As a teacher, it can be hard to strike that fashion balance that allows you to be approachable to your students, professional for your peers, and comfortable for standing, kneeling and walking all day. Oh, and washable.
So when Charlotte personal stylist Whitley Adkins Hamlin (thequeencitystyle.com) was asked by The Charlotte Observer to put together a fall fashion show for teachers at last month’s Southern Women’s Show, she started with some key basics, and built from there.
Hamlin’s idea of the basics? A white blouse, pair of black pants, black dress and a skirt were the backbone of the looks she put on her models, most of them local teachers.
And around that, she built the rest of the wardrobes, focusing on items that made the grade in comfort, color, durability, and perhaps most importantly, versatility.
▪ A navy blue blazer – her favorite is from J.Crew – which in her styling business she buys for high-ranking business executive clients as well as those who never set foot in a boardroom.
▪ A classic trench (“if you’re going to have one jacket in your closet, make it this one,” Hamlin says) is appropriate in any setting, and achievable at price points ranging from Target to Burberry.
▪ A flannel shirt in a neutral-colored base serves for dress-down days, while a sweater in Pantone’s of-the-moment hue, Oak Buff (a warm “golden yellow,” according to the color company), gives a trendy burst of color atop a pair of pants or even a dress.
▪ Elastic waistbands made the cut more than once, both on a pair of navy jogger pants (joggers are a trend that likely won’t have staying power, Hamlin says, but are comfortable and stylish enough to consider buying this season), and a soft knee-length denim skirt that looked great topped with a leather wrap belt.
“You need to be able to dress up or dress down a piece,” Hamlin said. “The chambray material skirt is more casual, but you can dress it up with a blazer, for example.”
Knowing how to layer also adds to the richness of any closet, Hamlin believes.
By layering a white blouse under a sleeveless sheath dress, the dress becomes useful in cooler temperatures and no longer needs a jacket or sweater on top.
That same dress, layered below a blouse and pullover sweater, gives the illusion of being a skirt.
Shoes and accessories must be chosen thoughtfully for a job like teaching that involves little sitting. Hamlin included two pairs of shoes by Concord-based designer Julie Lopez, an orthopedic nurse who designs shoes based on comfort and foot health: a pair of black flats and a python-print pump. The pump, Hamlin acknowledged, wouldn’t be worn in the classroom but would be the shoe a teacher changes into after work to transform her look “from day to play.”
She also chose brown riding boots and a pair of brown booties that could be interchanged with almost any outfit.
A leather wrap belt from Anthropologie dressed up the chambray skirt with elastic waistband on one model, and looked adorable tied high atop another model’s pregnant belly.
“Stick to neutrals for your bases, and then you can personalize your outfit by adding accessories that have color,” she says.
It doesn’t take a big budget to land on the teacher style honor roll, Hamlin says. It just takes knowing a few key pieces to buy with those hard-earned dollars.
You can get pieces like the ones chosen by stylist Whitley Adkins Hamlin at almost any budget, ranging from Target and T.J. Maxx to high-end boutiques and department stores. Some stores offer year-round discounts to teachers, including Ann Taylor, Loft, The Limited, J.Crew and J.Crew Factory. Shoppers at Gap in SouthPark Mall can take 25 percent off during September if they mention Hamlin’s blog, The Queen City Style (excluding some sales).