Back to school: Teachers can use clothes to communicate with kids

By Samantha Critchell The Associated Press - Published: August 12, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Back-to-school shopping doesn't have to be all kids' stuff. The wardrobe to complement that first opening bell can help set the tone for a teacher's year, too.

There's nothing in the contract that requires dangling cat-character earrings or kooky bow ties. The right look can command respect while earning a little street cred.

Celebrity stylist Cristina Ehrlich, a style adviser to Coldwater Creek, remembers her first "cool teacher" in elementary school - and Ehrlich says she never worked harder than she did for that Lauren Hutton lookalike, who wore pleated slacks, V-neck silk blouses, a thin little belt and gold hoop earrings.

"Maybe it's that I wanted to impress her, or maybe she just knows how to grab your attention, but she left a lasting impression," she says.

Teachers can use their clothes to help bridge communication gaps with their students, says Emilia Fabricant, executive vice president of the Aeropostale brand,. "The cool factor gives power."

Fabricant gives the caveat, though, that teachers might wear individual pieces differently so they're "appropriately styled": short skirts worn over leggings, tunics over tanks, and skinny jeans paired with the high front-low back cardigans that give an update to the classic silhouette.

Maybe there's a life lesson here for teens: A modern look can co-exist with a respectful one.

Amazon.com fashion editor Sara Dooley imagines teachers of younger grades experimenting with prints. Florals are enjoying a fashion moment, she says, and animal prints - leopard spots and the like - have a little bit of edge but have been tapped for classic silhouettes. There are even some literal animal prints, such as birds and turtles, that have been elevated from kitsch to cool.

Many closet-to-classroom items are basic pieces, including a pencil skirt, fit-and-flare dress, collared shirts, blazers, jeans and sweaters, so they can make the transition between seasons and between school years.

Ehrlich suggests layers, as long as the overall look is relaxed without being sloppy. On the flip side, tailored is good; too buttoned-up is not.

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