First, a disclaimer to all the dudes out there- I do love and respect your readership- but this post is about clothing. Continue if you dare.
Our clothing is so much a part of who we are, so when thinking about the profession of art education and our “crazy art teacher” stigma we have to live up to, I can’t help but think that outer appearance is an important part of shaping anyone’s career identity. I am always amazed when I go to art conferences how cool everyone looks, usually much more unique, earthy and artsy then myself. I am more of the preppy art teacher (could you guess?).
I remember the moment I knew I was different.
In college I walked into our junior art seminar where all art majors were required to attend. Lots of brown, tan, prints, messenger bags, and even guys with no shoes at all were staring up at me as I walked in with my pink purse, tailored blazer, and wedge heels and I knew right then I was the odd man out (and the person everyone called when they needed that assignment they lost for tomorrow, so in the end, we all made friends).. but I digress..Let’s just say it was a Legally Blonde moment.
So you all know I am not really a superficial person in general. I write and think a lot about inner things. Motivation, attitude, creativity, the organization behind your cupboards and other inner workings. However, today I would like to talk about appearance, professionalism, practicality and also what NOT to wear!
I am pretty practical when it comes to my dress for work. Black pants, brown pants, kacki pants, cardigans, pashmina scarves, basic colored T shirts, ruffled blouses and a few wrap sweaters and dresses are my go-to outfits. The occasional sweater dress, leggings and boots on office days. You get the picture. But I noticed something as I looked around at most of my colleagues. They always seem more dressed up than me. Is it because I am the art teacher and count to get messy? Not sure. But these little chickies prance around in heels and panty hose all day at school and I don’t know how they do it. Their feet must kill. How can they crouch down and get in a cupboard?
I have come to a conclusion.
Other teachers sit a lot more than art teachers, and they also don’t move as much as we do. Our jobs are physical. The attire must match the physicality of our job.
Next, lets talk about my dirty little secret for practicality in my wardrobe. Goodwill. Yes, I buy some of my clothing at thrift stores, Goodwill, tag sales, etc. First this came out of necessity as a poor college student. Now, I just do it because it’s smart, it’s fun and you can get a lot of amazing name brand things for really cheap, especially in the somewhat affluent suburb in which I teach. I always enjoy the look in people’s faces when I tell them my entire outfit cost under 10 dollars. They hate me. Some people are grossed out by it because it had a former owner. Well, guess what? The new apparel you just threw on probably has more chemicals and junk on it being shipped over from China than my pre-worn, pre-softened and pre shrunk Gap sweater, so there!
This strategy really helps when you get paint on your clothes or clay dust or ink. The profession is pretty messy, even though I wear an apron on paint/clay days. No more guilt for soiled clothing. If it’s ruined, then I guess I only spent 3 bucks on it anyway.
I have bad feet. Not ugly, just bad. They are narrow and high arched and need LOTS of support to stand all day. Ballet flats and heels are totally out for me on a teaching day. Basically any shoe under $100 doesn’t feel good enough. So I choose to spend my money on good shoes. Dansko clogs (lots of nurses wear them) are my go to shoes and I SWEAR by them and that brand in general. (No they didn’t pay me to say it, I just LOVE them so much!) Anyhow, remember the colleague who’s feet probably hurt all day in heels or they never stood all day? I just can’t do it! I can’t wear heels all day long and I envy people who can because my little clog friends aren’t always the cutest, although the brand has come a long way. I do love a great pair of heels to help boost my 5’2” frame, but I save them for weekends. For any of you who can swing it, bless your hearts!
What Not To Wear:
Just because we are art teachers doesn’t mean we get to be slobs, either. You have to find that fine balance between professionalism and the art teacher look you are going for. And don’t wear leggings with anything that doesn’t cover your tushie. Just saying, legging offenders at work bug me. Sorry!
While we are taking no – no’s….I advise against doing too much with your hair. Mine is curly so I am of the minority with the easy care hair, but with recess and bus duty, by the end of the day I look like little orphan annie – all a mess. I still try, I do. I just don’t think anyone realizes how different our jobs are from an office job. The days that I work in the office on curriculum work (more about that here) I am always more put together at the end of the day, have WAY more energy and just feel different. Not a complaint for the other days of the week, just an honest observation between the two since I have the privilege of direct comparison.
I do wear makeup every day and keep some lotion on hand at school for the dry and cracked hands that are a product of washing your hands and washing out brushes over and over and over.
So do you hear the sirens of the fashion police coming near?
Whether this post totally bored you or interested you, lets all agree that we think about and put a lot of energy our appearance every day, as much as we don’t want to admit it, it does define us, so lets talk…What is your idea of professionalism at work? Any hints for all of us? And do tell- can you manage heels all day? Stains on your clothing? What’s the Scoop?