back to school clothesYour Covid Back-to-School Clothes Guide

It’s the height of Back to School shopping season. This is the time of year most teachers abuse their credit cards stocking up for the classroom. Today, I want to talk about fashion, because it’s usually the time you’d get an outfit or two for yourself, too. A teacher’s got to look sharp for the first day of school…

I just bought a really nice sweater on Poshmark. I know it’s 103 degrees today, not really the type of day I want to think about hand-knit Irish wool–but that’s exactly why I got it.

  1. Nobody wants to think about hand-knit Irish wool today unless they have a death wish.
  2. Because of that, people are dumping things like hand-knit sweaters and winterwear–it’s the perfect time to buy.
  3. Part of my original “broke teacher” intervention was for me to stop being cheap. I learned to look for high-end things I want., but that doesn’t mean I have to spend a ton. This sweater will last me forever–it’s a quality piece, and since someone’s great aunt probably gave it to them at Christmas and they hate it, I got a deal.

So, in a normal year, I’d be reminding you to check your fall wardrobe and suggesting  pre-owned fashion sites like Poshmark or ThredUp, where you can upscale your shopping at a great price. Ebay’s coming through for pre-owned quality fashion, too. You can find anything–even obscure items–if you search those three sites and have a bit of patience.

But, this year’s a little different. You need Covid Clothes.

Just what are Covid Clothes?

Here are some things that are NOT “Covid Clothes”:

  • A hand-wash silk shirt.  (If you wear that into school to begin with, I question your sanity… schools ruin clothes).
  • A high-quality blazer.
  • Suits and dresses.
  • wrinkly tops and pants.
  • anything that can’t be washed in hot water and tossed in a drier.


Covid will kill clothes, you watch.

Right now, many of us are taking extra safety precautions when it comes to virus exposure. I know people still washing groceries, leaving mail on their porches for three days to make sure viruses are dead, and changing shoes at the door.

Even if you’re a little more relaxed and not hunting down Tyvek suits, your clothes are going to take a beating this year when you physically return to the classroom. Here’s why:

You’ll be spraying everything. 

Most schools have rules for what sprays they allow, and many will provide disinfectants. But, some won’t. In my former school, bleach wasn’t allowed because many custodians used ammonia-based cleaners.  Bleach and ammonia are bad together, so school banned bleach.

But, if you think I didn’t have a hidden bottle of Clorox spray, you’re mistaken. I didn’t use it often, but during flu season, that sucker came out under cover of darkness and did its job.

It also did its job ruining a bunch of my clothes.

You won’t be doing the “secret rewear.” 

If you teach high school you have this kid in your class–the freshman who wears the same hoodie ALL YEAR…

It’s not even because his family is struggling, it’s just because that’s what freshmen do, and no parent wants to argue with a 14 year old at 6:30 in the morning. At least he’s going to school.

The teacher version of this is what I used to do–wear an outfit and rehang the pants in the closet and wear them again–not the next day, mind you… but later in the week or the next week.

I read a study once saying Americans overwash laundry. This is true. I used to live overseas in a place with no laundry facilities and let me tell you those jeans were “good” for a solid couple weeks, minimum–even in the summer.

If you’re not running marathons in your jeans or cleaning out chicken coops like I am, your jeans and pants should be good for a few wears. But, I suspect during Covid, we’ll wash them daily.

That means you need clothes that stand up to 10x more washing in hot water, bleach, fireblasting, or whatever.  That crosses off the suit and jacket.  Besides, if you’ve got the money to take your suits and jackets to the cleaners after one wear, then you’re definitely not a teacher.

You do not want to live at your ironing board.

I dressed in a “uniform” of khakis and golf shirts for years because I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money ruining clothes at school and I objected to the concept of “dress down days” where we had to pay to wear jeans on Friday.

What I liked about “the uniform” was it was typical business casual, and as long as I took clothes out of the drier right away, I never had to iron.

Eventually my fashion sensibility improved. I outgrew the frumpy clothes and upped my game… But, I still hate to iron. It’s got to be an emergency before I plug that thing in. A job interview? A funeral? Wash and wear’s the only solution for me.

This is especially Covid-critical as your laundry load is at its high.

Dressing at the extremes…

Some teachers are buying scrubs like doctors and nurses and trading leather shoes for Danskos they can disinfect.  Other teachers are simplifying outfits so they have a small set of clothes that can be tossed in the wash at night. Some are planning to wear (gasp!) jeans since they’ll be required to disinfect several times a day.

Other teachers aren’t returning yet.

If you’re still teaching from home in the fall, you may be sporting the jeans and yoga pants. Good for you, but I do hope you’ll be out there in your favorite haute couture again soon–not only at school but meeting up with friends, eating out, and getting around like the good old days.

Until then, Covidize your wardrobe a little so you can toss everything in the wash. Be ready to be comfortable and wear clothes that won’t make you cry when you spritz bleach on the sleeve. Consider investing in a few wash and wear outfits–even on an online thrift shop while this situation lasts.

More importantly, stay well and take care of yourself.  The truth is you’ve got far greater concerns right now than “teacher clothes.” So, take this one worry off the table by putting a few expendable outfits in your closet and take a deep breath as you prepare for the year.

As always–it’s back to school shopping season–Do not spend your paycheck on your job! 

Take care of yourself well. It’s more important now than ever before.