Style Me Grasie How To Wear The Same Clothes But Look Different Grasie Mercedes

Hillary writes:

Hi Grasie, In addition to all you smart, funny ladies over there at Hello Giggles, I am especially loving your style blog. I’m a single 27-year-old teacher and work at both a middle school and a high school. Like everyone else, I too am trying to make outfits that make me feel good and let my personality shine… while on a budget. I basically memorized both your back to school and casual work style blogs, but here’s the catch. At the high school (and even the middle school!), students come to school wearing sometimes the exact same Forever21, Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom BP pieces that I also have hanging in my closet. While I don’t mind owning the same clothing items as others (that’s what you get when you shop at big chain stores), I don’t want people to think that I don’t know the difference between myself and my students 10 or 15 years my junior. How can I style my “pants + t-shirt + blazer outfits” to look  more mature yet also interesting? When buying items from these stores, are there color palates or certain cuts/styles that I should be looking for? Any ‘tips for teacher’ would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!! :)

Hi Hillary! I feel your pain. I once went to a wedding wearing the EXACT SAME dress as a pregnant woman (I was not pregnant) and it wasn’t even a cheap dress! But it was a very distinct dress, a long silk maxi with a floral pattern from a department store. What I learned from that embarrassing situation is to rarely (almost never) buy distinct patterns at chain or department stores. You’ll notice that most of the items I suggest on Hello Giggles and on my personal style blog are staple pieces, solids and simple patterns. I do this because I want my clients and readers to have a basic canvas to work with and make their outfits original and distinct via accessories, styling and vintage finds. So, my advice to you is this…

  • When shopping chain and department stores, go for solids and basics. Stay away from very distinct patterns and pieces. In other words, if 2 people in a room are wearing dark denim jeans and a black blazer, no one would really notice. However, if 2 people in a room are wearing a long silk maxi with the same floral pattern, Houston, we have a problem!
  • Make your outfits your own with statement accessories and styling. Try a fun necklace, a scarf around your neck or as a belt or a great pair of wedges or boots. Layering is also a great tool. If you have a patterned blouse on, throw a blazer or cardigan over it, to change up the look.
  • Look to local boutique and vintage shops and thrift stores like Goodwill or The Salvation Army to find distinct pieces and fun patterns. These are the places you want to shop for dresses, tops, bags and shoes that your students will likely not also have in their closets.
  • Finally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the I don’t want people to think that I don’t know the difference between myself and my students 10 or 15 years my junior. As long as what  you’re wearing is work appropriate, I personally don’t see fashion as being age restricted. This is especially true if you’re talking about a pants + shirt + blazer look… If you ask me, that can work on someone 15, 20, 40 or 75!
Hope this helps! And thank you for teaching…it’s a admirable profession that’s not nearly thanked enough :)
Too Similar photo via Fashionlee 
Similar But Wonderfully Different photo via All Women’s Weekend 
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  1. Another way to avoid looking like the students – keep stuff on the looser side. I also stay away from full length skinny jeans with flats, as that silhouette is very teen- ish. Ankle length skinnies work. Also, any knee length skirt is classic, young, and fun while still being adult.

    But don’t listen to me, I was mistaken for an 8th grader during a fire drill even though I was wearing a button down…

  2. As a 20-something teacher myself I have the same fear! Thanks for the blazer-shirt-pants look idea!

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