Is Cute Acceptable for Teachers?

Does the way I dress affect my students?

I don't mean this in a professional manner.

If  I am dressing too "trendy", am I gaining or losing the respect of my students? I am young, female, and interested in fashion. I do try to be careful that I am not wearing things considered trendy. I already look young so I know it's important to be considered professional and for people to actually recognize that I am the teacher and not a student. But, I like to match. I like jewelry. I like cute shoes. I get my nails done.

I tend to get a lot of compliments on my wardrobe. I've just been thinking about what kind of affect it has on the students. On the one hand, it makes me easier to relate to and shows my personality. On the other hand, I don't want them to think I'm obsessed with fashion and only spending money on myself.

I want to be a good example and I want to show the students you can be professional without being boring. But sometimes I get the impression that maybe the other teachers kind of look down on me for this. Now it could very possibly be my own paranoia, but I get the feeling that other teachers don't take me seriously because of my age and clothing preferences.

Do I have to wear dorky teacher sweaters to be taken seriously? Do teachers have to be known for dressing frumpy? Is my clothing inappropriate without embroidered apples? I don't have any sweaters with kittens on them. I don't wear crocs. My pants are the appropriate length.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to dress "cute" as long as it's appropriate and professional.

What are some other points of view on this topic? Even if you're not a teacher or you never comment on these type of things, please tell me how you feel. I like the truth so give it!

Go here for tips on how to dress for success!


  1. I'm torn here...

    On one hand, if you're a math teacher, you not only need to be carrying your calculator with you at all times, but you shouldn't even know how to match your clothes... let alone be asking if you should.

    On the other hand... I don't think we do any favors to students when we try to come across as mathematical automatons. (eg. Dan Meyer's post "How to be a Boring Teacher" http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=3176 ). My point is, be fashionable (always appropriate of course). Express love of movies, art, philosophy, pastries, atom-splicing, whatever gets you excited.

    Still though, its easier to say this when you have tenure...

  2. Tenure would make it easier to not care, but that's why I'm asking before I'm officially employed.

    I don't fit the mathematical automaton stereotype anyway. I'm a better teacher than I am a mathematician.

    My female students could definitely use help when it comes to dressing appropriately and still being stylish, especially for entering the workforce. Can't I be an example for that?

    How do you think administrators see this issue?

  3. If you're thinking about it, you just know the rest of the staff are talking about it!

    The simple fact you're mulling it over means that you to some extent think you dress a little bit inappropriately.

    We have a teacher who dresses like she's going to a nightclub every day. It's fashionable and trendy....but not for a school environment. Everyone discusses her fashion choices behind her back.

  4. I don't think there's anything wrong with dressing cute and trendy as long as you're dressing appropriately for your age. I mean, what's trendy for 14 year olds is likely going to look stupid on a woman in her mid-20s. But as long as you're being age- and work-appropriate (no cleavage shirts, short/tight skirts, etc. -- you know what I mean) I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to look cute and wear fun clothes to work. Especially as a young female high school math teacher, I think anything that can get your female students (most of whom probably don't want to be in math class, let's be honest) to see you as human is worth a shot.

  5. Anonymous-

    "If you're thinking about it, you just know the rest of the staff are talking about it!"

    I also think about ways to engage students, improve myself as a teacher, and how to be positive but the rest of the staff don't seem to be. To make another point, you can entertain the thought of something without accepting it. But you may have a point. Thanks for giving a different perspective. I'm always careful to dress modestly, that's my #1 priority. And I don't go to nightclubs so I don't own that kind of clothing. But, I guess I should try harder to appear more professional than I currently am.

    Are flip flops unprofessional? ;)

    Erin- clothing as student motivation? I think there's some shopping I need to do! Thanks for your response. =)

  6. I don't think it SHOULD matter what you wear, but I think it DOES matter. I'm in my mid-twenties and I've been teaching four years and I know that parents,students, colleagues and supervisors treat me more professionally when I dress them part. So....I come to after school events cute, but appropriate, and I come to school more boring. I restrict the cute to one piece at a time. They can see that work-appropriate is not always the same as what I want to wear. And that's a valuable lesson.

  7. I think it's a toss up. I've posed this question to some of my cousins who are in high school, and the girls say that they think it's cool when their teachers are trendy, but still professional (and we all should know where that line is drawn). However, from what I've heard the guys said, I think it's distracting to boys if their teacher looks "hot", especially if you're young. I've always dressed more on the boring/conservative side, just because I know I can't go wrong with it, but when I'm not in the classroom, I wear whatever I want. It makes me appreciate my time off even more.

  8. "They can see that work-appropriate is not always the same as what I want to wear. And that's a valuable lesson."

    Ms. Maddy,
    THANK YOU. That was a valuable lesson for me.

    Good point on boys being distracted. But no matter how boring the clothes are, you can't hide your body!

  9. As long as it's not a distraction it shouldn't be a problem. Being a new teacher you might want to err on the side of conservative if you have any doubts.

    Good luck

  10. As a teacher on the opposite end of dressing "cute," I just wrote a huge comment and deleted it...my replacement:

    I wear skater sneakers, jeans, and a three button shirt that usually hangs out everyday. Would you hire me?

    o ok...maybe a litle more...
    I think the answer is simple but difficult to access. Is your personality, energy and spirit more powerful than your dress? Does it match and compliment it?

    For example in my class there is a very "down-to-earth," every one relax and be yourself sorta feel. My dress feeds that.
    My dress is part of the class learning environment. It does not stick out as being different.

    To pull off dress that is not the norm with the admin and parents it simply comes done to are you a great teacher? If you are, no one will usually care and and it comes off as quirky. If you suck than it comes off as being unprofessional. Again, that would be for admin or parents...other teachers? well, you'll never satisfy them unless you get that sweater with the embroidered apple.

    Ahh...my deleted comment was so much better! This one never seemed to get organized. Hey, just a quick note...I actually came back to twitter after an absence because I felt as though if I had the opportunity to meet the members of my other PLN in person they would have negatively judged me because of my dress, and a few other views.
    It is kind of crazy that this conversation has to occur at all--seriously, if teachers can't look past clothes, what sort of things can they also not look past that their kids do and so therefore treat them differently. If they are going to treat an adult differently they are certainly going to treat kids who dress in a certain style differently. If you judge someone by their clothes, the judging usually doesn't stop at the clothes.
    Ahhh...have to stop rambling...glad this post is a month old and so my rambling commment might go unnoticed!

  11. "Is your personality, energy and spirit more powerful than your dress? Does it match and compliment it?"

    Yes and yes! Thank you so much for making those points. That's exactly what I needed to hear.

    My superintendent told me this week that I always dress nice and look very professional. So, no more worries for me!

    I've quickly learned that all the other teachers will not love me. The bad teachers hate the good teachers for doing what they can't. The old teachers hate the young teachers for doing what they won't. I've used that lesson to teach my kids that there will always be people who dislike you and talk negatively about you, no matter how old you get.

    But, my bosses and students are happy with me, I know I'm doing what's right, and that's what matters.

  12. I student taught this semester, and typically wore dress shirts and sweater vests, comfy khakis, or the occasional v-neck over a collared shirt. I used fairly bright colors - blue, orange, green, even some purple - to compliment my energy in the classroom, but the sweater vests typically dulled it down a bit.

    My cooperating teachers always thought I looked very professional, and it was honestly the only way I didn't get confused for a student myself. Come time for evaluation from my students, one student's feedback said "My only complaint about you is that you dress more stylishly than me."

  13. Spelnuzio,
    Those are both great suggestions. I am always in search of the perfect pair of khakis!

  14. Trendy is okay but if you do not need to go home and change before you hit a club on Friday, you probably need to rethink your wardrobe. Apple sweaters and baggie sweatshirts with sayings like "I got Class" are not good professional wear in my opinion either. If someone is oommenting on your clothing, it is detracting from your teaching.

  15. I came across this thread while looking for affordable clothing for young teachers. I am a sophomore year elementary education student. I think the way a teacher dresses shows the way they respect themselves, their job, their students, and their school. I believe as long as you dress in an appropriate manner that the way you dress is a reflection of self. If we are comfortable with the way we look, it shows.I believe Students in the junior high/high school grades are very critical and observant of these things, and will have great respect for teachers who dress well, and don't "dress down" for school. I also believe that especially for young female teachers, we can be great role models to girls. We can show them that we can look good without showing too much skin, and without compromising our self respect. I can't think of a better lesson to teach.

  16. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I definitely agree! By dressing pretty, I feel more confident and happy which always translates into my teaching. I want to be a good role model as much as I can and especially in the area of clothes and self-respect. Plus, dressing professionally also shows my commitment to my profession as well as following rules, another important lesson.