SLP What Not to Wear

SLP what not to wear

Where would an episode of “SLP What Not to Wear” start?

The graduate school clinic had strict dress code guidelines and you could always tell which students had a coveted client in the afternoon.  Nearly everyone was dragging themselves to class in athletic wear or jeans, but they sat there in pressed shirts and pants or skirt.  Real shoes, too.

I am so very thankful that smart phones weren’t available during my CFY which would have resulted in ubiquitous therapy photos of me (and every other therapist in that rehab clinic) in jeans and t-shirts and shoes that slid off easily.  What was I thinking?!

I know what I was thinking.  The kids were nearly all moderately to severely involved and our jobs involved a lot of lifting, transferring, fluids…who was going to wear a dry clean only item that was bound to be ruined by lunch?  It seemed practical.

Now, I’m in a school setting and the manual effort is usually minimal.  (At least the speech activities I usually plan don’t require me sweating!)  My biggest messes are glue, paint, glitter and, sorry to say, boogers and drool.  The last two are par for the course no matter the setting.  I wear pants (including colored denim) and sweaters, skirts, lots of dresses (mostly because it’s so HOT here a lot of the year) and pressed shirts.  But I see lots of casual dressing; really casual dressing in both the schools I go into and online.

We’re not doing ourselves any favors.

Cartoon underdressed snowman

The American workforce, actually society as a whole, has become much more casually dressed.  Jeans are seen everywhere.  Athleisure trends seem to reign.  It’s tempting when you see kids all day and seldom interact with the parents, to join the laidback masses.  I’m suggesting you stop.

Dr. Karen Pine studies the psychology of fashion (so cool, right?) and wrote Mind What You Wear, an extremely quick and interesting read on how our clothes impact our mood and others’ perceptions of us.  We all know the influence a good outfit or lucky pair of shoes can have on our day.  Simply putting on the cherished item causes us to walk more confidently, gives us a little swagger and, as a result, those we come into contact with treat us differently, and with more respect.

“When we signal to others that we care about ourselves, they are more likely to view us as somebody worth caring about.” Dr. Karen Pine

Ripped or faded jeans, sweat pants with logos on the backside and graphic t-shirts inadvertently give off a “can’t be bothered” or weekend vibe.  Is that the message you’re hoping to give?

And consider this, Dr. Pine suggests that the practice of wearing casual clothing to work can increase your stress levels.  By never signaling to your mind/body that you are off the clock with a wardrobe change, you’re actually setting yourself up for a 24/7 work mentality.  Certainly not the message you ever intended to give yourself.  Something to think about for those of us who blog or create products as a side job.  Perhaps productivity would improve and stress decrease if you create in comfortable work clothes rather than pajamas.

“Dress how you want to be addressed.”  Bianca Frazier

Perhaps you’re thinking you feel confident and comfortable in your dressed down outfit and, after all, isn’t that one of the perks of a school environment?  And though we’ve all heard the adage, “dress for the job you want, not the job you’re in,” school therapists don’t typically have much room for upward mobility.  Or do they?

So many school-based SLPs long to start their own private practice and to lose the unrealistic caseloads of their current settings.  Or they’d like to add a private client of two simply to increase their paycheck a bit.  Or pick up a few students during the summer.  It helps to start looking like someone who already does this.

Administrators and teachers are often the ones making referrals for private services.  You might have a great relationship with the teachers you work with, but you need to give them a professional impression if you want to be the person that jumps to mind when they’re asked for recommendations of outside providers.

There are lots of SLPs looking great without breaking the bank that are full of great tips and inspiration for your work wardrobe.  Katie at one_fab_lady uses fashion challenges to change it up.  Her Instragram feed is filled with cheerful, professional attire that won’t break the bank!  Because she works in a school, she often shops on eBay or Ross for Less so nothing is too precious to chance damage.  She’s found that when you have a professional appearance, people really want to hear what you have to say.

Sparkly Speech Girl practices the idea of “dress to impress” every day and uses it as another way to gain respect of teachers and colleagues.  On IEP or meeting days, she makes a point to dress up just a little bit more, whether that be a simple blazer or pretty accessories.

You can see what she’s wearing on Instagram or check out her SLP fashion board on Pinterest!

Join my email list for access to my virtual therapy closet and weekly newsletter of freebies, tips, giveaways and early sale info!

 

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This Post Has 50 Comments

  1. JEANNEETTE

    I totally agree with you. I think my pet peeve is cartoon/Disney inspired clothing. And t shirts. There is plenty of nice, inexpensive clothing that can be laundered in the washing machine and will come out looking fine. Washing in cold and hanging to dry will extend the life of any item. I have dress pants that must be close to ten years old and still look great. When you start buying neutrals and solid colors you began to realize that everything in your closet coordinates. Add a statement necklace or fabulous scarf and some cute shoes and you are done! I am not a fashionista by any means; I think most people would describe my look as “pulled together”. I also believe, as I have, um, gotten older, dressing professionally has helped combat ageism, which, like it or not, does exist.

    1. admin

      Wonderful thoughts, Jeannette! Your Disney comment made me smile. While I love Disney myself, I do find the adult clothing outside of the park setting a bit like a seasonless, ugly Christmas sweater!

  2. Heidi Britz

    My first principal had a fashion show for the staff in the pre-planning week (before kids were in the building). She had examples of what NOT to wear including anything with spaghetti straps, inappropriate undergarments (yikes!), dress jeans vs. ratty ones, etc…. It was done tongue in cheek, but got the message across nicely. Thanks for the reminder to dress to impress 🙂

    1. admin

      I LOVE this idea! What fun!

    2. Nicola

      I don’t think a male principal could do this as easily. Though I think it’s a great idea.

  3. Dibsondebs

    Any piece of jewelry can add pizzazz to any outfit. I work in home health and when I wear my accessories, I anyways get asked, “what’s the occasion?” However, I’ve noticed a difference in how I’m addressed by others and my kids usually notice and will say something as well. I definitely agree that what you wear make an impression on others.

  4. Amy

    I feel no shame in wearing jeans and a nice button up shirt when I am on the ground with preschoolers all day. I’m still respected by my colleages.

    1. admin

      Thanks for the feedback, Amy. I think very dark, trouser fitted jeans can have a place in a professional wardrobe for casual days, but I have no problem with getting on the floor with my preschool kiddos (or getting messy with art projects) in a pair of reasonably priced dress pants.

  5. Kris

    Amen sister! I dress like the professional that I am and I also believe it’s a compliment to your clients/ students/patients that you care enough to dress well. If you wish your students to respect you then you should dress the part. Thanks for this post!

    1. admin

      Thanks, Kris! I think about the medical professionals I see myself. I’ve never had a physician wear casual work wear!

      1. Amy

        I think it also depends on the culture of the school. Our administrators frequently dress down as well. The K-12 schools have a stricter dress code.

  6. Annie Doyle

    I agree! While we have no dress code I believe it is incumbent on us to to represent ourselves professionally in how we dress! I am often dismayed with what student interns/teachers wear and what is VISIBLE! We have always held fast with our own children that sweat pants are not appropriate for school. It annoys our son, but different venues call for different attire!

    1. admin

      I won’t touch the “visible” comment! And, as mom to a 15 yr. old boy, I understand how you are wreaking your son’s life 😉

  7. Nicola

    I have some great consignment stores near me, and find many pieces I can add to my wardrobe. I found an inexpensive seamstress, which is totally worth it given my short stature and lack of sewing skills. We get a jean day Friday from the principal periodically, usually worn with school spirit gear or system colors. It’s a nice treat. I have preschoolers sneezing/coughing on me every day, so all clothes get shed immediately upon coming home. I may wear a dress/skirt w blazer & sandals or boots on days I know I won’t be on the floor. But usually trousers w blouses & sweaters/jackets. I dress nicer the older I’ve gotten, pbly because I know what looks good on me. As an aside, I always wonder how professions that wear scrubs all day feel. It looks like glorified sweats or pj’s to me.

    1. admin

      Scrubs seem really, really easy, but I think the novelty would last a week for me. I want to be able to leave work and run errands or be whisked off to dinner and scrubs would be conspicuous! Kim

    2. Brynn

      Nicola,

      I made the switch from school-based SLP to medical last summer. (Loving it!! Still following Kim’s blog because it’s awesome. 🙂 On days that I wear scrubs, yep, it feels like pajama day. On the upside, my time spent picking outfits is next to nothing. On the days in which I’m working in the hospital and wearing scrubs, I still feel professional because everybody is wearing scrubs or lab coats (docs, nurses, all therapists). It’s a very professional environment. True, though, Kim, I wouldn’t go out to a lovely dinner in them. On outpatient clinic days, still a strict dress code of certain color polo or button-down shirt with black dress pants. There’s a cool sense of unity, I think, when everybody in the place is wearing the same thing. Like Kim, I thought I’d get bored with wearing the same thing all of the time, but it has really simplified my morning routine and my laundry days. And an interesting thing with the fashion psychology… I think people are looking more at what I’m doing than what I’m wearing, since I’m in a place full of therapists (OT, PT, SLP). I’m the one on the floor with preschoolers or making crafty messes. 🙂 Very interesting thoughts with this topic. I still secretly wear my Disney sweatshirt to clean the house. My husband never gets tired of teasing that I have Pooh on my shirt.

      1. admin

        Brynn, Thanks so much for the thoughts! (And, of course, there can still be a place for a favorite Disney character!) I don’t see many clinic environments with a more cohesive dress code like you’ve described and I’m intrigued by the impact you find it has. I can certainly see where scrubs and/or a dress code would be a huge time saver in the morning. A million thanks for sticking with me despite your setting change! Kim

  8. Julie

    Thanks for this post . I have been in the profession almost 40 years and have seen the dress code decline, especially in the last 15 yrs! I understand the costs but I too have found great “Finds” at second hand stores. My population is entirely w/ preschoolers so am on the floor a lot. I have more mobility and comfort when wearing casual pants or long skirts. Having said that I wouldn’t dress in my “Sunday best” with fancy jewelry to families living near or in poverty because I wouldn’t want my attire to prevent me from establishing a relationship with the family. However casual slacks or skirt with sweaters or tops is appropriate in this instance.

    1. admin

      Great point, Julie. In some instances, you do need to maintain a line between professional and not alienating your clientele. Kim

  9. Sparkly Speech Girl

    LOVE this post! Thank you for including me, I feel so honored! I loved reading all the comments as well…love that a principal held a fashion show! Fashion has always been a passion of mine, I worked at Nordstrom while in undergrad so I definitely learned early on how to “dress to impress” and how style can really make a statement in your life. I wanted ladies to know that I do NOT spend a lot on my outfits…there are some great stores with great work outfits without spending $100’s of dollars…some of my favorites: Target, Nordstrom, Old Navy and Forever 21 (forever 21 has pretty work Blazers for cheap!). Thanks again for a great post!!
    ~Sparkly Speech Girl 💖💖💖

    1. admin

      oooo, I love Nordstrom! Thanks so much for contributing!

  10. Andrea

    I struggle with this as a home health therapist. My main concerns are being appropriate in other people’s homes and making sure my pants never fall down too low or my shirt doesn’t expose anything when parents are standing and speaking to me when I’m on the floor with their kids. I end up in t-shirts and black scrubs about once a week and pants, usually colored denim, and cotton tops. I wear lots of scarves and if I do wear scrubs or tailored athletic pants I always wear jewelry, just to show I put some effort into it. When I worked in a school setting I was always very professionally dressed.

  11. Melissa P

    I could not disagree more. Clothing should be clean, tidy, and functional. In professional settings, it should not distract from the work to be accomplished. Beyond that, it’s nobody else’s business.

    I’m tired of our society judging women based on what we wear. I’m tired of my “professionalism” being based on what is in my closet, instead of what is in my brain. I’m exhausted by society’s expectation that I’m supposed to spend an extra 30-60 minutes PER DAY in front of my mirror, drying my hair, coordinating my outfit, applying product, in order to be thought of positively by my colleagues. That is extra 260 hours per year that men are not expected to “invest” in their job.

    I’m tired of sexist double-standards that allow men to wear pants and a shirt every day, but expect me to spend hours combing through the Ross racks to find appropriate clothing.

    I’m tired of my colleagues judging me for showing up with wet hair, as if I have time to blow-dry it every morning. I’m tired of the expectation that I’m supposed to damage my hair every day for your convenience.

    I’m tired of the expectation that my body is not “professional” as it is.

    I’m tired of the classist expectation that I am supposed to have enough money to purchase two wardrobes – one for work, and one for leisure. I’m tired of the expectation that, in order to do this, I’m tired of “helpful” advice that tells me to shop at stores selling clothing made by enslaved women in Bangladesh, who are forced to work long hours in dangerous factories that literally could kill them as they’re making that “cheap top”, so I can do this even if I am poor.

    I’m tired of ageist expectations that fashion never changes. Do you know that my grandmothers literally FOUGHT for the right to wear pants to school and work? Those terrible, “unprofessional” [email protected]$!#$?? My mother fought the same fight to no longer wear “hose.”

    I’m tired of culturally insensitive “dress codes” that ignore societal and regional differences. From my vantage point on the west coast, where jeans are sometimes appropriate to wear to weddings, to be told that my life, my culture, and my community are unprofessional is offensive and demeaning.

    I’m writing this before work (I showed up early), wearing athletic apparel (I bicycle to work). I’m here early because I’m a ***ing professional, and I’m wearing athletic apparel because that is appropriate for my setting. My hair is wet because of when I take my shower, and because I don’t have time to worry about whether you are bothered by my hair and am choosing to instead focus on writing a report.

    I appreciate the majority of what you writ e on this blog, but this time, you are way off base. If we ever meet in person, please *try* to judge me by the content of my character, and not by whether I’m wearing running shoes.

    1. admin

      Melissa,
      Clearly I’ve struck a nerve and I do appreciate the additional points you’ve added. I am not suggesting that your personal or professional worth be based on your looks in terms of what society deems attractive. I think first and foremost, your knowledge, creativity and passion for the profession are what should be most valued. However, it is impossible to ignore the impression that we give others and the fact is that many clients will walk into a facility, make a snap judgement and not stick around to get to know you if the initial impression is unprofessional. Do I think we need to look like a fashion plate. No. If that’s your thing, go for it, but I’m simply advocating for business attire much as I would expect the health care professionals I patronize to show up in. Kim

    2. Acey H

      I agree! The statement that going to work with wet hair shows poor time management is insulting. I have *excellent* time management. And one thing that proves that is my often wet hair. My priorities include taking care of myself, my family, and doing my job (well). Taking care of myself involves yoga and running, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, and eating well. Taking care of my family involves time spent focused on them without distractions, keeping a clean and safe home, and preparing healthy meals. Doing my job well involves 7-8 hours a day of direct patient time plus travel and an additional several hours on paperwork and planning. I enjoy ALL of the above. Notice what wasn’t listed? Spending an hour primping myself. I don’t enjoy make up and doing hair. I don’t know why I should be expected to sacrifice the mentally/physically healthy things I do so that I can please society with blown-dry hair and made up face.
      I wear khakis or cords and a polo. Easy laundry, easy choice in the morning. There are many current articles out there about successful individuals who wear the same thing every day.
      Our self- or professional worth should never be judged by our appearance.
      I will agree with being aware of the appropriateness of or attire (cleavage, gaps, too tight, etc) but that’s a post for graduate students, not professionals.
      There’s also an awful vibe of “shaming” in the post. As a professional field of mostly women, we should be striving to lift each other up, not harshly pointing out flaws.

      1. admin

        Acey, Thank you for taking the time to share your opinions. Shaming was certainly not my goal. I found the research on fashion interesting and wanted to share it with readers, especially the idea of decreasing stress by simply having different styles/clothing choices for professional/personal time. Kim

    3. Cherie

      THANK YOU for your long rant, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who disagreed. I’m so tired of hearing fashion advice and being told what defines professional. I was able to roll my eyes or brush off most of the post until I got to the wet hair comment. If you don’t want a pony tail or messy mom bun I have to have wet hair, my hair is curly. Either I wash it in the morning and so it’s still wet at school time or I wash it the night before and have to spray water in it in the morning in order to make it look nice. If I come to work with wet hair it actually shows I took the time to do it, which is the opposite of your (the original writer’s) implication.

      You really can’t forget location either. I went to school in Texas so I was drilled on “appropriate” attire. I started my career, and still live, in Arizona. The first half of the school year I dressed the way I was taught and I stuck out so much. It did not make me feel professional, I felt out of place. Once I became more relaxed in my dress I felt like i fit in more in the school.

      I could go on, but what is important fashion for one may actually be uncomfortable for others.

  12. Karin Manchack

    I love this post! I came from a banking background, then a stay-at-home mom to a full-time SLP. When I first started working again, I dressed uber professional due to my corporate background but have since relaxed somewhat, However, I still believe in dressing professionally and definitely dress up for ARDs or SLP meetings. Jeans almost seem uncomfortable to me and its hard to make them look professional. I have seen way too many young ladies coming into our profession wearing skirts too short, necklines too low and everything in between! Thank you again for a thought-provoking discussion!

  13. Amy Kunstle

    Truly a great post with a wonderful discussion from many following! I have worked in many settings over the years…early intervention in homes with no power or electricity in the Colorado mountains, ENT offices, hospitals, school settings, out-patient clinics and my own private practice for over 12 years.
    Do I opt for jeans on the messy snow days or cookie baking days in my office? You bet! They are dark, professional jeans with a blazer/scarf/jewelry, etc. that keep the look upbeat and professional. Do we wear jeans at my ENT’s office…YES! On Bronco Thursday, the office dresses in dark jeans and Broncos shirts and rallys with the patients.

    On the other hand, even in a Colorado casual environment, I dress to be professional and respectful of those that are coming to see me. I don’t do it to impress or because I want to set myself apart from my patients. I do it because it was how I was raised and the desire to keep business/business and be respectful of the people who choose to see me when they need help. I also still wear my “dress-up” clothes to go out to eat, to plays, to church, to events, etc.

    Footwear is my only kicker. I wear a size 12 shoe and have an ailing foot and tremulous knee. Many times in order to keep everything together, I may resort to my nice clothes with sparkly Uggs to keep going.

    At any rate, I do feel that we are modeling social/pragmatic appropriateness for the kids in our lives as well and we both show respect for them and model respect for others with a professional choice of wardrobe.
    Thanks, Kim!

  14. Jenna Rayburn

    I find this discussion so interesting! For me, it depends on the therapy location. Two years ago, while at an elementary school, I wore dress pants or khakis every day. Now that I work in preschool it’s very different. Our principal said, “don’t wear your gardening clothes but jeans are ok”. On days that I interact with parents I make sure I look professional. On days that I do therapy with severe-profound preschoolers I usually wear spirit-wear t-shirt and jeans and a shoe I can run in 🙂

    1. admin

      I think spirit-wear can be similar to scrubs but in a less medical setting–a way to indicate you’re an employee, but practical for down-and-dirty situations. And utility can certainly trump fashion when it comes to footwear for working with many of those students! Kim

  15. Word of Mouth

    I love the discussion this post is generating! I personally choose to dress professionally at work because I spend a few days a week at a middle school. I am very petite and look young for my age. Even though I am pushing 30, I routinely get confused for a middle school student by staff who do not know me if I am not dressed in professional clothing!!!

    1. admin

      At 5′ 2″ (fully extended ;)) I can certainly relate to this! Though it’s been quite a while since that’s happened to me… Kim

  16. Linda

    I too found this discussion and article interesting. As an “older” SLP with more than 25 years experience in a variety of settings I have found what I wear to work will depend on the setting I am in. I have worked in: SNIF, B-3, Elementary and Middle School. I have always believed that I needed to be clean and well kept but didn’t give much thought to my “fashion”. Simple comfortable dress pants and shirt/sweater would be fine. I agree with previous statements that I am respected by what I provide to my teams and parents through my knowlegde not my appearance. I have been called upon at an increasing rate to assist with students with significant mental health issues and/or ASD, this requires me to be available for NVCI(CPI) intervention. I really look forward to Fridays when we are allowed to wear jeans and athletic shoes and I can attend to those students more quickly to help regulate. I am a respected professional in the building(s) I work in~I don’t need to “look” a part~Just be clean and respectable by my definition.

    1. admin

      Thanks for leaving input, Linda! Kim

    2. CC

      I agree 100% Linda.

  17. CC

    So… I have mixed feelings. While wearing jeans/sweatshirts every day is unprofessional to me… I also HIGHLY value simplicity and minimalism. I have a minimalist wardrobe, which means that I wear the same cords every Tues/Thurs and the same type of dress (I have 3 to choose from) Mon/Wed. Friday is my school shirt day. I get spit and snotted on every single day. Some days I come home with blood on me (usually my own). I won’t wear anything that I can’t throw into the wash immediately upon coming home.

    I do agree that wearing “work clothes” puts you in the right frame of mind to be at work as opposed to my home sweats.

  18. Tracy

    I’ve been an SLP since the 1980s. In those days, it was heels, nylons, suits, big hair, big jewelry, etc. While I’m glad things have toned down since then, I still retain the need to dress professionally. I work in multiple settings-schools, acute care hospital and SNF–sometimes all 3 in the same day. I must choose clothing that works across all settings. I believe that we do “judge a book by its cover,” to some extent. It is human nature. I also think most of us are capable of using good judgment when choosing apparel. For me, the one item that always distinguishes work from play is my choice of earrings. Seems silly, but it is true. I’m also known for wearing colorful dressy tops and finding interesting ways to arrange my very long, thick hair. This should not only be about making a professional statement, but it should also be about making a personal statement. Thanks for bringing up this topic!

  19. Ashley

    Kim, I love this post. I know some here are put off by it, but I know you did this from a genuine heart and not out of judgment. We all work in different settings that different style of clothes are better suited for each. At the end of the day, we all need to put our best foot forward while in our work settings. I think we can all benefit from a little reminder to look our best.

  20. Anne Page

    I agree Kim that looking professional is important, it is to me. I love fashion and express myself through my clothes. I want to set a good example and be a strong role model for the students I work with. Many of them have huge obstacles to overcome. Of course it’s all about what’s inside but knowing how to look professional may give them a little extra advantage one day.

  21. Linda

    I found the information on changing clothes once back at home to reduce stress levels to be very interesting! I have worked in many school settings, with the accepted norm for how to dress varying from one place to another. Personally, I also prefer to stay on the more professional side of what is being worn, but just being comfortable is so tempting! I think dressing down is happening more everywhere now.

  22. Tami

    I agree we should dress for the job that we want and to be professional. We worked hard to be in our current career heels (I like high heeled boots myself). I am not big on clothes. If I could I would love to wear scrubs or pajamas all day. That being said, I did not choose to work full time in a hospital setting. I’m a big kid so I am happiest working with my kiddos. For years, I have seen my friends wearing jeans to work and was even asked if I owned jeans once. Although I was not initially fond of dress slacks especially when getting up and down on the floor, I learned to adapt. Now, I feel weird without my dress slacks and in jeans. I either live in dress slacks or pajama/sweat pants when I get home. 🙂 I always get a lot of ribbing from my friends wearing the jeans but I just laugh along and save the jeans for my weekends. Last year, I wore them once on the day of school just to prove I do own a pair. Now, the half way wet hair look… I rock that! However, that is just because I find blow drying my hair often kills it so I only recently bought a hair dryer so my daughter wouldn’t go to bed with wet hair. Haha!

  23. Lisette Edgar

    I think the discussion shows that there are varied degrees of comfort levels with “casual” business clothing, and I am enjoying reading the different opinions. For me, I agree it depends on the setting. (I have worked in home health, inpatient and outpatient healthcare and the schools.)I think professionals should use good common sense in their dress (I have seen occasions when some did not) to look clean, covered and tidy. I want to look professional, but not out of place, and for me, how that looks varies from setting to setting. So I may dress up or down a bit, depending on where I am working.

  24. Laura

    I agree that being in work clothes puts me in a different frame of mind. I don’t always completely change when I get home, but I do take off my jewelry and shoes and walk around in socks. The other day, my school had a jeans day, but I had IEP meetings at more than one school, so I wore slacks. I’m not a fashionista and I don’t dress to impress, but dressing in slacks, blouses, and a few pieces of jewelry makes a difference to me.

  25. Jennifer Bradley

    I definitely agree with you. I think that looking professional is very important! When I am in meetings with parents and discussing how I will help their child, I want them to have complete trust in me and respect me as a professional. I guess I was always taught to dress a certain way for church, work, home, etc. I wouldn’t wear sweatpants going out to a restaurant with friends, so why would it be okay at work? It doesn’t mean I spend a lot on work clothes though. I buy a lot of dress pants from Kohls, Target, etc. I do wear dark jeans with a nice top on certain days (dress down days), but only if I don’t have a meeting with parents. Thank you for your insight! I appreciate your blog posts and respect your opinion!

  26. LyndaSLP123

    You make awesome points Kim. I love the research that you quoted. I think the bottom line = common sense. I’ve worked with teachers who thought yoga pants and tank tops were appropriate attire for a regular school day. It isn’t. Honestly, it gives the appearance like you just don’t care.

    I work at an elementary school, one that has many buildings and trailers. I dress so I can move quickly and comfortably across the campus — often I have to drop off kids on one side and then traipse to the other side to pick up my next group.

    Comfortable shoes are a must, but I’m not wearing sneakers. Even on Friday (when we’re allowed to wear jeans), I’m rarely wearing sneakers. Comfortable clothes are a must, but I’m not wearing sweats or athletic wear. Comfortable dress pants or maxi-skirts are my go-to attire. I actually love wearing long, fun skirts to work, but the cold weather sometimes prohibits that option. Especially since my morning duty is outside — 19 degree weather + skirt = a very cold and unhappy SLP.

  27. Susan Berkowitz

    I had to laugh while reading this. I went to school in New Orleans – the South – in the 70’s. Our clinic director was in her 60’s already and very much an old Southern Lady. Coming from college in New England where jeans and torn t-shirts were de rigueur, I was woefully unprepared for knee-reading skirts and blouses buttoned up to the chin. I have worked in many different settings since then, sometimes as a SLP, sometimes as an administrator. I’ve worn everything from jeans to suits and in-between. And I agree. We need to look like professionals to be treated as such. It may not be what we all feel we SOULD be judged by, but it often is true that “The clothes make the [wo]man.”

  28. Sarah Wu

    Great post, Kim. I think it’s really valid to discuss the clothing we wear at work. Luckily all the SLPs I’ve ever worked with have been dressed appropriately. I came from a corporate environment having worked at Kraft Foods for 4 years prior to returning to grad school and becoming an SLP. I saw more dress code violations in corporate America than I’ve seen in 10 years in the public schools. True story! 🙂

  29. Ann-Marie

    I loved reading your blog today. SO true! There have been days I so want to dress the way I feel, frumpy! but quickly remind myself as a private practice SLP servicing children in their homes I am ALWAYS selling my business. I never know who I will meet, a friend of the family, relative, babysitter you name it just someone who may be looking for an SLP. I believe first impressions go a long way. Thank you for this great reminder!

  30. Kelly

    I agree with a lot of what is written here-I work in schools and private practice. I don’t know that thinking about work appropriate wear vs. what is appropriate at home or the yoga studio is necessarily gender specific. It’s interesting because I do get comments from therapists who complain and try to figure out why parents are not following through with their suggestions. That’s a complex issue-that relates to family dynamics and a myriad of other factors but I also sometimes think inside my head that maybe coming to work in yoga/pajama pants with your hair uncombed and an oversized sweatshirt doesn’t help.

    For me, I laughed out-loud at the wet hair comment. *Guilty as charged!* Sometimes I try to get other things done at home or try to squeeze in a work out after 2-3 snooze alarms. Still have to shower before work-and always feel weird if my hair is still wet. I’ve tried drying it with the vents turned up in my car but it never really takes. Dry shampoo is a good option to try though! Thanks for a good discussion!

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.