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Power dressing in school?

(124 Posts)
Smilegrumpypants Fri 15-Mar-19 11:59:12

I'm a teacher. We've recently had a change in leadership and the head has made a lot of changes including a strict dress code.
I've always dressed smartly in dresses and skirts but teamed with cardigans. My outfits are always pressed and clean and I wear minimal jewellery.
A middle leadership role has recently come up and I am keen to apply for it. After a meeting this week the head asked to speak to me. She said that she would welcome my application but I should consider changing my outfits to include blazers and tailored jackets and trousers. That she felt cardigans and flat shoes (!) aren't appropriate in senior roles and I would be taken more seriously.
She often says odd things (don't get me started, whole other thread) but as this new role doesn't include an increase in pay and still includes a full teaching schedule, I am reluctant to invest in clothes that I won't suit or enjoy wearing. I've never been told I've been dressing inappropriately before.
This is all coming from the head that wears fishnets and leather tunics.
Advice please, thank you!

DontCallMeCharlotte Fri 15-Mar-19 12:50:30

Oh Christ, I'm going to have to change my whole wardrobe then as I always think of my work look as "teacher chic" and that definitely doesn't include blazers or heels.

I'm not a teacher by the way.

Margot33 Fri 15-Mar-19 12:56:45

I worked in a secondary school supporting disabled students. The agency that paid me told me to wear a suit. Some of the children said they didn't like it when support staff wore suits, it didn't feel friendly and a little intimidating. So I made sure I wore smart trousers and top instead. It's important we connect with the children on a positive level.

SausageMashandOnionGravy Fri 15-Mar-19 12:57:29

Dress like she says for your interview and then return to your usual attire. Unless she’s offering you a rather large pay rise to fund this whole new wardrobe I think she’s taking the piss. It doesn’t sound like there is anything wrong with your current attire, smart but practical.

hellojason Fri 15-Mar-19 12:57:37

Your clothes choices sound fine and the HT really shouldn't be saying anything like that. You just need to look presentable and a decent quality cardi and flat shoes are OK. Not if the cardi is tatty or the shoes are scuffed and bright pink and yellow - it's just common sense.

If you want to pander to her consider wearing a low - mid heel court shoe and a more fitted cardi/top or smart-casual jacket but a blazer FFS?! What exactly does the dress code say?

cantbearsed1 Fri 15-Mar-19 12:57:41

I disagree with what this person said to you. But it is common in many companies that there is an informal dress code for managers. So I don't think it is outrageous.

Millyonthe Fri 15-Mar-19 12:58:00

I wouldn't wear heels for anyone. However, I do think a blazer is smarter than a cardi. You can get wool blazers that are as comfy as cardis like this whistles one:

ginghamtablecloths Fri 15-Mar-19 13:02:20

On the face of it it seems silly but when it comes to 'image' (and sadly it often does these days) it has to be said that a jacket will always look more business-like than a cardigan.
I have known a smartly dressed barely-qualified candidate gain promotion over a better qualified more casually dressed (but still smart) woman. It's unfair but that's the modern world - image counts.

sweeneytoddsrazor Fri 15-Mar-19 13:03:13

I cant get past the head wearing fishnets and leather.

LoopyGremlin Fri 15-Mar-19 13:04:33

My school (secondary) has gone far too casual over the last few years imo. Teachers wear leggings, jeans, trainers, all of which I feel is too casual. Even the management team wear casual clothes. I think there should be some smart dressing at least by the headteacher. As a parent, I would not want to be met by the headteacher wearing a fat face type outfit and trainers. As professionals a shift dress with jacket or a smart pair of trousers and blouse would be far more appropriate.

Queenunikitty Fri 15-Mar-19 13:05:50

There are some great ponte blazers at uniqlo also I don’t think ballet pumps or smart loafers are any less ‘smart’ than heels. You could buy one or two new things for now very much and show willing. I would.

PregnantSea Fri 15-Mar-19 13:07:53

Fishnets and leather tunics? Sounds more like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror than a school teacher...

Foxyloxy1plus1 Fri 15-Mar-19 13:13:14

I think dresses and cardigans can look very smart, especially if they’re fitted. But I’d do what others have suggested, get an inexpensive blazer until you have the job and then please yourself. Could you get a pair of shoes with a small heel - kitten heel or more of a block heel?

Lifeover Fri 15-Mar-19 13:14:18

I hate the thought that people think you should dress a certain way to do your job. The way you dress has nothing at all to do with how well you can do your job (unless its specific job related safety equipment etc) and its very shallow of people to judge people in this way. I am interested in whether my child has a good teacher, whether I have a good doctor, accountant, lawyer etc not what they have in their wardrobe. If people like wearing power clothes good for them, some people feel incredibly uncomfortable.

I work for one of the largest professional firms in the world and we nearly all dress in jeans. We still churn out high quality work.

kaitlinktm Fri 15-Mar-19 13:15:34

The flat shoes thing really annoys me. As pp have said, are men expected to teeter about on heels - I bet the female pupils/students aren't allowed to wear them either. Not saying that staff shouldn't be allowed to wear heels if they want (H&S permitting) but I am sure I have signed a petition about women being required to wear heel at work not too long ago - sex discrimination I think.

I once took advice from my union about similar comments about my workwear. What I wore sounds similar to what you wear but without cardigans as I get too hot. They were willing to take up my case against the head for being unreasonable, but I decided not to take that route. I think she knew she was on a sticky wicket though as she backed off and I never heard another thing about my work wear although some people were told off about inappropriate clothing (boob tubes and beach sandals).

I would get a cheap blazer and make sure your flat shoes are smart and polished/clean. Maybe wear some men's shoes! grin wink

thedisorganisedmum Fri 15-Mar-19 13:18:39

I hate the thought that people think you should dress a certain way to do your job.

I completely disagree, and I have seen many cases when companies had to impose a strict dress code because of some employees who didn't want to comprehend the difference between a night club and an office.
I don't care if my kids teachers are wearing a suit, but I wouldn't appreciate if they hadn't made some kind of effort and didn't turn up in a onesie.

Friedeggsandcustard Fri 15-Mar-19 13:18:45

I had a head like this once, she had a thing against flat shoes. She even wanted the EYFS team in heals because it looked more professional. Her face when my (male) colleague explained, straight faced, in a staff meeting that he found it difficult to find them in his size grin. It’s completely ridiculus OP

DemelzaPoldarksshinerrefiner Fri 15-Mar-19 13:19:15

Ebay / thrift smart blazer, get job, pass probation - organise and participate in one woman cardigan revolution.

SpiritedLondon Fri 15-Mar-19 13:20:48

If this is the direction you want to go then you need to conform to the expectation - even if you don’t agree with it. I’d probably invest in a couple of new things that give the appearance of conforming but are still comfortable. I try and dress appropriately for the office I’m in, but almost never wear traditional suits / shirts that you associate with corporate wear. I have a blazer style jacket in a stretchy jersey fabric for example that is smarter than a cardigan and not restrictive. Jackets can be softly structured or “edge to edge” so they don’t look formal. I wear these with knee length jersey dresses from Jaeger with different ankle boots or shoes.( low block heels). 7/8ths slim trousers etc. Loads of my stuff is pre loved from eBay or Charity shops so hasn’t entailed a big expenditure. Once you have secured the job you can then start integrating your cardigans etc back into your working clothes. I agree with you that it’s not necessary but there is a halfway house that allows both of you to win.

ooItsAoBeautifulDayNow Fri 15-Mar-19 13:22:14

Bloody hell - don't wear flat shoes?!!!!

Get yourself on eBay and buy some thigh high latex boots. Big heels obvs. Ask her if they are a better example for kids than your flat shoes.

Ffs does anyone else despair it's 2019 and this shit is still going on?!

ooItsAoBeautifulDayNow Fri 15-Mar-19 13:25:17

Ps The blazer I wouldn't have a problem with taking on board, as it's not sexualised and isn't a female vs male thing - men may well be asked to wear suit jackets too.

But because of the other request I'd be asking myself if the company culture was the right fit for me as somewhere that requires heels feels outdated and sexist.

Pinkruler Fri 15-Mar-19 13:27:51

Indeed, Akerman, I can't really wear heels due to my knees.

samsamsamsamsamsam Fri 15-Mar-19 13:28:28

She sounds very old fashioned. and completely sexist. I doubt the men have to wear heels.

AdamNichol Fri 15-Mar-19 13:34:24

Dress for the job you want. Utter crap.

My industry has ditched the button down look imposed on it, professionalism and performance are now better than ever as people are placed into roles on merit, not window-dressing.
I'd be very concerned about the priorities of an employer who needed a certain 'look' (beyond uniform / front of house) to consider an applicant credible.
How do the two rank? Shit performance but nice shoes - balance out??

thecatsthecats Fri 15-Mar-19 13:37:21

My friend worked at the top solicitor firm in the country in London and had a more casual dress code than my company.

Likewise, first day in my new management role, they bigged up the need to dress suuuuuuuuper professionally to meet a new corporate partner - I sweltered along in a smart dress and a blazer I had to keep on for the sweat stains. Our opposite numbers were wearing vest tops and sandals. Chic but comfortable.

Since infiltrating the senior leadership, I have switched us to smart-casual dress in summer.

It turns out adults are actually capable of working well whether they wear a cardigan or a blazer. I shall be passing these radical findings to the next committee of pearl clutchers.

(Joking aside, and I may get flamed for this, but I find that the people who worry about this sort of thing tend to be horribly class conscious in many ways - worrying that they won't get on if they don't fit the mould. I was raised to be bloody minded and with middle-class self confidence that who I am is not just enough, but they should feel damn well privileged... I think it makes a big difference.)

dutysuite Fri 15-Mar-19 13:44:41

My sons hand was pierced by the deputy heads ridiculously high heel while he was sitting on the floor during an assembly, I don't think high heels are practical footwear in a school really. I can always tell if our Head Teacher has an important meeting because she will power dress other than that she wears smart casual clothing and flats.

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