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Teachers - esp secondary - your advice on work wardrobe is needed please

(114 Posts)
Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 17:18:38

I am starting a secondary PGCE in a couple of weeks and am having a bit of a wardrobe panic. I have approx £300 to spend on clothes and shoes and want to get the basics to see me through my first teaching practice. I own no formal skirts or trousers and I don't have a suit. I do have several smart knee-length dresses (Boden jersey numbers or similar). Would they be appropriate?
Also I live in flat knee-high boots in winter, and Converse the rest of the time. I cannot wear heels. I did a weeks teaching experience last term and was crippled after one day in quite moderate (2-inch) heels. Is there a way of wearing flat shoes and skirts that doesn't look too frumpy?
Can anyone suggest a sensible way of putting together an appropriate work wardrobe? I guess I need a suit of some kind but I'm hopeless with separates. I'm 47, size 14-16 and hourglass shaped, so it is a bit of a struggle to find trousers that fit well and blouse buttons tend to strain over my amplitudinous norkage, which is never a good look for a teacher.
All advice and suggestions much appreciated.

tethersend Wed 31-Aug-11 17:36:16

You may not ned a suit- it depends on the schools you do your teaching practice in.

I would invest in some good blouses and pencil skirts to tuck them into:





plus plain black pencil skirt and suit jacket

This dress would be great

Flat shoes and boots are fine. pointed flats can look smarter if it's a very business-dress kind of school.

tethersend Wed 31-Aug-11 17:37:32

Also think about getting a waistcoat and matching skirt to wear over a plain blouse. Not a suit, but just as smart for school.

beckybrastraps Wed 31-Aug-11 17:42:19

I wear smart dresses and wedges. Comfortable, appropriate and easy.

Tommy Wed 31-Aug-11 17:43:23

I think you could get away with a couple of pairs of smart trousers and some plain tops which you could accessorise with scarves, necklaces etc if you don't like jackets. Trousers would be fine with low heels. Or, wear your flat boots and some jumper type dresses in winter.

As the previous poster says, it does depend on the school and their dress code but, generally, IME, you can be fairly "casual" in most places. I have just bought a couple of White Stuff skirts in their outlet shop which I will team up with some tops (not yet bought!) and boots.

You probably won't need a suit but one school I work in insists on jackets for parents' evenings so one decent jacket in a neutral jacket should be fine - Debenhams classic usually a good bet.

Tommy Wed 31-Aug-11 17:44:38

forgot to say - Boden type dresses would be fine

Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 17:46:08

Thanks Tethers. A pencil skirt is definitely on my list, although that £80 one would blow my budget a bit.
That ASDA dress is an amazing price and the shoes are great. I am pretty sure the dress code at my first school is very formal from what I have heard about it. I think a suit will be a necessity, even if not every day.

PotteringAlong Wed 31-Aug-11 17:49:34

My advice is - supermarkets! I know thus sounds daft but my trousers and skirts always get clicked just below my bum (have a habit of perching on desks!) and you need tops etc that you won't worry about if you get biro / White board marker / unexplained stains you don't wish to investigate on them.

I don't wear a suit for school (but that might depend on where you work). I wear one for interview but I can't teach in them
blush. Smart tailored trousers or a skirt, with a blouse or v necked jumper will be fine, or dresses always look smart - tea dress style or wrap dress depending on what suits you.

Flat shoes will be fine - I have pointy flats from
Dorothy Perkins (that I got in 3 colours!) which are really comfy and have been great.

I also have a (ahem) sizable bust. Vest tops under anything are your friend!

Good luck next year - it's an awesome job, you'll love it! What subject are you doing?

beckybrastraps Wed 31-Aug-11 17:50:33

My school has a formal dress code but I have never worn a suit. But it's easier to be confident that you are appropriately dressed when you aren't a trainee!

Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 17:51:04

I do love dresses! Good to know I can probably get away with them. I also have a very extensive necklace collection!

Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 17:52:50

Yes, becky, I think the problem with being a trainee is that you are going to be aware that you are being judged all the time - and getting the dress code right is at least one small thing you can do to make a good impression.

Pippaandpolly Wed 31-Aug-11 17:53:51

I live in jersey or wrap-over dresses, tights and either flats or flat boots. Don't force yourself into heels if you'll be uncomfortable - I did on PGCE as I thought it would make me feel more 'grown up' (grin was only 21 and scared of teaching 18 year olds!) but quickly realised being comfortable was far more important. Agree with the above poster who said have one smart jacket for parents' evenings/first day nerves.

Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 17:55:08

Pottering - I'm doing English. I am so looking forward to it, but very nervous too! And I have LOTS of vest tops - because of my vast norkage I never wear a v-neck without one!

tethersend Wed 31-Aug-11 17:57:01

In that case, I second a trip to debenhams.

Also look at Hobbs outlet- this for example.

Also look at austin reed- lovely dress

check out peacocks and matalan for a shift dress/suit jacket combo.

snuffy143 Wed 31-Aug-11 17:59:55

I echo what has been said already - smart trousers with flat shoes and a variety of tops is a great way to start. Also worth bearing in mind that teaching is pretty energetic so thick knits will probably cause you to melt - I rarely dress for winter inside school - layers are best. But I am about to start work in a school with a separate 6th form block so am going to need a good coat, too! I wear knee-length dresses with tights and boots and feel pretty smart. All the best with your PGCE - it is a fantastic job, although it comes with many ups and downs!

PotteringAlong Wed 31-Aug-11 18:01:14

I never wear a v neck without one either!

As long as you are smart you won't be judged. Oh, and polish your shoes. Daft, but true... grin

I'm a 32E and tend to go for good quality fitted t-shirts or dresses, to avoid the gaping shirt problem.

We have to be pretty 'corporate' but I tend to wear skirts or dresses with a mismatched jacket, rather than a full-on suit look. Your jersey dresses sound perfect.

Boots with a small heel are often more comfortable than heeled shoes.

And I second the trousers and waistcoat suggestion - it looks smart but is much more comfortable and easier to teach in than a stiff jacket.

There are quite a few more 'softly styled' or even jersey jackets around too - they can 'dress up' trousers or a dress but are more comfortable to wear.

PotteringAlong Wed 31-Aug-11 18:02:35

Ooh, snuffy, good point! You need a good coat, esp if you have to do outside duty. It can be very cold...!

beckybrastraps Wed 31-Aug-11 18:03:37

I didn't wear a suit to my HoD interview even. I think a good dress looks just as smart and formal, plus I find them much more comfortable to wear and much, much easier to sort out in the morning! Plus I'm a bit of a natural scruff and I always feel that I'm coming "untucked" in a shirt and skirt or trousers!

beckybrastraps Wed 31-Aug-11 18:05:10

And do try a low wedge. I find them more comfortable than flats for a day on my feet. But I may just be odd...

talkingnonsense Wed 31-Aug-11 18:06:49

Dresses with boots look good for school IMO.

Yes to low wedges.

Oh and wear interesting tights if you are wearing something otherwise boring - Yr 10 and 11 girls always notice and admire!

Themumsnot Wed 31-Aug-11 18:09:05

I have this coat which I splurged on last winter. I think Tethers was genius for pointing me in the direction of the similarly styled jacket. grin
Thank you all very much ladies. I am getting some great ideas here.

tethersend Wed 31-Aug-11 18:11:22

yy, one of my first lectures on my PGCE was about the semiotics of shoes grin

It certainly makes a difference to have nice shoes.

It works to compliment the kids on their shoes too wink

Oh and girls ALWAYS notice your hands (well, so do boys tbh) so nice nail varnish is a good idea! They notice rings and bracelets too.

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