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Professional Development Tips: Dressing for Success

Janelle Cox

When it comes to professional development, do you think that teacher attire matters in the classroom? For many teachers, the clothes they put on their back aren’t relevant to the job they’re doing in the classroom. Many educators feel that their attire has no impact on whether they can do their job effectively or if their students are learning. In fact, many educators actually prefer to dress comfortably rather than dress up because they’re on their feet the majority of the day or teaching on the carpet to the younger students. The problem with dressing down for the classroom is that your choice of clothing reflects the impression that you want to make upon others. Like it or not, your outer appearance makes a difference, and as a teacher, you want to send the right impression to not only your students but to parents, administrators, and your fellow teachers. Here are a few professional development tips on how to dress for success but still be comfortable.

Professional Development: Purchase Appropriately Fitting Clothes

The first professional development clothing tip is to find clothes that fit you. Choose clothes that are functional, as well as fashionable. When building your wardrobe, select basics such as a tops, pants, sweaters, skirts, and jackets in neutral colors so they will be easy to mix and match. Men can choose a few well-fitting pairs of pants that they can mix and match with their shirts. Next, choose a few shirts in a variety of colors that complement your skin tone. Do not dress like you are going out for the night with your friends -- find clothes appropriate for the work environment. Clothes that show off your “assets” can be distracting to your students and co-workers, so make sure that all clothing items that you choose cover up any distracting areas of your body.

Find Comfortable Shoes

As a teacher, you are on your feet the majority of the day, so you should choose sensible shoes, shoes such as flats, kitten heels, small wedges, or closed-toe shoes will work nicely. Fashion boots are another comfortable option. Do not wear sneakers, they are for the gym, not your job. Also, do not choose flip-flops or high heels. If you have a dress-down day and your administrator allows you to wear jeans, I would still recommend wearing more professional-looking shoes since you are at work.

Make Sure Clothes are Cleaned and Pressed

While it may be obvious to wear clean clothes to work, you would be surprised how many teachers just wake up and put on any old thing that is not pressed. The last thing you want to do is walk into your place of employment with wrinkled clothing. Remember, your outer appearance is a reflection of you and what you stand for, so you want to always look your best. Try pressing your clothes the night before school, this will give you extra time in the morning to get ready.

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Don’t Overdo Your Makeup

When choosing your makeup, think simple. You’re not going out for a girl’s night out, you’re going to teach young, impressionable children. You also don’t want to go to school like you just woke up and not have any makeup on either. Soft makeup is best; mascara, nude lip gloss, light tone blush, and a warm-colored eye shadow is all that you need.

Dress Your Age

Dress your age and avoid dressing like your students. Every year, a new trend emerges and young teachers think that they can pull it off. While you may be able to, school is not the place. It’s OK to embrace the trends, but make sure they are age appropriate and OK for the work atmosphere. The last that you want to do is be mistaken for one of your students.

A study from the Southern Illinois University -- Carbondale found that about 55 percent of the first impressions of a teacher’s professionalism were based on their physical appearance. So as you can see, the way a teacher dresses does in fact have an impact on what people think of them and if they are considered as professional or not. Dressing for success doesn’t have to be hard or uncomfortable. As you’ve read in the tips above, it can actually be quite easy.

Does a teacher’s attire matter? Please feel free to weigh in and give us your professional development thoughts on this topic. We would love to hear what you have to say.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educatorsor contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.