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Both career changers and new teachers fresh out of college need to examine their wardrobe when preparing for their career in the classroom. What might be acceptable to wear in a corporate office or college classroom is not always appropriate for an elementary, middle, or high school.

You don’t need to break the bank to upgrade to a teacher friendly wardrobe. Instead, know the four requirements for teacher clothing and shop from there.

All clothing worn by teachers must meet four essential requirements:

  1. The clothing must be appropriate for work. After all, teachers are role models and must reflect this in their clothing.
  2. The clothing must be able to take a beating. This is especially true for elementary and special education teachers, as they move and interact physically with their students.
  3. The clothing must be affordable and able to be accommodated in a teacher’s budget!
  4. The clothing must be washable. Teachers don’t have the time or budget to dry clean.

With these requirements in mind, we’ve assembled our best advice on how to assemble a teacher wardrobe, especially for new teachers starting from scratch. Read more below.

Step 1: Shop Your Closet

The first step in creating your teacher wardrobe is to examine your existing wardrobe. What school appropriate pieces do you already own? Try on all of these clothes to make sure they fit properly (no gaping buttons or see-through items) and set them aside in one section of your closet. Then, write down what you have.

On the same list, write down what you are missing in order to create a complete wardrobe. Be sure to include the following (if you don’t already have them) on your list:

-2-3 sturdy pairs of shoes (flats)


-Black and/or gray slacks

-Polos or shirts in your school’s colors (great for spirit days)

-A quality winter coat (especially important if you teach elementary and have recess duty in the winter)

-A dress to wear on professional development days

-A blazer, which instantly makes any outfit appear more professional

Step 2: Find Inspiration Online

Ms. Johnson of the blog “How to Dress Like a Teacher”

Both Pinterest and blogs are a great resource for cute teacher outfit ideas. Many teachers curate Pinterest boards with outfits they found online and some even upload their own daily outfits (like Chelsea, Cassie, and Lisa). Others stick with clothes found on Polyvore and other photo boards.

Teacher blogs are incredibly useful resources where real-life teachers post the outfits they wear to work. Clothe Me in Robes, Trendy Tales of a Teacher, and How to Dress Like a Teacher are popular blogs with young female teachers. And while not specific to teaching, outfits from J’s Everyday Fashion are often pinned by teachers.

As you explore various outfits online, search for outfits that utilize clothing you already own. If you have a pair of black slacks, pay attention to the tops bloggers wear with their slacks. Own a blazer? What pants or skirts are pinned along with blazers? Write down pieces you think would work with the clothing you already own.

Step 3: Start Shopping!

Now that you have your list, it’s time to start shopping! Be sure to explore secondhand shops that specialize in trendy clothing, like Plato’s Closet and Tuesday Morning, to stretch your clothing budget as far as possible. Walmart and Target often have cute, contemporary clothing to fit a teacher’s salary. And don’t forget eBay, Etsy, and Amazon when stocking up on out of season apparel (boots in the summer, shorts in the winter, etc.). Hit stores as seasons change for extreme discounts and clearances.

Many stores offer discounts to teachers with an employee ID. The following are just some retailers that give savings to teachers nationwide:

Ann Taylor Loft – 15% off

Aerosoles – 15% off

Madewell -15% off

J.Crew – 15% off

Talbots – 15% off

Banana Republic – 10% off

Eddie Bauer – 10% off

New York and Company – 5% off

*Click here for a full list of teacher discounts.

Step 4: Invest in the Basics and Tailoring

teacher_attire_polyvoreWhile it is extremely tempting to buy the cheapest clothing you can find, be sure to invest in staple pieces that will last you for years. It is worth the money to spend more for a sturdy pair of shoes when you will be on your feet all day, you’ll appreciate it after a long day!

Tailoring is another way to make your wardrobe more professional. Again, you’ll only want to tailor staple clothing items you’ll be wearing at least once a week (like pants and blazers).

Step 5: Arrange a Clothing Swap

Once you begin teaching, organize a seasonal clothing swap with your fellow teachers. Have everyone bring clothing and accessories that they no longer want to one teacher’s home. Group the items by type and size, then allow each teacher that donated items to “shop” from the donated goods. This is also a fun way to socialize outside of work. Any remaining clothing can be brought to the teacher’s lounge for those that were unable to attend the swap, or donated to a local charity.

Did we miss any of your favorite tips? Let us know in the comments below!


About The Author

Rachael is the Online Marketing Specialist for the American Board. She enjoys blogging, social media, and DIY.