Who wears short-shorts? Apparently, not teachers or First Ladies

This silly flap over Michelle Obama wearing shorts on her vacation brings up a question for me.  A neighbor came home a few years ago from her public school upset over a new dress code that forbid her from wearing Teva sandals and casual slacks. She taught pre-k, and it was important for her to be able to get on the floor quickly. She also did a lot running and physical stuff with her class of 4-year-olds.

Her principal was seeking a “Dress for Success” effect, but she felt that his standards did not take into consideration what was appropriate in a classroom of young children.

I’ve even noticed on field days that teachers are far more formally dressed than the parent volunteers. I have  very seldom seen teachers in shorts on the field, even when it was 85 degrees and humid. (Just the typical spring day in Atlanta.)

Another neighbor teaches at a private school, and she can wear almost anything to her school, as can the students. (Adding a short note here after having lunch with my sister-in-law who teaches at a private school in NC. She said younger teachers at her school liked to wear the popular fashions, much of which involved low-cut tops. While the empire dresses and tops were a hit with the young dads, the school felt they had to go. Do young kids even notice what their teachers wear or don’t wear? My sister-in-law said I’d be surprised at what age kids start paying attention.)

Are there still dress codes for faculty? Parents, do you care what teachers wear? (I don’t – whatever is comfortable works for me.)

36 comments Add your comment


August 21st, 2009
11:51 am

I am all for comfort, but it still needs to be professional. I taught Pre-K a few years ago and wore jeans every day. I just wouldn’t feel right wearing shorts. Just because it is hot outside doesn’t mean it is hot inside! If I ever decided to wear shorts, I would be very careful about the length – they would have to be close to the knee. No Daisy Dukes!

Turd Ferguson

August 21st, 2009
12:18 pm

All women should wear short shorts…well maybe not all but most.



August 21st, 2009
12:54 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with the shorts Michelle Obama wore at least as far as the length, wouldn’t consider them daisy dukes by any stretch. I don’t think she looks particularly good in them regardless of the length. But if that’s what she wants to wear then go for it.


August 21st, 2009
12:59 pm

I think I would wear jeans almost every day if I could. We do have a faculty dress code. It just says professional dress.

DeKalb Conservative

August 21st, 2009
1:14 pm

Careful what you wish for. This is just asking for isolated incidents male faculty members wearing Daisy Dukes (cutoff jean shorts) as a means of comfort and 1st amendment free speech.

What's Best for Kids?

August 21st, 2009
1:34 pm

The dress should fit the class and the grade level. I don’t think it’s appropriate for teachers to wear hose and heels if they are crawling around on the floor with their students. On the same note, it’s not really appropriate for teachers to be wearing sweats in a traditional classroom setting, either.

Teacher, Too

August 21st, 2009
2:06 pm

Certainly in middle school, teachers should dress more professionally– no rubber beach flip flops, shorts (whatever length, unless you’re a PE coach),short skirts (barely fingertip length) or lowcut tops. If we want to be treated like professionals, then we should look like professionals.

Regarding the First Lady– what she wants to wear on vacation is fine. However, stepping off of Air Force One is considered a public appearance and a photo-op. She should be dressed more appropriately as she is presenting herself to the public as the First Lady. She was not on vacation at that time.

Joy in Teaching

August 21st, 2009
2:47 pm

I’m a middle school teacher. My county does have a dress code which states professional dress. Anything shorter than an inch above the knee is inappropriate. Sleeveless or low-cut anything is inappropriate. Tshirts (unless it is school-approved spirit wear) is inappropriate. There are always those teachers who manage to get away with things because they are either friends with the administration or because the administration is too busy elsewhere to care. My principal does allow appropriate jeans on Friday with either a collared shirt or the school-approved spirit T-Shirt.)

Maureen, there are shoes (besides sports sandles) out there that your friend can wear for ease of motion that are still appropriate. I have several pair of Sketchers, for instance, that I wear when my class is doing more strenuous activities.

Reality 2

August 21st, 2009
3:13 pm

A lot of people seem to be in favor of uniforms for kids – so why not uniforms for teachers???

In Japan, a lot of elementary teachers wear athletic wears – shorts/jersies/t-shirts/etc. because they are expected to play with kids or get down on the floor, etc. Of course, they usually wear a more “professional” cloth to and from schools and change once they get there. In secondary school, many teachers wear white lab coats over whatever they are wearing – I think it started as a pragmatic way to deal with chalk dust, but many just keep doing it even though they use whiteboards now.


August 21st, 2009
3:22 pm

If teachers want to be respected and considered to be the professionals that they are, then they need to dress that way. I got so sick of the kids just out of college who were hired as new teachers — they had NO CLUE how to dress, and enough chutzpah and arrogance to be offended when someone told them that the miniskirt or the skin-tight top that showed cleavage was not appropriate attire. Ironically, they seemed to thrive on the attention they’d get. (The parents would call them “Latourneaus”)

You better believe kids notice. Kids unconsciously (or even consciously) form their ideas of what is appropriate by seeing what their teachers wear. Obviously, you don’t wear a cocktail dress to field day — but at some point, yes, kids need to learn that there ARE differences in appropriate dress. In high school, my daughter almost always got any job she interviewed for during the interview, because she would go to the interview dressed appropriately — the interviewer knew that they were hiring someone who dressed neatly and that they weren’t going to have to be constantly sending home to change.

If the kids are in uniform and have a dress code — why not the teachers? If the kids are supposed to be serious about learning — shouldn’t the teachers be serious about teaching?

BTW, I see nothing wrong with Mrs. Obama’s shorts. At least she has the legs for them. She’s on vacation — give her a break.


August 21st, 2009
3:55 pm

Regarding teachers wearing uniforms: When I taught in Florida, my school instituted a dress code for students. In the spirit of fairness, I shopped for skirts, shirts and jumpers for myself as well. It was a great three years. Cotton, twill, everything went with everything. It was incredibly economical and convenient. Bring on those uniforms. I love them. I always looked professional, nothing was sent to the dry cleaners, and the kids recognized and appreciated the gesture.


August 21st, 2009
5:00 pm

If Michelle Obama wants to wear shorts and dress like she is going to the dump, that is OK with me as long as she flies commercial. When she is flying on MY tax dollars, I expect her to dress appropriately, and attempt to display at least a modicum (or appearance) of class.


August 21st, 2009
5:48 pm

Teachers are professionals. I work in SID/PID and do a lot of walking/floor activities. I manage to look professional, be comfortable and have never worn heels. If you expect the kids to not dress trampy, you should not either.


August 21st, 2009
5:57 pm

As First Lady, Michelle Obama has a position, an office, a staff, etc…she should dress appropriately, and IMO many of the outfit she’s worn so far for public appearances were not appropriate.

Teachers should also dress appropriately, but I agree that what’s appropriate varies with the age level and class.

Shannon, M.Div.

August 21st, 2009
6:32 pm

There’s a generational divide in play here, I believe. Remember the flap because some young ladies wore sandals (glorified flip-flops) to meet President Bush?

Look, if you’re teaching very young children and need to be on the floor, you should be able to wear casual pants. If you’re teaching high school English, you should dress in business casual. And if you’re the First Lady taking your kids to the Grand Canyon on *vacation*, then it’s nobody’s effing business what you wear. Honestly, Trish, grow up. She looked fine for a *family vacation*, and you can’t fly commercial if you’re the President’s wife.

Bet you’d gripe if she tried to fly commercial and you were on that flight, having to deal with all the Secret Service folks trying to protect her against disgruntled would-be troublemakers.

But, you know, anything to take a potshot at her, right?

She’s beautiful, and she’s got more important things to do than fret about her outfits. Wish we did.

trying hard to be patient

August 21st, 2009
7:13 pm

I believe teachers should dress professionally. But, I also believe teachers who work with special needs kids or even Kindergarten kids should be able to wear tennis shoes and comfortable slacks. I would love to be able to wear a uniform everyday to my job at an elementary school. Khaki or Navy slacks with a school shirt and comfortable shoes would be great. On the Michelle Obama vacation outfit: She should be able to wear what she wants. Comfort is what it is all about!


August 21st, 2009
7:42 pm

trying hard to be patient,
Are you saying you aren’t allowed to wear khaki or navy pants already? What on earth are you required to wear?


August 21st, 2009
8:17 pm

Having worked in schools for over 10 years, it never ceases to amaze me what some teachers come to work wearing. I’ve seen every kind of flip flop, skin tight jeans, low cut shirts, slinky dresses, outfits that look like club gear, and a lot of other crap. What the heck are these people thinking when they look in the mirror in the morning? Maybe, “I look hot!” No, you look like a freakin fool! I don’t have a problem with educators dressing casually and comfortably, especially for Pre-k, K, and some special ed classes. But I get tired of people wearing clothes to work that are clearly revealing, suggestive, or just plain sloppy. Have some respect for yourselves and dress the way you would want your child’s teacher to dress.

trying hard to be patient

August 21st, 2009
8:50 pm

Yes we can wear khaki or navy pants as long as they look professional. I just want comfort without having to wear heels and skirts or dresses everyday.

Reality Check

August 21st, 2009
10:01 pm

EW! She looks sooooooo bad. Cover up those legs girl! Michelle’s shorts are way shorter than Malia’s. She looks like she’s having a day sitting around the back porch – not riding around in AF1.
Gimme a break!!! What a horrible example. EW!


August 21st, 2009
10:59 pm

Reality 2

The minute I have to wear a uniform to teach is the minute I leave public education.

special needs preschool teacher

August 21st, 2009
11:05 pm

I work with special needs preschoolers from 3 to 5 years in age, and I always dress professionally. I do choose carefully (i.e., no short skirts) so that I can play on the floor with the children. Though I have had few problems, I did learn early on that white and preschool art projects don’t mix well at all.

give me a break

August 21st, 2009
11:13 pm

As a 40 something woman, I see no problem with Michelle Obama’s clothing choices. It seems the media desires controversy and many are way too judgemental. Her shorts were not an inappropriate length nor was she attending a formal function. My tax dollars say the shorts are just fine. I am more concerned with her character than her casual wear.


August 22nd, 2009
7:56 am

I am a middle school teacher. We are not permitted to wear shorts, jeans, tennis shoes, or flip flops on a regular school day. The PE coaches can wear knee-length shorts in khaki and tennis shoes. On Fridays teachers who pay $5 can wear jeans provided the jeans are not ragged, tight, excessively faded, or holey. The $5 goes into a fund part of the year for a national charity, the other half of the year for dwindling general account funds.
We are held to a professional standard at our school. We believe that you should be able to walk down the hall and tell the difference between a staff member and a student on first glance.
Our custodians wear slacks and uniform shirts. Our cafeteria staff and nurse wear scrubs. The front office staff, bookeepers, and other support staff wear the same type of clothes as the teachers.
We all wear IDs.

Reality 2

August 22nd, 2009
8:23 am


Are you ok with uniforms for students? What if they are designed by some famous designers and very fashionable (and professional)? What if there are 5-6 from which to choose, that is, on any given day, you are still choosing, just the range of choice is determined? What about the uniform that will drive you out of this profession?

Old School

August 22nd, 2009
10:01 am

I would have no problem wearing a uniform. In fact, there are many school days I wear khakis and a school logo polo shirt with my white athletic shoes. This nearly 60 year old veteran instructor learned years ago that concrete floors and aging legs are not a good combo. Although I’ve never been challenged on my choice of footwear (I even wear them with dresses) I’m quite prepared to hand over a note from my podiatrist. Fortunately, as long as our staff dresses neatly, professionally and appropriately for our areas (I’m in CTAE), our wardrobes are up to us. A donation to Positive Parents allows us to wear jeans on Fridays. I donate but seldom wear jeans.

I guess I just made a smart choice in school systems. I’ve been happy for 35 years here (my first year was in another system) so far.

Gwinnett citizen

August 22nd, 2009
12:09 pm

What a lame topic for this blog–surely there are more worthwhile topics we could be discussing.


August 22nd, 2009
12:17 pm

Schools should put forth a professional image and certain styles of dress do not give the positive impression needed. Unfortunately, too many people judge others based solely upon these superficial issues. The quality of a school is only measurable over time by the calibre of students it produces. The parent satisfaction with the level of education from the school is another top indicator. I have never seen any research that links teachers’ dress to student achievement.

Impressions are important and teachers set the tone for the school.

It is absolutely ridiculous for the media or anyone else to spend time judging Mrs. Obama based on the wearing of shorts, sleeveless dresses, or other silliness. It seems to me that some people need to get a life if those are the kinds of things they deem to be important.


August 22nd, 2009
12:24 pm

Old school brings up a very important dress issue for teachers. Be kind to your feet! Flip-flops are not kind and are not allowed in my school. Many dressy shoes for women are unkind to feet. My wife has had foot surgery as a result of really nice shoes that cause damage. That leads me to add a note to my previous post, there must be room in a school dress code for comfort. Teachers must be able to get on the floor or do outside learning activities with children. Skirts, dresses and heels make those activities nearly impossible.


August 22nd, 2009
12:24 pm

I also agree with Gwinnett citizen – this is a lame topic!


August 22nd, 2009
6:46 pm

I fly commercial for business/pleasure all the time and I would not wear shorts on the plane.

I do wear shorts on vacation and at home in the summer. I do not have the legs for them.

That being said, does anyone want to comment on how HOT it is in Arizona…in the summer? I think a sundress or tasteful slacks, maybe capris for the trip and then she can wear the shorts once she gets there….the entire time!

Three summers ago, I met a teacher at the beach. She was from New Jersey and taught 3rd grade in a very poor district. She told me that all teachers had to wear “nylons” ( her words) and closed toe shoes and that they did not even have air conditioning in the school. They attend school until mid June. I could not imagine it but she said that her school felt they should look professional as the children needed to see what professionals look like.

It is a shame that folks today do not dress for respect. There is a time and place for casual dress but many think that time and place is 24/7. Proper attire can go a log way….too bad some do not know this!


August 23rd, 2009
8:14 am

Can we please maintain some common sense about the “photo op, my tax dollars, expectations” etc. So let’s say she steps off the plane in a Talbot’s dress for her hike at the Grand Canyon – where should she change, people? Seriously. She’s going on a hike. She’s dressed for a hike.


August 23rd, 2009
9:28 am

At the school where I work we can’t have pants 6″ above our ankles (if your tall like me then capri’s are out), no flip flops are shoes that only go between your toes. If we wear jeans we have to pay $3.00 to a charity fund. I think most people stick to it the dress code. We have one teacher who wears her pants so tight that you can actually see the lips of her privates. Every time I pass her I think how uncomfortable that must be. What is sad is I think she believes it is sexy looking. She teaches 4th grade so is she trying to turn the young boys on?


August 23rd, 2009
3:39 pm

I am not a teacher, however I have gone to schools where the the children have to wear uniforms. Talk about uncomfortable. Can you imagine a teacher having to run around and get students out of a class room with heels on? Not to mention the fact that wearing heels all the time tears you feet up. There should be room for comfort wheather your a student or a teacher. It makes no sense to have childeren hot and uncomfortable because of your personal beliefs. As for Mrs. Obama, she is a vision of beauty and grace in whatever she wears. It makes no difference. I think she knows what is appropriate and what is not when stepping out in public for different occations. There is absolutely nothing wrong with here wearing a sleeveless shirt or shorts.

Wide Awake

August 23rd, 2009
11:14 pm

You idiots we are talking about vacation–based on what the majority of the posting stated: the idiots would wear long jeans on a hot day to the beach or pool while on vacation.

Lady Michelle, shorts were fine and appropriate she was on vacation–stop hating cause your legs don’t look that good.


August 24th, 2009
6:56 pm

Okay, I’m late again…all those kids who need learning. Believe it or not, we had a teacher who came to preplanning wearing a strapless dress. I know it was preplanning, and we were all dressed a little casually, but STRAPLESS????