Teacher Dress Up: Denim at Work

Nothing makes baggy, unhemmed slacks look more unprofessional than too-tight, too-low, or too-long denim.  Walk into any public school on a casual Friday and you may lose your vision over one big fashion faux pas called “awkward adolescents”.  While there’s something endearing about the sea of middle school tend-setters who will look back at pictures and say “What was I thinking?”, there’s nothing endearing about teachers donning denim at the helm of the ship.  Considering jeans are a fashion nightmare for most women, we certainly give them a fair share in the wardrobe rotation.  When defending my decision to unhappily stay in D.C. for over a decade, a friend once said to me, “if I didn’t like cake, I wouldn’t eat it every day for ten years.”  So, I wonder why an article of clothing that makes your thighs look big and your butt look even bigger is an exception to the rule.

Lacking a profound response to the D.C. question, I’ll be the first to admit I hate jeans, and therefore, rarely wear them.  The whole “throw on a tank top and jeans” look, yeah that never really carried me through my college years.  To this day, jeans are my last resort and I couldn’t have been happier when denim Fridays were revoked at my school, when Gap reintroduced the black pant, and when winter shorts became fashionably acceptable.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m in the minority and that many schools, as well as other places of work, allow denim.  So, the best I can do is inspire stylish and professional improvements to the American classic.

If you’re going to wear denim, please follow these guidelines to pull it off in an equally flattering and professional manner.

1.  Jeans are your stand-in for your regular work pant.  This means, the Alma-mater sweatshirt is reserved for…I’ll let you know when I find an appropriate occasion.  In simple words, keep the top portion of your outfit professional.  Layers will help you achieve a polished look.

2.  Your jeans should fit properly.  As the granddaughter and niece of two, exquisite seamstresses, I advocate for impeccably tailored clothing regardless of the item.  Your jeans should be a mid-rise, the legs should steer clear of the “sausage-casing” look, and the bottom should be slightly bootcut or straight (take note of the word STRAIGHT, not to be confused with SKINNY).  Chances are, you’re going to opt for a work denim separate from a going-out denim which I’ll advocate for if it keeps educators looking professional.  We can work on your going-out attire at a later date.

3.  Keep the wash on the dark side, it allows for a more versatile color palette, looks more professional, and overall, more flattering.  Keep whiskering and fading to a minimum (which you should be doing anyway) and keep tears, slashes, and rips, to…non-existent.

4.  Just like the top-half of your trunk should be professional, your footwear should follow suit.  Leave the pumps and platforms at home, stick with a ballet flat, a wedge, a moccasin, or even a loafer.

5.  Follow all other rules.  If the solid, untucked button down is unacceptable with slacks, its still unacceptable with denim.  Invest in a quality cognac, leather belt.  Refrain from any exposure of the four B’s.  Keep accessories professional.  Remember, your students shouldn’t have any inkling that you’re more anxious than them for that bell to ring, as it signals the start of Happy Hour.

Here are few looks to get you through casual Fridays for whatever is left of this crisp, fall weather:
(The denim included in the following sets was selected for aesthetics. BUT, may I add, I see you all rolling the designer denim onto the playground. And, no, I’m not just talking about the over-privileged students).


Denim on Fridays – Fall #1: I paired an embroidered blouse with an open-front blazer, creating a feminine look. The tortoise belt ties together the black in the cap-toe flats and the neutral sparkle in the jewelry.

Denim on Fridays Fall #1

Denim on Fridays – Fall #2: For a laid back look, complement your favorite plaid shirt with a chunky, yet comfortable cardigan. Tuck your jeans into the ankle boots, or opt for a boot cut jean worn outside the shoe. I am still undecided about the riding boot over denim-look for work, so I prefer to stick with an ankle boot. Two jewelry looks worth mentioning: the adorable Kris Nations pendant necklace featuring my home state and the evil eye ring (normally worn as a bracelet), a traditional symbol representing my heritage.

Denim on Fridays Fall #2

Denim on Fridays – Fall #3: Add some color to your casual look with a fitted cardigan on the longer side. Allow the cardigan to stick out from the bottom of the blazer to create a layered look. Enough of the nautical stripe will stick out to keep the look pulled together. The leopard loafers add a hint of interest to an otherwise classic look.

Denim on Fridays Fall #3

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