Friday, February 29, 2008

Mail Bag: Fun Teacher Wear

I am a housewife who has started substitute teaching at a middle school. I am having a hard time figuring out what to wear. Compared to the other teachers I am very young, and the students have already noticed this (and the older boys think they can flirt with me). What can I wear that is fun and interesting (befitting my personality and my youth), but still modest and something that will help me be taken seriously?


I actually came to Cincinnati with the intent of finding a teaching job (with my newly earned M.Ed.), but I ended up in the corporate world instead. While I was still pursuing a teaching profession, I, like you, worried about appropriate dress. You don’t want to be taken for a student, but you also don’t want to dress like your mother. You want to be modest and comfortable and professional, yet express your personality.

Modest: Avoid low-cut tops, short skirts, short shorts, tight clothing, sleeveless styles, and low-slung pants (unless paired with a l-o-o-o-ng top). Use caution when incorporating elements that may be interpreted as “sexy,” like open-weave stockings and lace tops. Layering is a great way to make a revealing outfit less so.

Comfortable: You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes. Your clothing should be comfortable sitting at a desk, standing in front of the classroom, and doing any light manual labor required (erasing the chalkboard, moving chairs, etc.)

Professional: Avoid clothing and accessories that are associated with your students (i.e. hoodies, backpacks, flipflops, logo wear, etc.) Take a cue from business casual wear and incorporate blazers, blouses, skirts, and slacks into your wardrobe. For instance, top a sundress with a blazer and add ballet flats and a smart bag for a youthful, yet pulled-together look.

Faking Good Breeding also addressed this topic in her Appropriate Outfits for a New Teacher entry.

Enough with rules. I assume you already knew those. I think what you are really looking for is INSPIRATION. I turned to Wardrobe Remix and searched for some stylish teachers. My hands-down favorite goes by the handle “Middleagedteacher.” I gather from your message that you are not middle-aged, but women of any age can take some inspiration from this lady! She’s a bold pattern mixer and makes much (if not all) of her own jewelry.

You can check out her entire Wardrobe Diary 2008 on flickr.

As a substitute, you aren’t teaching every day and may be asked to teach with little notice. I can imagine it is stressful to put together an outfit different from your usual style at the last minute. Instead, plan ahead. Take a half day to put together some basic teaching outfits you can use next time you’re called in. Ask a friend to help you. She can give advice, tell you if you are revealing too much when you bend over, and take photos for reference. Don’t worry if you’ve only come up with four or five outfits. With infrequent exposure, and possibly a different group of students every time, no one will notice!

Admittedly, I’m not a teacher, just a wanna-be-teacher. Are there any teacher readers out there who can also offer advice? Links to pictures are a bonus.

Green and Gold

Green and gold scarf, Images (gift from Fashion Lady). Green sweater, Merona. Yellow tee, Charlotte Russe. Trouser jeans, Express. Yellow pumps, Victoria Spenser. Charm necklace, thrifted.

This week’s theme (correctly guessed by Cheri) is green and gold. I explained the theme to my husband on Tuesday, while I was taking my pictures. He took a look at my outfit and said, “You mean green and yellow.” So, I guess I should specify that I mean yellow-gold not metallic-gold. It’s just that “green and yellow” doesn’t have the same ring as “green and gold.” I like the alliteration.

The theme grew out of my desire to wear this scarf and my new yellow sweater and the nostalgia that “green and gold” has for me. Those were our spirit colors in elementary school. We were the Mint Valley Mustangs. While I paid no attention to when spirit days (and the encouraged wearing of green and gold) were scheduled, I was always proud to stand up and be counted as “spirited” in my green jacket with a bold yellow stripe down each arm. I loved that jacket and wore it nearly every day.

I hope you’re not sick to death of polls and will vote for your favorite green and gold outfit this week. (And, yes, I was really stretching to make Monday’s outfit work with the theme.)

Click to enlarge

Which Green and Gold themed outfit was your favorite?
Monday - WR Inspired
Tuesday - Doesn't Go
Wednesday - Country Lass
Thursday - Arctic Circle
Friday - Green and Gold free polls

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arctic Circle

Gray cardigan, Wet Seal. Green, circle-print dress, Max Studio. White blouse, Worthington. Yellow belt, Xhilaration. Gray tights, Merona. Gray slouchy boots, White Mountain. Green earrings, Body Central.

I call this my circle dress because the print is of interlocking rings. I normally only wear it in the warmer months, but, as usually happens this time of year, I’m tiring of my winter wardrobe and yearning to wear something springy. With a little layering, tights, and boots, the dress is warm enough for end-of-February wear.

One of the cyclically popular poses on Wardrobe Remix is the “holding the heel of your shoe” pose. I think it’s supposed to be sexy. I tried it, but it just looks like I stepped in some dog doo. I am very bad at “sexy.” I do “goofy” much better.

Congratulations to Cheri who correctly guessed that this is green and yellow week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Country Lass

Brown jacquard blazer, Apt 9. Yellow cardigan, Mossimo. Green satin shirt, Express. Blue and green tartan skirt, Jones New York Country (thrifted). Brown boots, Nine West. Brooch, thrifted.

I didn’t plan this…but I’m essentially wearing a muted, modest version of yesterday’s outfit. I’ll have to ask Mike which he likes better.

Have I told you lately that I love this skirt? It is one of my favorite thrift finds. It makes me feel as if I’m the heroine of a Wideacre (by Philippa Gregory, also the author of The Other Boleyn Girl).

I’ve had the skirt for a year and have worn it six times. How have you liked it best? (I had some decidedly unclever names for the posts in which each of these outfits were featured, so I refer to them simply by month and year. And I’m afraid that I put them in the wrong order in the collage, so the April picture precedes March.) My favorite is January.

Which outfit, featuring the thrifted Jones New York Country skirt, is your favorite?
February 2007
April 2007
March 2007
November 2007
January 2008
February 2008 free polls

Click to enlarge (the picture is tiny!)

A close up without the flash so you can see the textures and my newly thrifted pin.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doesn't Go

Black, short-sleeved blazer and sheer green shirt, Forever 21. Yellow silk/cashmere sweater, Moda International. Tartan jumper, All That Jazz (thrifted and embellished by me). Black tights, Danskin. Black patent maryjanes, Xhilaration.

It’s been awhile since I asked my husband for his opinion of one of my outfits. He always has some entertaining comments. This time, he really disliked the yellow sweater (“It doesn’t go”), the jacket’s puffed sleeves, the shirt’s ruffles (“What are you? A pirate?”), and the short hemline. Then he came back to the sweater again, pointing out how the yellow color had nothing to do with the rest of the outfit. For me, that was the whole point.

Do you remember when yellow suddenly became popular last spring? I was sure it was a color I couldn’t wear next to my face. When I finally bought a yellow top, it was a pale shade and a sheer knit. After finding that it didn’t make me look jaundiced, I bought an almost mustard tee (the shoddy one from Charlotte Russe). This sweater is my third yellow top and I’ve decided I look nice in the color. It brings out the green in my eyes. (Or maybe it’s the green top I’m wearing underneath?) It’s funny how we cycle through colors. I wonder if we’ll remember the latter half of the naughts as a yellow period.

Enough serious talk. Time for fun photos and further exhibition of my egomania.

I love myself
I think I’m grand
I go to the movies
And hold my hand
I put my arm around my waist
And when I get fresh
I slap my face

You Wear THAT To Work?

I frequently receive comments from readers wondering what sort of work I do that allows me to be so creative with my daily outfits. I prefer to keep the details private, but I’ll share that I work in Human Resources for a global company. Like most of corporate America these days, the dress code is “business casual.”

In my workplace, “business casual” can mean anything from a suit to jeans and a sweatshirt. Corporate policy leaves determination of appropriate wear to the individual, directing them to their manager or Human Resources with questions. The general guideline is that if you’d wear it to mow the lawn, work out, or lounge around the house on weekends, it’s too casual. Shorts and distracting or overly revealing clothing are outlawed. Some departments specifically ban denim, but most allow jeans. As you can imagine, the result is a wide variance in levels of formality. I dearly wish I could show you pictures of my coworkers (both those in the “#1 Grandma” sweatshirt and faded mom jeans and those in outfits worthy of Lucky magazine), but I’d probably lose my job.

So, where do I fit into the spectrum? Except for the occasional casual Friday, I dress far more formally than my coworkers. My blazers, skirts, and heels are considered “dressed up.” The more striking difference between us, though, is the creativity of my outfits. I frequently wear bright colors and trends. I also experiment with styles that aren’t trendy OR mainstream (like the time I wore a tie to work). And I push the edge of the envelope with “sexy” attire like fishnet tights and plunging necklines. (I DO try to temper the tights with a modest hemline and I figure a plunging neckline isn’t “overly revealing” on someone with no cleavage. Go ahead and ogle my chicken chest if you want.) When I started work in the corporate world, I was terrified to wear anything as daring as open-toed shoes and I always clad my legs in nude hose. Now, I figure that if I’m not counseled on a clothing choice, it’s acceptable. I’ll continue to push until my management reins me in.

People at work often look me up and down (and down and up, again) and compliment my outfits, but my shoes get the most comments. Because I’ve seen Fashion Lady’s closet, I don’t consider myself a shoe-a-holic. I will admit, though, that I probably have more heels than most women. I’m a sucker for brightly colored shoes and I love the way high heels make me look taller and slimmer. Other than the walk to and from the bus stop, my day doesn’t involve much time on my feet, so I can wear shoes that are more for fashion than function. I should also add that, even at 32, I am one of the younger women in my work group and am able to wear higher heels by the simple virtue of my relative youth and fitness. (My older counterparts constantly remind me that my heels-wearing days are numbered.)

Both in the comments on this blog and in Wardrobe Remix, I constantly read of fellow office slaves bemoaning the fact that they can’t express their true fashion personalities at work. If you are one of those people longing to express your inner fashionista, ask yourself, “What’s really stopping me?” Often, it isn’t the office dress code, but fear of what officemates will think or say. So what if someone says your red lipstick is whoreish or that your choice of colors is juvenile? Your detractors are probably just jealous! If you start wearing that bright lipstick and bold pink top on a regular basis (but maybe not together), the snarky comments will eventually decline. Your outer you will match your inner you and your coworkers will comment when you DON’T wear something that matches your personality. Be brave. Be interesting. Be extraordinary. It’s hard to get fired for a single fashion faux pas, so push the envelope a little.

I will admit that I am fortunate to work in an environment that encourages and rewards individuality, creativity, and flair. I’ve never felt that I wasn’t taken seriously because of my clothing. Instead, I think it’s given me an advantage because I appear more youthful and in touch with the just-graduated-college population I work with. I look approachable, interesting, and fun. Both the company I work for and my particular role are a good fit for my sometimes flamboyant clothing selections.

More reading on the Business Casual dress code:
How to do Business Casual
Business Casual in Warm Weather
Office Appropriate Attire

Monday, February 25, 2008

WR Inspired

Black cardigan, Moda International. Coral blouse, Worthington. Floral skirt, Herman Geist (thrifted and shortened). Crappy black tights that threaten to fall down. Green peeptoe pumps, Wet Seal.

When I picked up this skirt at Goodwill last week, it was a good 10 inches longer. I would normally have passed it by, despite the yoked waistband, full skirt, and fun print, and dismissed it as dowdy. However, the inspiration of Liebe Marlene and Whimsical Nerd of Wardrobe Remix enabled me to see the potential. Both of these ladies wear full, retro skirts in patterns you might think of as old lady-ish. But their chutzpah and short hems save them from granny-dom. So, I hemmed this a bit higher than I normally would for work wear and attempted to copy a couple of my fashion idols.

(Liebe Marlene on the left and Whimsical Nerd on the right)

The crazy shoes, though, are all me.

P.S. There’s a theme this week. See if you can spot it! (It’s admittedly subtle today, though.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Satanic Yuppies

Red cardigan, Espirit (thrifted). Blue sweater, Merona. Denim, M. Boots, Playhouse. Koi earrings, gifted.

See? You’re not missing ANYTHING on the weekends. Lately, I’ve been totally boring in jeans and sweaters. It’s cold and I’ve been spending my weekends digging through costumes and building sets (for Picasso).

But I didn’t just post this photo to show you my dull weekend outfit. It’s actually an excuse to tell you I wore this to see a screening of the locally filmed movie Satanic Yuppies! Just reading the title and description, I was eager to see it. I love horror films and I love B horror films even more. That it was filmed in Cincinnati with local actors in 1996 was a bonus. However, I really got excited when the film started and I recognized one of the actors as the talented (and I guess famous) David Levy from The Drama Workshop. I couldn’t wait to go to Picasso rehearsal on Sunday to tease him.

For all the readers in the Cincinnati area, Picasso at the Lapin Agile opens this Friday. The show includes a performance by David Levy of Satanic Yuppies fame and fabulous costumes by yours truly.

Friday, February 22, 2008

So Many Colors

…so little time.

Brown velvet jacket, F.A.N.G. Green tee, Forever 21. Hot pink tank, Banana Republic (thrifted). Printed skirt, George. Brown tights. Brown boots, Nine West. Gold clustered drops earrings, thrifted.

By now, you’ve learned that I have almost NO self control when it comes to color. I love bright shades and I’m an unrepentant matcher. So, you can imagine the sorts of tics and tremors a skirt like this induces in my creative center. It’s got fuchsia, coral, yellow, green, and khaki! I want to accessorize it with every single one of these colors and all at once. So far, I’ve created a number of eye-bleeding outfits with this skirt. When I paired it with lime green and hot pink, one commentor speculated that I might have been dressing drunk. How have you liked it best so far?

Which outfit featuring this George skirt is your favorite?
Curtain Skirt
Orange and Cream
So Many Colors free polls

Click to enlarge

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sorta Wore This Before

Sheer blue blouse, Forever 21. Orange sweater, The Limited. Brown strapless dress, Newport News. Brown floral tights, Merona. Brown boots, Nine West. Headband, Claire’s.

I’ve been posting my daily outfits here for almost a year and a half and have not yet repeated (except for my anniversary outfit). (And, I must admit that I sometimes repeat on the weekends when I don’t take a picture, but they really aren’t picture-worthy anyway.) Although I haven’t repeated ensembles, I often find inspiration in past outfits. That was the case today. When Fashion Lady lent me her sheer blue shirt last spring, I thrilled to pair it with my orange tank and I also loved it over a strapless dress. Now that I have my own sheer blue shirt, I wanted to repeat the color pairing and layering.

Click to enlarge

And one final picture for you… My remote and auto focus is acting funny: it doesn’t want to take the picture until I step out of the frame and back in again. Here I am running back in and striking a pose. I thought it turned out rather spontaneous looking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Black wrap sweater, Bloch. Inky blue blouse and cream camellia bracelet, Forever 21. Tartan skirt with tulle trim, Tulle. Black tights, Danskin. Black pumps, Bandolino.

The fashion magazines tell me that one of the spring trends is Ballerina. I’m a frustrated ballerina myself. Frustrated because I didn’t take it up until I was an adult (18), and therefore missed the opportunity to properly develop the strength and flexibility required. I did take classes for the next ten or so years and proudly danced a few recitals en pointe. These shoes have sat idle since we moved to Cincinnati.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Plaid swing jacket, No Boundaries. Black top and red and orange tweed pants, Moda International. Black pumps, Bandolino. Orange resin earrings, World Market.

Plaid with tweed is probably too busy. I wanted to wear something red on the bottom, to compliment the red in the jacket’s tartan. Surprisingly, especially for someone who loves red as much as I do, the only red bottoms I have are these pants and this skirt. I thought I’d risk clashing terribly and wear the pants. (Besides, the skirt isn’t quite the correct shade.) I actually like the jacket and trousers together. I think the jacket is the only thing I own that is louder than the pants. My outfit is shouting at you today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Belated V-Day

Gray sweater, Wet Seal. Red tunic sweater, Forever 21. Dark denim skirt, Gap (overdyed by me). Gray leggings, Target. Gray boots, White Mountain. Tartan ribbon and faux pearl necklace with crown pendant, some department store. Stainless steel watch, Gucci. Red headband, Xhilaration.

I’m wearing this today, the day after Valentine’s, but the red seems appropriate. Belated Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Matchy McMatcherson

Black and white herringbone swing jacket, Apostrophe. Yellow tee, Charlotte Russe. Black, cowl-neck tank (under tee), Apt 9. Pinstriped pants, Forever 21. Yellow pumps, Victoria Spenser. Gold watch, Raymond Weil. Clustered bead earrings, World Market.

Once again, I just can’t resist a little color matching. It’s like a disease.

Although I doubt I’ll remove my jacket, I like how the shirt layering turned out. The cowl-neck of the black tank takes on a different shape when forced to align with the contours of the yellow tee’s neckline.

The yellow tee has got to be retired from my work wardrobe, though. It looked old when it was new (cheap construction). Even Mike noticed that it looks as if it had been washed 100 times.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dressing It Down

Black velvet jacket, Forever 21. Gray long sleeved tee, Bitten. Coral blouse, Worthington. Mini-houndstooth skirt, J Crew. Black tights, Danskin. Black pumps, Bandolino. Cinnabar earrings, Into the Fray.

This is an example of how you can take a conservative outfit (skirt, blouse, blazer) and liven it up. The exposed shirt tails seem younger and more casual then a tucked-in blouse and adds more color to the outfit. The long-sleeved tee under the short-sleeved blazer also adds a casual element, as well as a nod to the short over long layering trend.

Why I love this skirt: the fishtail hem.

Oh, and I was reprimanded for not mentioning (yesterday) that my husband Mike also likes mint chocolate chip icecream. In fact, he bought some on Sunday. Yuck.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mint Chocolate Chip

Cream V-neck sweater, American Rag. Green satin blouse, Express. Brown suede skirt, Isaac Mizrahi. Brown tights, Merona. Brown boots, Nine West. Brown faux suede belt with jeweled buckle. Amber-ish beads, Body Central. Drop earrings, gifted.

Here is something I’ve observed again and again – Mint Chocolate Chip icecream is preferred by more men than women. Almost every man I’ve dated has been a Mint Chocolate Chip fan. I could take it or leave it, myself. I prefer the more buttery flavors (Butter Pecan, Praline, Caramel Ribbon), if I’m not having chocolate. What do you think?
Is Mint Chocolate Chip icecream a "guy" flavor?
Other - I'll tell you in the coments. free polls

But back to my outfit…I hardly ever wear this belt. It’s too big to sit at the waist and I’ve found that a low slung belt requires constant readjusting. By wearing it today, I’ve made a commitment to tug it back into place on a regular basis. (I did wear the belt once before, threaded through the belt loops of a low-slung mini. I liked the look, but then I had to be particular about shirt length. Too long, and the buckle doesn’t show. Too short, and I’m baring tummy.)