Designing a Teacher Wardrobe on a Budget

You're a new teacher, and you have to dress like one. Here are some tips for creating a teacher wardrobe on a budget.

Designing a teacher wardrobe on a budget – a teacher budget? It can be done.

You have a teaching job – and a teacher’s paycheck. Can you dress professionally?

Yes. With planning ahead and using coupons, you can dress well those first years of teaching.

Start planning ahead and make some sensible purchases.

Here are some other hints for designing a teacher wardrobe.

Creating a teacher wardrobe on a budget? These tips will help you dress professionally those first years in the classroom.

Buy Basics

I’m tall, and JCPenney carries clothing for tall women. They normally have coupons available, and their prices are still decent without a coupon. The clothes last too. They don’t fade or look thin after several washes.


Suggestion One: Buy basics. Purchase black, navy, khaki, brown – maybe maroon – pants. Buy a few sweaters or buttoned shirts. Mix and match. Find out if you can wear jeans on Fridays. If so, buy an appropriate pair.

Suggestion Two: Hit the clearance racks. JCPenney has great clearance racks. If you are hired in April, buy some winter clothing now. That doesn’t sound fun, but in a few months, you’ll happily pull out your clearance clothes.

Return to the clearance racks in October. Buy some short-sleeved shirts so you can layer. You can wear those shirts in August and September, and then again in April and May. If you have a sweater or light jacket, you can wear them longer.

Remember, mixing and matching combined with layering are your teacher wardrobe friends. This creates multiple outfits using the same pieces of clothing.

Find Comforts

Each teacher has a go-to piece. Mine? The flowy, flowery skirt. I typically buy my teacher-skirts at Target.

I sit with my students – in groups, on the floor. These skirts allow for that; they are rayon, spandex, cotton – in the perfect amounts.

These skirts are “loud” compared to the rest of my wardrobe, which actually works in my favor. For instance, when I wear a flowered skirt, I match a black or white shirt with it because some section of the flowers will match that. That counts for two outfits.

The long skirt is my favorite, but yours might be a dress. Suggestion Three: Find what makes you happy.

Have a Nice Outfit

Every teacher needs that special, back-to-school, meet the teacher, observation outfit. This could be your interview suit or graduation outfit. (You might need to plan this in advance; buy one super-great outfit for multiple use).

Suggestion Four: Purchase at least one outfit that makes you feel like dynamite.

I bought mine this year at White House Black Market. I have similar luck with Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. Some stores do provide teacher discounts, and it never hurts to ask.

As a new teacher, you will be expected to have a teacher wardrobe. That first year, you will make your clothes stretch for a year, and each subsequent year will be easier finding and affording clothing. You’ll build and find your own style.

I didn’t mention shoes or accessorizing because that is (so completely) not my strength. Try to do this with accessorizing and shoes.

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  • Abby

    I buy all my clothes at consignment shops and ThreadUp. ThreadUp is great because I can get “teacher” (i.e. “grown-up”) clothes from Anne Taylor, J. Crew, etc. without paying the insane prices. Therefore, I own more nice outfits because I get them used (most items are still new though, but heavily discounted!) I agree that basics are a must, as are cardigans in ALL the colors 😉

    • (author)

      Awwww, a cardiagan teacher. :):):) I’m sure you have as many cardigans as I do “teacher sweaters.”

      Great mention from ThreadUp. I’ve never tried it. I’ll put it on my list.

  • Keisha

    LOFT is good too, in fact, you can get discounts at their non outlet stores by showing your school i.d. badge.

  • Hannah Elizabeth Gonzalez

    You could work at Old Navy one day a week and use the 50% discount to buy some of their nice Pixie and Stevie pants that many teachers I know wear. They also have other tops that teachers also wear, as well as their cardigans that area staple for layer!

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