Teacher Outfit Ideas for Back to School Night

It’s back to school time! At our school, back-to-school night, a.k.a., open house, is held the evening before our high school students’ first day of attendance. I think most other schools have their open houses the first week or two of school. Whenever it’s held, back-to-school night is often the first time teachers meet parents in a school year. We all know first impressions are important, so teachers may spend a little extra time figuring out what to wear than usual.


Guy teachers have it a little easier: most I’ve seen wear a shirt and tie, polo shirt, or other type of button down shirt and either khakis or dress pants. Done. Unless teacher uniforms, which I have heard are becoming more common in schools, are involved, female teachers have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Well I get overwhelmed, anyway. Do I wear pants? A skirt? A dress? What’s the temperature like in the building? How much time am I going to have to get changed beforehand?


There’s definitely not any one way to go: I’ve worn all of the things I mentioned above before to open houses, and once I even wore knee-length dress shorts and a matching suit jacket. I know that probably sounds like an AC/DC Angus Young look, but I wore it with heels and a statement necklace, and I swear there were no stripey ties or schoolboy caps involved.

So I thought I’d post a few simple outfit “formulas” (formulae?) teachers can fall back on when they look into their closets and see nothing to wear to open house night. The lovely ladies you see modeling open house outfit ideas today are some of the best English teachers I know, and they happen to teach across the hall from me.



All of the outfit formulas you’ll see here meet the following criteria:

  • Professional (well, duh)
  • Comfortable (back-to-school nights usually involve a lot of walking around, hand shaking, and pointing)
  • Adjustable to varying temperatures (August temps coupled with over- or under-filled classrooms make this a necessity; it’s good to wear something you can quickly add a cardigan or jacket to if your sweltering room goes frigid before and after all of the parents and kids are there like mine does)
  • Quick and easy to change into in 10 minutes or less (most often we have back-to-school nights after a full day of teaching or meetings)


FORMULA 1: Maxi Dress

Maxi dresses are the ultimate in comfort and always look elegant due to their length and drape. They flatter anyone and everyone, and they have the potential to be dressed up or down, depending on the level of formality you want to project. You can bling them up with a statement necklace, earrings, or bracelets (not all at once though, okay?) or keep it simple and let the focus be on the pretty print like my girl Tabitha did below. Tabitha styled her gorgeous floral-print maxi dress with a pair of cute sandals.

Maxi Dress Options:


FORMULA 2: Shirt Dress

Shirt dresses always look professional. They come in a variety of lengths, but the ones that would probably work best for an open house night are those that are just above, at, or just below the knee. A shirt dress lets a cute pair of shoes shine and also works well with a piece of statement jewelry since shirt dresses tend to be solid colors or smaller, simpler prints. Janine’s cutout peep-toe shoes and statement necklace are perfect with the subtle print and darker color of her maxi dress. And if you’re shopping for shirt dresses, think about whether you want to emphasize or de-emphasize your waist. A shirt dress with a belt or tie-waist will give definition to your waist, while one without these features will draw the eye away from it. Janine’s tie-waist looks perfect on her!

Shirt Dress Options:


FORMULA 3: Tunic + Skinny Pants

Pants and a tunic are another great back-to-school-night option. When worn with a lengthy tunic, you can wear skinny pants or even a pair of thick, opaque leggings. The tunic brings the punch, and the pants can be a neutral backdrop. Once again you can bring in a piece of statement jewelry, and since most skinnies and leggings are ankle length, your shoes will be spotlighted. Terra’s sleeveless tunic is in a beautiful, bright print that is cheerful and fun, but still polished and professional. Terra paired her tunic with layered gold/silver necklaces and cute metallic sandals.

Tunic Options:

FORMULA 4: Shift Dress

A shift dress is a simple, quick way to look professional for an open house. Depending on the style of the dress, you can dress it up with accessories or let it shine. Since my dress had a fairly bold set of colors and pattern, I wore a simple delicate gold necklace and lace-up block heel sandals with it. Shift dresses work very well with blacers, moto jackets, and long or short cardigans. I brought a long sleeved navy cardigan to wear before and after my room heated up with people and activity.

Shift Dress Options:



FORMULA 5: Skirt and a Tee

I don’t have a photo from my own back-to-school night for this formula, but it’s a total no-brainer. You pick a skirt, either casual or more dressy, and pair it with a tee that is either less or more dressy than the skirt. For example, you might choose a dressy tee or top with a more casual white or blue denim skirt. Or you could choose a plain white or black tee with a printed pencil, A-line, or maxi skirt. Honestly, a black and white striped tee with a black skirt is one of the best ways to do this. It’s simple, most people have a striped tee and a black skirt, and if you dress up your shoes a little bit, even if your tee and skirt are pretty casual, they’ll look professional. Personally I’d steer clear of mini skirts for open houses, and probably for the classroom in general. Here are a couple of photos that will give you the idea of what I mean.

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I know the shirt I’m wearing in the 3rd photo isn’t a tee, but a white, black, or really any color solid tee would look perfect with this graphic print skirt.

Skirt and Tee Options:



Of course you can always wear a button down shirt and chinos, and anything else classic and a touch preppy is probably safe as well. Β Above all, though, you want to wear something that you feel confident in. If you’re worrying about how you look, tugging at a hemline, or sucking anything in, you’re not going to be able to focus on what you need to: your students and their parents.


Teaching can be incredibly exhausting and difficult, but pulling something quickly out of your closet for open house night shouldn’t be. Best of luck to all of the teachers, and parents, and students who are heading back to school this time of year! It definitely takes a village.


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  1. Great post! Good ideas for parents going to open house, as well! Unfortunately, I’m not seeing your links. πŸ™

    • Thanks! And thanks for letting me know about the links. I’ll check them when I get home later. I can see them on my phone, but for some reason it took forever to load so maybe there’s something going on.

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