work plans.

Comfortable Shoes Don’t Have To Be Ugly

Being on our feet for most of the day means comfortable shoes are imperative. But please don’t let that be an excuse for sporting busted footwear! I am not saying you should try and suffer through the day in high heels - not at all. Instead, I encourage you to think sensibly AND stylishly, by turning to wedges, flat boots and ballet flats to complete your outfits.

It is worth noting, that all hopes for high heels are not lost. Cole Haan makes an incredible line of beautiful shoes with Nike Air technology built into each one. These shoes can only be described as magical - pumps, flats and boots that look extremely luxe while feeling like a sneaker.

Everything Looks Better with a Smile

I turn to a showtune for my final fall fashion tip: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

 

What are your school style secrets? Share in the comments section!