Professional Practice

Wear Your Color Wheel… and Get Your Mornings Back!

Lee and student in matching outfits

After years of ruining my favorite clothes with paint and clay, I decided to simplify to avoid the frustration and disappointment. No more frantic mornings debating what to wear for me!

Instead of wearing a small smock over my outfit, I’d be smocked from head to toe from now on.

If you teach little ones, you know any exposed area – and I mean ANY –  becomes a bulls-eye for messy hands. I decided on Dickie’s coveralls. Yes, the one-piece get-up worn by factory and road workers. My challenge, make the functional choice look cool. After purchasing several coveralls, I used fabric paint and patches to decorate each set differently.

One sports a color wheel on the back; another is strewn with patches of famous works of art. Each coverall set has its own look. Now, each day I slip on leggings and a camisole, throw on whatever coveralls are handy, and off I go!

You can get ready in less than five minutes and be ready for whatever your day – and students – throw at you…literally.

uniform that says "I love art."

If the full body coveralls seem like too much of a commitment, you can try your own version of a uniform or a capsule wardrobe.

Many successful people have embraced the idea. A capsule wardrobe is a limited number of timeless, go-to pieces that can be augmented to work in any season.

If you are debating adopting either a uniform or a capsule wardrobe, consider the following advantages…

  1. Make fewer decisions each day.
    How great would it be to have one less decision to make each day? Waking up to don a predetermined uniform allows you more mental space to use for a higher purpose. Plus, later on in the day – when you are on your hands and knees tying shoelaces – you’ll also be glad you don’t have to worry about the length of your skirt or the angle of your blouse. The freedom of movement you gain is astounding and freeing.
  2. Meaningless side conversations about my wardrobe are a thing of the past!
    Art teachers generally have style. We are aesthetically in-tune people. Coming from the world of fashion, at first, I missed exercising my fashion sense each day. However, as time wore on and I noticed how much less time I spent addressing questions about my wardrobe, I couldn’t deny the uniform was a win. Now, my students focus on the art-themed smocks instead of admiring my clothing mindlessly. My uniform is now a teaching tool.
  3. Waste less time and energy while saving money!
    Preparing a wardrobe requires time and energy. Shopping, tailoring, pressing, folding, sorting, and coordinating are tedious and never-ending chores. Opting for a uniform allows you to wash fewer loads of laundry, shop far less frequently, and devote less time and money to a work wardrobe. As a bonus, I’ve found I now have more to spend on nicer items I can wear worry-free on the weekends and in my personal time.
  4. Animated or illustrated characters have been doing it forever… and we call them ICONIC.
    We are all comforted by the fact that Winnie the Pooh is always rocking his tummy-bearing red crop-top. Plus, Winnie gets to sleep in a few extra minutes instead of ironing a button down! Couldn’t you use a few extra minutes in your morning? Alice Gregory, a New York writer, embraced the idea of a uniform saying, “Wearing a uniform is … a way of asserting your status as a protagonist. This is the reason why characters in picture books never change their clothes: Children—like adults, if they’d only admit it—crave continuity.”

Every year, my school has a day when students become their favorite teacher and must take over their job. Last year, my “student teacher” surprised me by buying a set of her own identical coveralls and painting them to match mine!

Lee and student in matching outfits

It was fantastic and reminded me that a uniform is not necessarily dull. It can be a sign that you’ve arrived at a place where you are comfortable, confident, and even inspiring.

Do you currently wear a uniform? What does it consist of?

Would you consider a uniform and/or capsule wardrobe?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lee Ten Hoeve

Lee Ten Hoeve, an elementary and middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners.

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