Take Khaki to the Next Level: Dress Tips for a Teacher
In Style- turn essential elements to turn khaki from drab to fab
Dear Sharon: I am an elementary Guidance Counselor. I struggle between being comfortable working with small children and looking professional for meetings. I like wearing khakis, loafers and a shirt, sweater or blazer daily. I would like to wear khakis everyday with different tops. Is this look too boring or uniform like? Could you give me some guidelines and/or suggestions?
-Koo Koo for Khaki (Pataskala/Columbus, Ohio)
Dear Koo Koo: Ms. Prettypredictible orders the exact same thing for lunch everyday. She sits down at the restaurant counter, Delores, the ever-attentive waitress, acknowledges her, winks, and without a word exchanged, a tuna melt is served up for Ms. Prettypredictible to devour. Voila, a happy diner!
Then there’s Ms. Cantmakeuphermind. Delores delivers her a menu. The sands of time flick by. One minute, two minutes, ten minutesůshe still cannot narrow down a lunch selection. Finally, Ms. Cantmakeuphermind decides on a tuna melt and a good lunch is had by all.
The moral of this story: There is a method to everyone’s madness. Yes, I could say Ms. Prettypredictible is a drag, but she is happy in her predictability. The universe is brimming with sooooo many possibilities that Ms. Cantmakeuphermind is stymied in indecision. Think of yourself as hovering on the stool right between these two women.
Sweetcakes, if you are asking if your work “uniform” is a bore, call this your fashion-up toot to expand your closet’s horizons. Perhaps it’s time to put a kibosh on khaki and explore other basics, or at least other shades of chino besides the color khaki (like stone, olive, gray, or tobacco). A tender note: The color tan does not make for the prettiest can. When you do wear khaki, peek at your rear and see that the pants have a flattering fit.
If you are absolutely content in your monotony, then call it your “look” and thrive on your self-induced standardizationů hey, it surely must give more time in the morning to do other things since you don’t have to spend a minute deciding what to wear.
But I say, expand your repertoire, break out of the duping doldrums, and have fun with clothes! I am not asking you to torch your old stand-bys and get whochy-koochy with Gucci, just sprinkle a few brighter, bolder pieces that express individuality. Your sudden burst of personal expression may even keep your students on their toes.
Camel is very hot now, so choosing of the moment accents that complement khaki will be a cinch. A sleeveless ruby turtleneck sweater. A tweed Eisenhower jacket. A lean paisley silk shirt. A plum cashmere shell. A classic camel wrap coat. A humongous herringbone pattern V-neck. Call caution to the wind, and toss in a pair of Bordeaux leather pants, no not the disco kind, the new classic kind! Even add a houndstooth skirt, just to remind yourself that you have legs you can show off.
Denim was dominant for a while and is the perfect transitional fabric. Not necessarily the well-worn kind that would probably be way to casual for a Guidance Counselor, but a sturdier, darker-rinse with more refined tailoring than standard cowboy garb. Look for the fabric in unexpected styles usually reserved for cottons or silks.
Pleaaaze tell me you are not doing the gold buttoned navy blazer with pleated khakis thingů it’s so a generation ago Yuppie, or is that yucky?
Blazers have been on a fashion sabbatical for a few seasons now, but have now trickled their way back into style. Stay clear of any oversized, unconstructed “boyfriend” jackets and look for more close-to-the-body tailoring in interesting fabrics or a bold jacquard print sweater jacket. Hey, this may not be what you expect to be rolling down the corridors wearing, but it sure looks modern sitting behind a desk!
When you do wear khaki, wear it in style, like a bootcut. Or, hack the bottom to right about the ankle and show off a great pair of shoes. Sorry to burst your habitual bubble, but loafers are not “it” right now– a more feminine shoe shape prevails, like a textured pump or a dark red boot. Add a short strap duffle bag and something unexpected for khaki like a skinny chain belt to snazzy up the classic feel.
You probably don’t need that many new pieces to infuse variety into your wardrobe. A handful of freshness goes a long way in the mix. Bloom!
Resident fashion expert & style mentor- With just about 20 years experience in the glamour industry as a New York-based photography fashion stylist, syndicated columnist, contributing editor, lecturer, on-air television/radio fashion expert, and founder / editor in chief of FocusOnStyle.com. Sharon Haver knows the modern-thinking woman wants easygoing style that suits her individual needs, spiced with just the right amount of flip and wit to make it personal.