Dressed for the Occasion:Tips for Teachers & Speakers

woman teaching.jpg 

Back in 1970 when I interrupted my wandering of the South Pacific to enroll in my first year of college, I had a sociology professor who entered the class every morning in ratty looking shoes and a tattered sweatshirt. Essentially an academic slob style. To demonstrate that I was a mature student, I refrained from that appearance.  But I never forgot the man–not for what he taught but for looking like a slob. When we are in front of a group how should we dress?

I believe your attire should suit the topic, audience age, sophistication level, and venue. We need to look like we are in control and a  a leader.I've heard it said we should  dress one level up from our audience, unless they are dressed like slobs, then two levels. Another person suggests we dress simple: clean lines, and solid colors. Add layers for authority — vest, sweater, jacket. It's like armour! Ever notice that those who exude power dress conservatively and modestly? And wear those layers. Immodest dress invites expoitation. You'll never catch this hunk in a Speedo.


  • Bare legs, feet on display. Who wants to see them! Mine are more distractive than attractive.
  • Shorts or Short Skirts — above eye level on platform. Besides I look funny in shorts with white legs. 
  • Moving accessories — bangs, earrings, scarves. Don't fuss with them . A friend once wore a chunky necklace that clicked against the lapel microphone and distracted many.
  • Hats, short sleeves, loosened ties. So out with the John Deere ball cap, the exposed muscled and hairy arms.  Wear that tie properly or don't wear it: loosened ties look drunk, not casual.

While sifting through some materail on the topic I wondered how a group of genealogists atteding an all day workshop would feel about a speaker who dressed as follows:

  • Approach – Mix and match coordinates, high quality
  • Excellent quality dress slacks in black, or
  • Black leather skirt with black cotton/Lycra tights. I never wear hose.
  • An unstructured jacket (wool or silk or leather) in a great colour — green, red, teal, black.
  • Fun silk blouses — interesting prints, wrinkles fall out or
  • Velour/Lycra t-shirts/t-necks — they don't wrinkle.
  • Black or Red Leather vest.
  • Wild socks – don't worry about the print matching my outfit.
  • Funky/Hip shoes that are comfortable — black, red, green
  • Great accessories.
  • Great handbag.
  • Red lipstick.

What do you think?


One response to “Dressed for the Occasion:Tips for Teachers & Speakers

  1. Ken,

    Pretty cool that he would wear all that. Not me – I don’t wear red lipstick, or carry a handbag, or accessorize much (is a laptop an accessory?). I’m just the basic Hawaiian shirt, Haggar expando waist slacks, black tennis shoes type of guy. I’m all about comfort…and I try hard not to wear a tie, not even to funerals. Weddings, maybe. But then I live in southern California where tattoos, hairy chests, tank tops, a Speedo and flip-flops are a fashion statement. Not mine, of course.

    I agree that the dress of the speaker should not be the focal point of the talk – it should have no effect. Therefore, the dress needs to be at the level of the audience or above.

    Cheers — Randy

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