The Softer Side of Sears.

After last week’s delightfully sad post on telling a parent her daughter has mental retardation, I think we (I) need a more lighthearted post today. You know, exploring the softer side of Sears or whatever. I should warn: This post will not interest 12% of readers.*

I am going to talk about the world of school psychology fashion. It’s a topic that I feel I need to address. Why? Let me tell you a little story. And by “little” I mean really long story.

When I was an intern school psychologist in San Francisco, I was all of 23 years old. I was living in a house with 5 roommates and 5 different closets to “shop” from. It was a fantabulous time and I had a fantabulous wardrobe. Now, we have already established that I accidentally used to dress like a gangsta at school. I made many mistakes that first year. But I never told you all about my very first evaluation. It was surreal on many, many levels.

My supervisor from UC Berkeley came to my school to meet up with me and my intern supervisor to evaluate my performance on 8 hojillion criteria. We all crammed into my little janitor’s closet and began with the checklist. Gets along with colleages? Check. Knowledgeable about assessment and counseling? Check. Good boundaries? Check minus.** Able to deal with a crisis? And I kid you not, at that exact moment, the Principal got on the loud speaker and said, “This IS a lock down. Initiate lock down procedures.” This was our 8th or 9th lockdown that semester (bomb threats, primarily) , so mid sentence I said, “Excuse me ladies” and put up the “Green Light” sign meaning no one was injured in this room and asked everyone to move away from the window. Then said, “carry on.”***

My supervisor from Berkeley was a little rattled, I think, but we got back to the checklist. Professional? Check minus. Wait, WHAT? I was totally professional! Did they not just see my calm in the storm performance? What was that about? My intern supervisor, who was fabulous and totally spot on, cautiously said, “Um, sometimes your pants are a bit too tight for a middle school.”

Mort. ti. fied.

I look down at my pants and they were not THAT tight. I don’t want to give the impression that I dressed like Olivia Newton John at the end of Grease. They were totally normal pants. My supervisor continued, “It’s not that they are too tight for the normal world, it’s just for middle school you have to be a bit more conservative. I’d avoid skirts as well.”

At the time, I thought, “whatever, my pants are fine, I don’t want dress like a schoolmarm.” But the perfectionist in me did not like my check tarnished by a minus, so I started shopping at (wait for it) Ann Taylor. Yes, at age 23. Why didn’t I just go straight to SEARS? It was so sad.

I told you this was a long story. The men who tried to prove me wrong about interest level are long gone.

Fast forward a few years. I found this great skirt by Theory on consignment for $10. Ten dollars! It was a simple, black pencil skirt. So classy. So I wore it to my middle school (of course, with tights and a frumpy cardigan to disguise any femininity.) And as I left the building at the end of the day, I heard an 8th grade yoot yell from the second floor window down to me: “I’M HOT FOR TEACHER!” Oh dear. Another added, “I’D HIT DAT!” Make it stop. The cat calls continued, from the ambiguous source and I cursed myself for not listening to my supervisor. Minoo, wherever you are, you were totally right.

Now I fear I have gone to the extreme. I sometimes dress like I’m the second sister wife in Big Love. I actually have an ankle length jean skirt. My husband threw it away recently because it really was horrifying for all involved.


(I’m the second from the right, in aforementioned jean skirt)

In my next life, I’m designing a line of clothes for school psychologists that are professional, attractive, but not too attractive. And now that I have written this all too important post about fashion, I feel like I have just told the blogosphere that I’m all that and can’t possibly hide my hotness unless I’m in a jean skirt. I’m really not. I just happen to work in a teenage hormone fest.

Maybe I should start shopping at (shudder) Sears.

*I recently took a gander at the demographics of the Facebook Fan Page (what can I say, I love me some data), and it turns out that 88% of fans are female. Quelle surprise. I bet that matches the demographics in the schools.
**I needed some. I had a hero complex at the time. It’s in remission.
***It was one of my students on campus with a gun. Neat.

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Comments on The Softer Side of Sears.

  1. Anonymous says:

    At 22, I am dressing like a grandma to please our conservative schools and to hide a few tattoos :). I like this story 🙂

  2. Steve G. says:

    Even as a dude, I can relate. I've felt… uncomfortable… attention from some high school students. It is weird and kind of creepy, and dressing down to avoid that is something I can imagine, since it must be much worse for a female teacher in a middle school.

  3. Mimi says:

    All I have to say is you need to give your husband an extra smooch tonight for throwing that skirt away. Tell him it's from me.

    I'm sure you look fabulous these days!

  4. ChristineB says:

    Funny this post should come on the day we were encouraged to "Dress Like a Construction Worker" since we are "Building a School Of Readers…" The fashion pitfalls are sometimes IMPOSED in Elementary Schools. Not sure which is worse. Time to go shop for some suitable outfit for Pajama Day!

  5. I love this post too!! Its so true but sad. I'm 26 and have latin roots so I tend to be a little more curvy with big boobs. So, I find myself dressing "old lady-ish" all the time and it makes me so irritated. I look like I'm 16, by the way, and I work in a high school. Literally, my husband won't talk to me until I take off my old lady outfit when I get home. He doesn't understand why I can't dress "normal". I tried to explain to him that our "world" is not normal.

  6. Angela says:

    Ouch, dressing like Nikki is never a good thing!

    I'm proud of you, however, for dressing conservatively and sacrificing your fashion sense for the sake of pre-pubescent boys. I know that's a big sacrifice.

    I teach 3rd and can get away with a *little* more (not much, especially since there's always a few 10 and 11 year olds in third grade, after all). But when I get dressed in the morning, I think to myself "Will I feel comfortable when I pass the 5th grade lunch table today?" Any hesitation on that answer results in something long and loose getting throw over the outfit.

  7. Rebecca says:

    @steve g: congrats for making it through my whole post!

    @Mimi: I told husband i was writing about the jean skirt and he said, "That reminds me, let's watch Sunday's episode of Big Love."

    @ChristineB: Um, its it wrong that I laughed out loud at you having to dress like a construction worker to build reading? Too funny. I'm sure in middle school circles, overalls are sexy.

    @jsrgrl4life: Our husbands would be best friends. I usually change in 2.2. seconds of coming home

    @Angela: In 3rd, I imagine you also have the "if I have to sit on a rug, will I do an inappropriate show and tell? 😉

  8. SM says:

    I found this really funny because I have this one shirt that I love, but I've realized it may not be appropriate in the schools. I didn't feel/realize it was low cut, but as I was standing in the hallway of one of our local high schools, I realized that most (if not all) of the boys are taller than me. Now that wouldn't normally seem like a big deal until I realized they could all take a peak down my shirt (which I caught a few of them doing). I didn't get the shirt from Sears…but maybe my next few should come from there. 🙂

  9. SM says:

    I found this really funny because I have this one shirt that I love, but I've realized it may not be appropriate in the schools. I didn't feel/realize it was low cut, but as I was standing in the hallway of one of our local high schools, I realized that most (if not all) of the boys are taller than me. Now that wouldn't normally seem like a big deal until I realized they could all take a peak down my shirt (which I caught a few of them doing). I didn't get the shirt from Sears…but maybe my next few should come from there. 🙂

  10. Sarah says:

    My friends all tell me my work wardrobe is that of a School Marm. Sigh.

    I had a professor once tell me that Psych's should always dress a step above and always look professional. However, I have a hard time justifying a suit or fancy outfit when I know I will end up sitting on the floor, being spit or sneezed on, and running around the building throughout the day. So despite my best intentions at the beginning of the year to look good, the baggy khakis always make an appearance.

  11. I have literally NEVER commented a post before, but when I read this one this morning, I realized that I I simply MUST respond!

    I feel as though you crawled inside of me and wrote about one of most irritating things in my world.

    As a practicum student, I too had the mortifying check- for professional dress on my evaluation. Mine came from a professor's absolute obsession with assuring herself that my ample cleavage was not only covered, but completely invisible at all times. Despite my best efforts to always do so, she was thoroughly convinced that the day would come when I would show up to a High School dressed for the Miss America swimsuit competition. (We had daily conversations about this, despite it never being a problem).

    As a result, I find work clothes shopping to be an absolutely torturous experience….too short, too tight, too low, too colorful, too young, shoes to pointy, heals too high. I would rather eat shards of sharp glass than shop for new work clothes.

    These days, my wardrobe has become absolutely goth. It includes no less than 7 pairs of black slacks, a few pinstripes, nice pale blue buttondowns, a white one here and there, a plethora of black tops of this or that stlye, an occasional pink top, black ankle boots, and a few pairs of high heeled pennyloafers. Exciting, isn't it?

    Anyhow, thank you for the post. Working in a sea of holiday vests, sweaters, and jean skirts makes a girl feel a little alone sometimes.

  12. Rebecca says:

    @Dustine & David: LOL. Perhaps you can be my sister wife in your frumpy frocks. I went on a pink and brown kick for a while to spice it up, and then I heard a kid refer to me as "that lady who always wears pink and brown." Back to all black. Sigh.

  13. Miss D says:

    As an intern school psych working at a middle school, I always do a boob check before leaving the house. I thought I was keeping a low profile until an 8th grader with a full beard hit on me while I was testing. I think it's now time for turtlenecks and baggy pants.

  14. Kel says:

    First of all, how do I not remember that story from our evaluations? Also, I have not worried about this enough – is it because my placements have always included at least once a week full days of intervention meetings where I never see those so called "students"? And, I have never seen you look like a Duggar no matter how hard you tried – it's true that your hotness cannot be covered up!

  15. I just nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award. Check out my review of Tooth Fairy to find out more.

  16. renee says:

    Oh, to be a female working with adolescents! I just started a school psych program, but for the past 3 years I worked at an ALL BOYS PRIVATE HS. I started at 24. I am now 27 and still get carded. Every morning I did the "cleavage check." I own a gazillion camisoles. And my boyfriend grew to HATE my "Soviet-era bullet-proof" bras that ensured the absence of nipple-itis.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have been blessed to work in Kindergarten for four years, but it's a small parochial school with PreSchool through high school in the building, so attention to both fashion AND modesty are important! Fortunately, I'm 51 so I don't actually care about current fashion. I'm also no longer skinny, which actually makes my school-clothes-shopping easier: comfortably loose dressy Ts over capris — but not too loose on the Ts or every time I bend over I have to keep one hand on my chest! I'm thrilled with the recycling of fashion & have recently re-stocked my closet with long, loose tie-dyed & embroidered cotton Indian skirts. Makes sitting on the floor super easy. And, it's funny, little boys think girls/women are "so pretty" when we wear skirts/dresses! Oh, & I ALWAYS wear shorts or pettipants under my skirts/dresses. Just to be safe. 🙂

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