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How To Dress Like a Grown Up Without Going Dullsville

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Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column. Addressing a different reader's fashion glitch each week, he tackles all the hard-hitting issues—like whether you can wear white to a wedding and where to find cute shoelaces.

Just dress like this: A Chic Teacher snap from Elle Mexico via Grand Glam.

Dear Frank,

I'm starting grad school next month and I have to teach. I've been freelancing in an industry that is very encouraging of personal flair, plus working from home, so I'm worried I'm out of touch with the rest of the world's notion of professional attire. I have a feeling Margiela bodysuits and high-waisted shorts won't be appropriate in the classroom. How should I dress so as to command my students' respect while still feeling like myself?

Going Back to School

Dear Back to School,

I'm definitely a proponent of wearing one's flair on one's sleeve—even if some people don't necessarily possess enough flair of their own to truly appreciate said flair. But you can't let those plebs quash your flair!

Certainly, yes, you will need to clean up a little. You will need to dress a bit more professionally. But I think if you're a person who already owns a little Maison Martin, you probably already have some good, quality options in your closet.

Plus, I can't imagine you never having had a teacher who bent the dress code rules a little bit here and there. Teachers you started loving because of their great haircuts or chic silk blouses and ended up remembering because they were the great teachers—because they were the cool teachers. The one you would imagine at home—she just had to drive a rusted out, 30-year-old BMW; smoke French cigarettes; read Flannery O'Connor; inherit Hermès scarves and little Balenciaga dresses from some eccentric wealthy aunt.

Now it's your turn to be that fabulous, interesting teacher that you wondered about. Be that teacher!

So, you know, cover your shoulders and keep the cleavage in check. Don't go too casual. Don't go too weird. Limit the fashion—or flair—to maybe one piece per outfit. Definitely don't dress too young—you won't command any respect if you're dressing more like a student than a teacher. But know that exhibiting a little awareness of cool, of hip, of fashion, of style—that will win you points. At least with the cool, weird kids who are the ones that matter anyway. The ones who'll be buying Margiela in a few years.

Shorts that work!

And, excuse me, why can't you wear a high-waisted short? I love that knit tight/tailored short look. Pick up some houndstooth or chevron tights. Tie it together with a silk or broadcloth buttondown and a shrunken blazer—so professorial. But cute!

You also can't go wrong with anything preppy or collegiate looking, frankly. Trim chinos, tailored blazers, slouchy cardigans. If that's a little too Americana, cute it up with some Annie Hall. If that's a little too menswear, Look to Michelle Obama. A-line dresses; pencil skirts; understated jewelry; cigarette pants; eye to detail; the stylistic chutzpah to pull off combining navy blue and black. With pearls. And lovely shoes.

Bulk up what you already have with some basics from Gap, J.Crew, or Uniqlo. Take a cue from the boho-office direction Club Monaco has been heading in.

Annie Hall via the Ace Black Blog.

And never, ever underestimate the power of a fabulous, enormous scarf and/or a fantastic, slim belt (silk for the former; ponyhair for the latter).

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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