Back to school style for teachers

Books, papers, coffee, exploding pens, slamming lockers, split second decisions, and a constant swirl of humanity: it’s school! We’re back for another year of bright lights and big workloads, and I can’t wait. I am so grateful for this noisy, crazy, beautiful job of teaching.

Celebrating my 40th year of back-to-school!

In honor of back to school, here is the best style advice culled from my teacher friends. As Bobbie, our fashionable staff president, says “For better or worse, students notice what we wear. I want to be, and to be noticed as, confident, interesting, engaged in the world, and pulled together.”

Here are a few ways to do just that.

Set up a your outfit formulas

Reading Harry Potter, I’m always a little jealous that I don’t get to wear a long wizard’s robe to work. Forget turning myself into a cat, looking professional and being comfortable everyday would be magic enough. Fortunately, muggle and blogger Anuschka Rees has come up with the outfit formula.

Essentially, outfit formulas are combinations of clothing you know will work. My go-to formula is jeans or a moto pant, blouse and jacket. My second outfit formula is a knee length dress with boots. With the exception of an occasional sweater thrown in, my teaching formulas don’t change much. To learn more about outfit formulas, check out this post.Outfit Formulas, 101

Beautiful Helen, in her favorite pixie pant/blouse/sweater combo. 

Here are some teacher outfit formulas my friends go in for:

Helen: Old Navy Pixie pant, blouse, cardigan

Julie: Bright knit maxi dress (sandals in the summer, boots and cardi in the winter)

Ann: Long fluid top, drapey sweater, skinny pants or knee length skirt

Sarah and Dani: Jeans, quirky t-shirt, hoody.

Sarah and Dani: Seriously, would you not LOVE to be taught science by these people??

Have some fun

I don’t mean to insult other professions, but educators have a unique potential for fun. Where else can you run around acting like Louis XIV? Literally nowhere. My friends Dani and Sarah have fabulous collections of fun t-shirts, and even have matching wonder woman sweatshirts. If I’m feeling particularly spunky I might go for double denim, or a homemade message T, or twin with a co-worker or student.

Helen, who is going into elementary education, owns seven critter sweaters*

 

Maddy and me, making the day a little more fun by twinning.

Wear the gear, or the pajamas

Every teacher will at some point be asked to wear tie-dye, or her pajamas, or come to school as her favorite Dr. Seuss character. Just do it. Having a few nice tops in your school’s color will help. If you hate your school’s colors, black or white with accents of the school color works just fine.

Our staff president, rocking the axe.

You do you

Students are incredible gauges of authenticity. They will respond to your enthusiasm for a topic, tell at a glance which teachers will follow a cell phone policy and which won’t, and can smell your fear. So while I might be able to fool the lady at the DMV with a smart outfit, my students can sniff out my attempts at dress up in a heartbeat.

Elle is drawn to dramatic, fashion forward choices. Not afraid to experiment, she’s often trying new colors or shapes. Julie wears long, bright maxi dresses in teal or purple. While I can pass these women in the hall everyday and exclaim over their fabulous ensembles, the bright, elegant choices would be inauthentic on me.

Elle, looking fabulous while teaching Spanish.

Wearing clothing authentic to who we are helps us relax. And anything that lessons the tension of this somewhat crazy job is a win in my book.

Letting it all hang… in

Listen up! No one at school wants to see all y’all’s anything hanging out. Ever. You’d think I wouldn’t have to say that, but in the last 23 years of teaching you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen.

For the most part, teachers want to and will dress appropriately. But wardrobe malfunctions happen. A friend once wore an ill fitting pair of jeans and unwittingly had a photograph of her behind circulating on snapchat.** One day last year I wore a dress that had shrunk up in the wash, but I didn’t notice until I sat down on a stool. I ran to Ann’s classroom and she actually took off the leggings she was wearing under her more modest dress and gave them to me for the day. That’s a friend.

For every new outfit, do the bend and sit test. Bend over and see if anything falls out in front or behind. Then sit and see how far your skirt comes up, or your pants ride down, or if the change in posture produces any gaps in your top. If you have any doubts, change now.

When in doubt, just wrap yourself in a large blanket. Better safe than snapchatted.

A few more things to ponder

How are you going to haul all your stuff? A roomy bag or backpack that coordinates smartly with your outfit formulas will pull everything together. Big arm loads of papers and an old Grocery Outlet bag will not.

Can you get the marker stains off that? Teaching is a messy job, literally as well as figuratively. According to Elle you should “buy quality fabrics that can be worn and washed in real life and stay nice-looking.” White pants are almost always an elegant fashion choice but between my goats and my students I haven’t worn them in years.

How well does your school’s heating and cooling system function? In the winter, I always plan on wearing a coat that I can keep on all day if the heat isn’t functioning. In warmer months, I wear layers and sometimes even bring a pair of sandals to change into if my feet get hot. ***

Can you walk a mile in those shoes? Because you are going to. I know it’s shocking to read on Mud and Grace Style, but invest in good shoes. Every teacher who weighed in on this article stressed the importance of good shoes. If your feet hurt, you will yell at your students. This is a fact.

Bobbie is ready for anything, which is probably what the day will bring.

My final piece of advice is to make sure you have what you need. Teachers spend so much time prepping their classrooms and lessons so everything will run smoothly once the crazy whirlwind called school kicks in. Spend some time prepping your wardrobe as well. Are your tights full of holes and likely to sag? Go get new ones. Are those once-cute ankle boots still in good shape, or do they need to be resoled and cleaned? Are all your foundational garments functioning as they should, because you really don’t want to be tugging at a bra strap during class. A little prep time on your wardrobe will leave you confident as you take on the most important job anyone could wish for.

Go get ‘em!

Me and Ann, on the last day of school in our uniforms, minus the jacket or sweater.

* I think once you own more than 5 critter sweaters, you automatically go into Primary Education.

** A little known hazard of the profession

*** I hate it when my feet are too hot

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please consider subscribing to have Mud and Grace delivered directly to your mail box.

Sock Love

We humans love our socks, and with good reason. There are somewhere around 7000 nerve endings in your feet, and every one of them wants to be cushioned in soft, cozy warmth.

img_8251
Happy in my simple raglan socks.

But beyond the longing of our feet for climate control and happiness, socks can be the final word on a person’s style. Anyone can pull on a smart looking jacket, but the perfect pair of socks peaking over the edge of a boot? That’s one powerful inch of knitwear.

Today, I have a few tips on how to wear socks, and then a few socks you might want to try.

With tall boots

Socks and boots can be mastered easily if you keep proportion and weight in mind. Tall, heavy boots can handle several inches of chunky sock. Delicate boots require less sock. A moderately oversized top, or a big comfy scarf will help balance everything going on down below. Unless the boots and socks are really sleek, a tight top can look a little out of place.

Outfit ideas for socks and tall boots:

• Boots, chunky sock, leggings, plaid shirt

ac06c4d193d5257c090b6f5bdf06982b
Your blogger was having fun creating outfits on Polyvore this morning.

• Rain boots, two or three layers of sock, skirt, fitted fleece top

9ae27c17a80d0fb8dc84f91ccbb5665b
Tights would not be amiss here on a cold day.

• Boots, chunky cable knit sock, jeans, cozy sweater

5dcf580340dfe0b7f1563f311e3bb757
This picture makes me want to justify another pair of brown boots.

When starting out, stick to neutral palettes in your comfort zone. Socks that are close in color to your leggings or jeans will look more natural.

Caveat: make sure your boots aren’t squishing your calves so the socks are spill out like ripped sausage casing. For some reason the fashion industry thinks women have really small calves right now. I look for boots with a wide shaft so there is plenty of room for my muscles and a fun pair of socks.

With ankle boots

When wearing ankle boots with jeans and socks you have two choices

One: Wear the sock on the outside of the jeans

5ad224f01ade8d94c1856fecaad45907
Simple and easy. Plus the rain doesn’t get into your boots

Two: Cuff the jean (one large cuff or several turns in a 1980s look are both fine right now) and let the sock peak out an inch or two.

5d07c1ee0602b6532e985130e7d81607
You probably have all this in your closet.

Caveat: When wearing chunky ankle boots (like Timberland) with socks be careful of a Europe-in-1937 look. Boots are cool, the rise of fascism is not. If your feet remind you of folks gunning for a rematch of World War One, switch it out.

Socks with Docs

I will never have the sort of urban cool it takes to pull off a pair of Doc Martins, but in my sock research I came across a fun trend of statement socks with Docs. Tall socks were worn with a skirt, shorter socks were paired with sharp cropped pants. It’s a cute look that I can admire without feeling the need to try.

123828482 187860923

This look will never be me, but it might be you.

Socks with sandals

That’s fine. I won’t judge. Honestly, once you’ve crossed that sock/sandal line, anything goes.

68701b9791feb622f506ba1b940aa981
You do you, honey.

General sock caveat: A sock breaks up the line of your leg, that’s why you rarely see socks on a model in a catalog. Socks look warm, fun, creative and interesting, but they also put a glitch into the line of your leg. If you’re going for a long, lean look, the socks will mess that up. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.

Socks Sampler:

Here are a few sock ideas to try. Also, this doubles as my list to Santa.

Simple

Start your sock quest with a few high quality pairs neutral colors.

186770549
Cable knit socks are always lovely.

Wool

In a highly scientific Facebook study, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who felt passionately about wool socks. Smartwool socks are beautiful, comfortable and wick moisture away from your feet. Lynette (previously mentioned on this blog as my most-put-together friend) wears Smartwool socks nearly everyday in black, brown and navy.

1c2852ad62300dcb87c3f270c3d671bf
Smartwool makes people happy, except for those it makes itchy.

Bright and mismatched

Anyone in contact with humans under the age of 25 have seen the love these people have for mismatched socks. There are some gorgeous socks out there in this style. Of course you can just mismatch socks you already have, with also cuts out the family chore of matching socks out of the dryer…

173710229
Free People socks are fun.

Bas de Laine

My friend Sandy, a native of Eastern Canada, swears by these socks, which you can find in wool or cotton. According to Sandy, “In French Canada if you are called a ‘bas de laine’ it means you are an earthy person …we would say a ‘granola’. I guess that defines me. My kids wear their warm socks in their Birkenstocks – true west coast ‘bas de laine’ kiddos!!”

055541-c
Sock monkey socks are apparently called Bas de Laine.
img_8220
Now I have a name for my favorite scarf, too!

Boot toppers and leg warmers

These are nice alternatives to socks for tall boots because they tend to be roomier and not smush your pants into your legs. They also don’t pull against your toes when you tug them up past your boots. I like leg warmers better because they serve function (warming your legs) as well as fashion. Boot toppers come in every imaginable color and style, and are ridiculously easy to get on and off.

img_8219
Boot toppers are fun and inexpensive. I never feel quite right in them, but I know any number of readers out there could rock a pair.

DYI leg warmers

In my extensive search for sock style I learned that you can make your own leg warmers by cutting the arms off old sweaters.

img_8222
The about-to-be-worn-again sweater.
img_8223
“Look ma! I have cashmere leg warmers!!! All my 1980s dreams are fulfilled!”

Now, before you start eyeing your sweater drawer like Lord Asriel looking at the connection between Roger and his daemon,* remember that this only applies to sweaters you really won’t wear anymore. Say a moth bit a chunk out of the front of your favorite cashmere sweater. You can’t hunt down that moth and make her serve her time, but you can enjoy some new legwarmers.

img_8216
Legit moth hole in sweater.

Statement socks

Fabulous, graphic socks aren’t just for 8-year-olds anymore. My friend Alli loves her Narwhal vs Unicorn socks. I know another young woman who wears wild Harry Potter-themed socks. The internet is awash with novelty footwear. Go find you favorites.

15301078_10208020856258519_1068407912_n
Alli’s best socks.

Homemade socks

My mom makes the most beautiful socks. If you are a knitter, invest in beautiful wool and make yourself some cozy, beautiful socks.

20161203_1557471
Thanks mom!

Do you need new socks?

A person can have too many socks. If your sock drawer resembles a mass of swarming, multicolored eels, you may need to go through your collection and get rid of unusable socks.

Recycle your socks if: they have holes in them, they fall down and scrunch up in your boots, they itch, or they in anyway impede your life.

Socks can be recycled into receptacles for loose chalk for your climbing chalk bag. They also make great sock puppets, which are always appropriate at work or in social situations.

20161205_143649
How much fun is it to teach about Einstein when he’s actually in the room?!

Socks, being practical, comfortable and stylish are a Mud and Grace must have. In stepping up our socks, we are showing much needed love to our feet. That said, don’t feel like you have to go sock-crazy. I will always love the simple line of jeans and Fryes, or an ankle boot quietly resolving a pair of slim cargos. And your socks can function just as well without your shoes, all you need is a lazy afternoon, nowhere to go and the nice, cozy pair of your choice. 7000 nerve endings will thank you.

img_8294
Contented feet.

*If you haven’t read the Golden Compass you really ought to.

Comfort and Joy: Your style guide for the holiday season

We have a really mellow holiday season planned. We’re just going to host Thanksgiving… and Christmas Eve…  Oh, and a birthday party and the staff party, then my sister’s coming up from California with her family, and my brother just called from Japan to confirm that we can host a dance party on New Year’s Eve.

No problem.

Our plans for visiting are just about as laid back as our home life. Fortunately, most of our events, like yours, are relatively casual. That said, I want to give a nod to the holiday season and dress up festively, if not elfishly.

Here’s my holiday wardrobe:*

Guest

This is my favorite dress. With a sparkly necklace it becomes fancy. Add simple accessories and it’s casual. There is no wintertime party to which I can’t wear this dress. Plus it’s soft and stretchy, so I can eat all the cheese and Carrs water crackers I want and not feel uncomfortable.

img_8127
Tip: Don’t wear boots if you’re going to a confirmed no-shoe household.

This top is just plain fun. I can pair it with black leggings for a grown-up, dress-up occasion, and jeans for everything else.

img_8103
This top could probably show up to the party without me and have a great time all on its own. Unfortunately, it can’t drive.

Hostess

I love these fluid joggers for hosting events in my home. This olive, silk top is open at the neck, balancing the weight of the pants, while still keeping up with the casual/elegant vibe. Plus the whole ensemble goes with my best apron.

img_8080
Flats? Check. Ponytail? Check. Drink?** Check. Let the guests arrive!

I like this for hostess as well. You can layer it over a little black dress, or leggings and a tank.

img_8175
What do we want to call this? Shawl? Kimono? All-purpose fringed party garment?

The non-ironic holiday sweater

If you want to go full-on reindeer, don’t let me stop you. I prefer something that gives a nod to the season without any flashing lights. These sweaters have a winter motif, but are in unexpected holiday colors.

Do you remember this Gap holiday sweater from the mid-1990s? I found it 2nd hand fifteen years ago and I’m still wearing it.

img_8169
It’s such a happy sweater. You can tell because it’s waving at you.
img_8172
I really stretch the season on this one. You can totally wear stars through February, right?

Off duty

Most of my holiday season will be spent with family and close friends. I love a cozy plaid shirt for hanging out and doing nothing, or doing everything, as is often the case at this time of year.

img_8162
Just one more cup of coffee before we head back out…

A little sparkle picks my mood up. I wear this t-shirt under a simple gray cardigan for a look that says, “Yes, I understand there are rules, and I totally plan on following them… for now.”

img_8185
Can you see the sparkles?
img_8186
Here’s an up-close of its sparkly loveliness.

Secret Weapon – The Holiday Coat

There is no better way to stay warm, cozy and appropriately festive than the holiday coat. You can wear absolutely anything under the coat and no one will ever know.

Headed out to a tree-lighting ceremony? Grab the coat. Volunteering to run your kids around as they gather cans for the school food drive? Put yer coat on. Running between three different Thanksgivings? Coat time!

img_8182
The September through November coat…

I have faced more holiday seasons without appropriate clothes than I care to remember. But now that I have the coat, no worries. I could wear my pajamas under it if I were so inclined.

img_8179
…and the November through February coat.

Jewelry

All over the world, there are celebrations of light at the darkest time of year. While I prefer very simple jewelry for everyday, this is the time to sparkle. Pull out your auntie’s broaches, your big pendant necklaces and that one piece of real jewelry you never wear because it’s not a special enough occasion. You, your friends, and your family? I can’t think of a better reason to break out the tiara.

img_7170
If there is ever a time to wear the cipher of Peter the Great, it’s at a dinner party.

Ultimately, this season is about coming together in love and friendship. You shouldn’t be worrying about a pilling sweater or a skirt that really doesn’t go with your top. Pick a few go-to hostess and party looks, and wear them every for every occasion from November through the middle of January. Then set yourself free to focus on peace of earth, and goodwill towards everybody.

img_7736
Pippin, ready to greet the guests in his winter coat.

*This post covers casual to moderately dressy events. For more formal events, see the next post, 38 Minute Fancy.

**The drink I’m holding is called The Slow Burn. I made it up. It’s a habanero / lime cocktail. Message me if you want the recipe.

**Drinking alcohol is for people of age, whose frontal lobes are fully formed and are not driving and/or are avoiding alcohol for any one of a number of good reasons. For you folks I have a sparkly version of the same beverage. It burns just a little bit hotter.

 

 

 

Top 7 Fall Transitional Pieces

 

All I want from my wardrobe is to pull the perfect pieces out of my closet, get dressed in less than three minutes, and love my outfit all day long, every day, for the rest of my life.

Is that too much to ask?

I hope not, because that’s where we’re heading. But fall can be a tricky season to dress through. We’re all craving our cozy sweaters and wool plaid jackets, but most days are still quite warm. It would be all well and good if it were just hot out, but mornings can be  chilly. Thus we all have to layer, which is one of the toughest chores in fashion.

The following pieces will help build a bridge between your summer and winter wardrobes. Find them in the rich colors you reach for in the fall, along with classic denim. Keep these items in heavy rotation as you eek out a few last days in your sundresses and tank tops. Then stir them into the mix when you start to pull sweaters out of storage.

A classic cargo jacket

IMG_7350
Sanctuary, new last spring

This work horse will slip over you sundresses as easily as it will a cashmere sweater. Wear it with jeans, a skirt or even a comfy pair of joggers on the weekend. It has the hip feel of a leather biker jacket without the weight.

A nano-puff vest

IMG_7355
Isis, new two years ago

Ever wonder why you feel so comfortable in a vest? The longer the eye can run in a straight, uninterrupted line the better it feels. (This is why you are tempted by solid color, sleeveless sheath dresses.) A vest not only adds warmth, it adds visual harmony to the universe.

I suggest a nano puff because they are warm but less bulky than traditional puffer vests. Add one, or five, nano puff vests to your wardrobe for easy warmth and interest. If you need more inspiration just google “Kate Middleton, vest” to see about a million pictures of this wardrobe staple working for one of the world’s most photographed women.

A trendy layer

IMG_6999
Life in Progress, 2nd Hand

Think of trendy items like that soccer player you dated off and on for a few months in college; Cute and super fun, but your not making any plans around them or investing too much. You might try fuzzy faux fur, a jumper or a nautical-inspired scarf. I found this bomber jacket at Value Village (Fall Style Research Part 1 – Value Village)  I’ll pop it on over skinnies or wear it with a skirt when I feel a little trendy energy would help me get through the day.

Skinnies (or your fit of choice casual pant) in a fall color

IMG_7358
From left to right; BDG, Lucky Brand, Old Navy, Generally new

I find skinny jeans are the easiest for my life of bike commuting and Frye-boot wearing, but find a shape that works for your body. ( Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece)  I’ll rotate through these, pairing them first with tank tops, then lighter blouses and finally my sweaters.

A light weight plaid shirt

IMG_7338
Target, new last winter

I found this at Target, and I wear it all the time. I sized up to a large, then had it hemmed several inches shorter so it had more of a boxy feel. It satisfies my need for rich fall colors, but the shirt itself is so light I can wear it on a warm day.

Closed-toe sandals and a cute pair of sneaks

IMG_7328
Roxy, new. Clarks, new last summer

When you aren’t wearing boots, an easy pair of slip on shoes can take you all over town and into any number of adventures. Right now you can find so many styles of cute sneakers. Vans and Converse are classics. Toms are always fun. Just because this shoe is casual, don’t assume it isn’t versatile. With a nice blazer you can dress them up easily, with a fun t-shirt they look hip and funky. Find your favorites and wear them all fall.

Closed-toe sandals help transition summer wardrobes into fall by providing a little more warmth and structure. You don’t want your toes freezing off on your bike ride in to work!

The perfect cross-body bag

IMG_7349
Patricia Nash, new

If there was ever a time you needed your hands free, it’s back-to-school, holidays-approaching, pick-up-another-box-of-mason-jars-because-the-apple-tree-is-going-nuts-this-year fall. The size and color of this Patricia Nash bag work for my needs and taste. Find one that fits your life.

These items will tide you over until you are ready to go fearlessly into the cooler weather. You can pull them out again in early spring, when you can’t stand a single item in your winter wardrobe and are itching for your summer clothes.

IMG_7326
Happy Fall!

P.S. Do you have a great fall transitional piece? Email me a picture and I’ll include it in inspiration.