Guidelines to Shine: 10 Dress for Success Tips

To follow up my recent controversial post,
Is Cute Acceptable for Teachers? I went straight to the heart of America for professional dress: I googled.

Not suprisingly, there weren't a lot of fresh ideas. There are always the basics: be neat and clean, wear conservative colors(aka oatmeal), wear a blazer, knee-length or longer skirts, simple makeup, very little, jewelry, and all the other rules that contribute to the stereotypical teacher style. I'm looking for business casual tips, not super conservative, formal attire.

I found a few tips here that are a bit more helpful:

Stick with pumps or flats. Pumps are the quintessential business shoe for women. Choose a pump with a closed toe and a two- to three-inch heel in black, brown or navy. As an alternative to heels, and to wear with pantsuits, flats are a good choice. Again, a closed toe is appropriate here. Your flats should look like a man's loafers. All shoe pictures from Payless.

Style hair conservatively. A professional woman's hair does not provide distraction to herself or anyone else. Long hair should be pulled back or put up and secured in place. Short hair should be neatly styled out of the face.

But I still didn't think this totally fit the non-business education world.

So, I decided to write my own.

1. Creased pants. Preferably dark colored. Pants that are already creased take away the work of ironing. Dark colors on bottom make you look slimmer and sleeker. (Is sleeker a word?) Pants that are fitted at the top and flare out toward the bottom. The flaring away from the body also makes the waist look smaller and adds length to your stature. (Bonus word)

2. Collared button-up. Collared shirts and jackets are a must have! They instantly pull any outfit together. It's the final touch, making you look neat and put together. Darting in the seams de-emphasize the waist and emphasize bust while the buttons ensure you're covered everywhere. CHECK FOR GAPPING! Great for layering.

3. Well paired jewelry. Balance is key. When wearing jackets or collared shirts, forget a necklace. If you wear flashy or dangly bracelets, scale back on the bracelets and rings. Shirts without collars and buttons may need a longer necklace to bring some life to the outfit. P.S. Pearls are always professional.

4. Shoes. See the tip above. I rarely, if ever, wear heels for comfort factor alone. Comfort first! If I do wear heels, they are kitten heels (tiny heels). Being 5'8" I don't need the height nor the pain. But as my friend @iMrsF suggested, clicky heels are a good way to alert students of your presence.

5. All purpose bag. You need a great bag in a neutral color. I usually go with gray but a maroon/red, tan, or white will also work well. I can never go for a black purse: it won't match any of my browns! And vice versa. Size and material is an important factor. You want a material that is durable and easy to clean, yet that won't wear out easily. A bag should be big enough to carry most things but not everything. You don't want to roll around a suitcase or have a small bag overflowing with the basics. Make sure your bag won't cause shoulder or back pain.

6. Pink. You always need a POP of color. It takes away the boring, shows off your personality, and in my opinon, just makes you feel better. Expecially brights ones.

The above are my basic tips. Now for the bonus!!

7. Vests. I heart vests. Sweater vests. Puffy vests. Vests that you button. Vests that you zip. Vests are the first cousin of jackets. Vests can be worn over turtlenecks and thermals in the winter, polos or short sleeve shirts in the spring. Argyle is a 16,895,879,084 point bonus. LOVE argyle! And stripes.

8. Camis. Extremely versatile. All purpose. In any season. My favorite are the kind that have lace at the top and bottom hem with a straight across neckline. Wear them under low cut shirts to prevent cleavage and to just keep everything covered. Wear them under button up shirts to prevent gaping holes that your teenage boys use their imaginations to fill. Keep it covered! Wear them under shirts that are a little too short. Wear under blazers/jackets. A bit of lace peeking out can dress up a ton of outfits you already own. Buy them in a ton of colors and you can mix and match your wardrobe endlessly!

9. Scarves. With a ton of ways to tie them and inifinite styles to choose from, these work wonders. First, they really can keep you warm. Two, a well placed scarf can hide cleavage or gasp, stains! Third, they add color and dimension to your outfit. These look great with jackets and sweaters. Plus, they're just fun. Picture from here.

10. Nails. I love getting my nails done! It is my luxurious gift of love to myself. I keep them short enough to type and write but I always get fun colors, colored tips, sparkly gems, or a little glitter. This is probably a professional no-no but my main point is that nice nails make nice hands which always make a good impression. I think square nails are more professional but this one is obviously up to interpretation (as are all of these). I have fake nails but real nails look just as nice when taken care of. My girls love to see my newest design and the boys love to point out when my clothes and nails don't match. But most importantly, they make me feel pretty. And pretty = confidence.

Let's summarize: Comfort. Color. Cover. Coordinate. Confidence.

Shine on!


  1. What a great idea for a post...
    Have to say I am an avid high-hell wearer but that's because I am so small. BIG fan of scarves and ties though -- they held to cover shirts that don't fit properly and gape too!

  2. Thanks! I seriously don't know how your feet can live through that but I'm glad you can rock them. I am obsessed with scarves!

  3. It's funny you said the thing about sweater vests and argyle, I just posted on your other style article and mentioned that! One of my cooperating teachers actually had a discussion with his class about argyle's resurgence into style. He speculated penny loafers are coming back. I am inclined to disagree...

  4. Perhaps a modified penny loafer?