"It’s a hallway, not a runway" may have been the favorite refrain of many of my teachers growing up, but looking back, it’s clear that there’s something to be said for an outfit that’s both stylish and suitable for school. Personally, I wore a uniform, so the students were a sea of forest green—the most we could get away with was a rolled kilt or a cute headband. The teachers’ outfits, on the other hand, were always up for analysis.
I remember the floral muumuus favored by many of my elementary school faculty, my high school principal’s much-discussed Zara shoes and the white patent leather boots my favorite English teacher loved. My former art teacher recently revealed that he was so jealous of our uniforms that he created one of his own—an easier task for men, to be sure, but not a bad idea. In class, we were a captive audience—and a judgmental one, too—which nowadays seems impossibly intimidating compared to sitting behind a computer screen all day. The fashion industry may have its own tricky set of rules when it comes to work clothes, but at least no one is snickering about your shirt while you try to teach them algebra.
Now that some of my friends are at the front of the classroom, I sometimes wonder how they do it—how they dress for an audience of kids, parents and other (often much older) teachers, all while staying true to their style and avoiding the fate of Miss Geist from Clueless (per Cher Horowitz: "She has runs in her stockings, and her slip is always showing, and she always has more lipstick on her teeth than her mouth. God, this woman is screaming for a makeover."). Not to mention running around after students, averting the leering attention of eighth grade boys—and doing it all on a modest budget. Seriously, it’s impressive.
So with that in mind (and with back-to-school season in the air), we talked to teachers working with different dress codes and grade levels about their experiences with the matter. Click through the slideshow above for some of their daily dilemmas when it comes to dressing for work—plus tips and outfit ideas to make weekday mornings a breeze.