What to Wear on the School Run


My kids started back at school a couple of days ago, one started high school (how can that be?  I’m not old enough to  have a child in high school!) and the other in 4th grade. Now as a professional image consultant I have to be particularly wary about what I wear to school, as I know that the reality is, I’m being judged on what I wear, I mean, if I give out advice (and get paid to do so) on what to wear, then I have to be careful about presenting an image that people will think that I know what I’m talking about.  Yes, my credibility is at stake every day!  Who knows who wants some advice, or knows someone who is after my kind of services.  I need to look consistently stylish every day just so I represent the brand of my business.  Sloppy or slobby are never going to work in my world.  Sure I have many roles that I play, mum, business owner, stylist, wife, etc.  And I do exercise and work and sometimes even have a playdate of my own, so what I wear has to be appropriate for the occasion too.

So what should you wear on the school run?    Many would just say “clothes” and be done with that.

Contentious issue? It can be. There are some schools (ones I’ve been told about, not ones my kids attend) where there is definitely a school gate ‘dress code’.  If your school has such a dress code it’s something to consider as there is probably a whole lot of judging going on.   Now if your kids are at a school where anything goes, you may not want to read further, but if you understand your image is a communication tool, read on.

When you consider that everything you wear is communicating something about you, your values, your lifestyle, your age, your income and a whole load of other stuff (I’m not making this up, there is a lot of research that backs this statement up), then particularly if you’re new to a school or want to project a different image from the one you’ve previously been projecting it may be a topic you want to consider.

So what to wear?  Well it really depends on your roles in life and how you want to be perceived.

Do you want to make friends with other parents? Then you want to come across as warm and friendly so make sure you have some Yin elements in your outfit.

Do you want to be a force on the PTA?  Then consider that you may need to add a little more Yang to your outfit.

If so, consider how you’re being perceived via what you’re communicating non-verbally.  If you’ve got into the habit of throwing on whatever is on the floordrobe (yep that’s the technical word) in the morning rush and then leaving it on because it’s too much of a hassle to change, you may want to rethink this daily habit as all it says is “lazy, sloppy and I don’t care”.

These days you have to park (if you’re driving your kids) some way from the gate (unless you’re super lucky and the carpark gods are smiling on  you), so a comfortable pair of shoes doesn’t hurt to wear.  Or you may, as I try and do, is walk to school as it helps to get my daily 10 000 steps (and away from my computer for just a few minutes).

I will always remember the comment of one other mum as we were chatting waiting for our kids at school and she said that I always looked so stylish. Yet there I was in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the only difference being, that I had accessorized and neither the jeans nor t-shirt were of the sloppy variety.

Here are some ideas for Stay at Home Mums

what to wear on the school run


And a few for the Working Mums

what to wear on the school run 2


Tell me what do you wear on the school run? Is there a ‘dress code’ for mum’s at your kids school? Do you conform or just go your own way?


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  • First Im not a mother nor going to school anymore, so my comment might be a off topic. But I found the article interesting when it comes to the actual outfits. Ive a sort of staying home lifestyle except for a couple of hours two days a week at an intership at a clothing store (female audiance) with no specific dresscode (but judging what the other are wearing, its looks most women there prefer to dress in a smart creative way) and when I was in optional education for adults, we didnt have any dresscode there.

    But the things that baffling me is everytime I read this sort of articles is that they are always contradict with what I am wearing myself. It make me always wondering, does staying home moms or students and retired women (mid 20’s and older) never dress up, because they dont need it?
    Because everytime I did something with friends or relatives, I always feeled a bit “out of place” – despite Its fits my personal style perfectly and to be honnest, I am that kind of person who is actually “scared” to walk around in yoga pants or flip-flops when it comes to those people who dress on the very end of casual clothing. (no, I dont dress “club/party chic” like stilettos, my clothes are comfortable, but has a more formal cut, like collar shirts with pencil skirts + flat but refined leather footwear). The dressiest Ive seen on people where I live are jeans with blazers even to Weddings. So everytime I compare my personal style with my lifestyle and surrounding, I always get baffled about the “bridge” between my clothing and the ones around me. During the interships I always get compliments on what I am wearing because they appreciate when the trainees and employers dress up some more. One of the women who was in charge of me when I started there wore those distressed mini denim skirts!

    So wherever I am, I am always overdressing, but fortunatly i still feel comfortable in what I am wearing because its suits my personal style so I dont think I will ever change the way I dress. (I dont think overdressing is disrespecting, no? Ive been called for shallow online though be because I wore a crop top with a knee lenght pencil skirt and flat sandals. -_-)

    But Im wondering something, when someone who has more of a corporate lifestyle or enjoy wearing very classic outfits- how do they usually dress when they are going to more casual socials like sea trips, sightseeing and such stuff? Would they let go of their everyday lifestyle clothing completly?
    Because my personality style is very classic so everytime Im going to somewhere very casual, I always get confused about what to wear, because I dont feel comfortable in jeans and shorts and dont see there is a need to force yourself to dress in a way you dont feel comfortable in?
    Thoughts? :S

    • Lina – as someone who prefers to be more dressed up than down, I understand where you’re coming from, and there is no rule that says you must dress down for more casual events. The reality is with mum’s in particular, often they feel because they are at home, cleaning and not going out somewhere special they should keep their better/dressier clothes for “good” and not wear them every day. and what can happen after a while when you’ve got a baby who vomits on you multiple times a day (as they all do) then you start to forget about dressing nicely, and just dress down in old stuff. It becomes a habit, then you feel conspicuous when you dress up at all. That’s all!

      • Its one of those guidelines that I can’t stop thinking of and find it hard to break that rule where your clothes “should be appropriate for your lifestyle”, so I always trying to buy clothes to fit those activites and wasting money on clothes I dont really need (there are not cocktail parties or very fancy weddings where I live and I dont go to parties much because Im a bit agoraphobic, yet my brain insist that I need more glamorous shoes and dresses. haha 😀 ) But people around me keep telling me I shouldnt bring my pencil skirts, low heeled pumps or blazers when going for summer trips and sightseeing and thats what make this issue a bit complicated. :L

        I live in a fairly rural area so laundry could be a concern so its very easily get your clothes dirty and also one reason I can relate to what mothers are wearing and the habit is so true. I always slacking off when it comes to footwear like wearing my walking flats/sandals/boots over my nicer low heeled ones because Im very concious of not damaging my ankles (eating pain killers for an entire month for sake of a couple of hours of wearing higher heels are definitly not worth it!). Most of my clothes are “wash-and-wear” types so I dont notice any difference when wearing a pair of slacks or a pair of jeans in that aspect.

  • Thinking about the different uniforms I’ve worn to work, I do think the most structured, “yangish” one corresponded with a feeling that I was in a more important role. Actually, I wasn’t, the work was the same as the last place. Now I’m definitely wondering if there was some kind of HR genius behind the scenes convincing the managers to dress the staff more professionally and watch their efforts increase.

    • There has been some interesting research that shows that dressing more yang actually improves productivity in many workplaces! So smart HR should be doing that!

  • Imogen,

    I really love this article as you bring the whole image world together in this wonderful article – more like these! As you write in another article about the style puzzle – style is not one puzzle piece but all pieces together and very often it is difficult to think about everything and to bring the pieces together. Do you have tips for that?

    All the best and thank you so much for your wonderful blog,


      • Mmh, what I really liked is that the image stuff was explained. Things I’m interested in – I think it would be great if you could do some videos to show clothing combinations according to contrast, espl. colour contrast – so that you show some combinations, e.g. top and trousers and tell us in one video on medium colour contrast which things can be combined and which can’t.

        Then, I’d be interested to know what you do in you own image consultations – what do you prepare and if a client should send you a pic at first, answer some questions which help to identify style etc. so if I go to you what do I have to bring to the consultation. How do you define style with your clients – do they have to do a quiz?

        Maybe you could explain in general what kind of design elements are there.

        And tipps how to bring everything together what I learn in the style puzzle – how do you do that with your clients – I guess you tell your clients a lot and then when they are alone, they have to remember everything. Does that work or do you have tipps for that?

        other topics which come to my mind: how to care for your wardrobe, clothing – how do I see if a garment really fits and has good quality, do you suggest to put your wardrobe in categories……


  • As a retired teacher I can tell you when parents came to meetings about their child very casually dressed it gave the impression they weren’t taking the meeting very seriously. On the contrary the same was true parents who wore suits were taken very seriously.
    This seem horribly judgmental but it happened over and over again. On the other hand if parents were just picking up or dropping off a child it really didn’t matter what they wore just that they were on time….
    As a parent myself I tried to dress casual smart for any school events I attended on my children’s behalf, I tried not to embarrass them.
    I do remember my mother coming to school in bedroom slippers and housecoat with a scarf over her curlers to drop off my lunch I had forgotten. I remember the kids teasing me about it for weeks.

    • My kids’ school is diverse in every way, including style, so it would be hard to go wrong — but it’s good to be reminded that the kids and their teachers are noticing and probably judging, especially at the extremes.

    • Now my son is in High School to get him to comply all I have to do is threaten to embarrass him in some way or other!

      Yes as much as we like to pride ourselves on not being judgmental, it’s an instinct that comes back to survival, we just can’t help it, so may as well get the benefit of this knowledge and use it to our advantage I feel!

  • Your post brought back a lot of memories for me! My kids are now grown and I don’t have to take them to school anymore, but when I did, I always made sure I was well-dressed. I so understand where you come from about people judging you because they know what you do for a living. I owned a clothing manufacturing company, and also made the uniforms for my kids school. I always felt I had to be well dressed because I was always representing my company, especially at the school. So, even in the mornings, when I could barely wake up, I made sure my hair was at least combed and done and I had on something decent. (never got out of the car, though) Clothing has always been a big thing for me, and I drilled it into my children as well. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Now that I have retired, I think that my style is dressy casual, and classic. Love your blog, it is so informative.

  • I too have just sent my eldest off to high school, how did that happen? I am a stay at home mum and do some work from home 2 days a week, however i do like a more put together outfit but still casual and I agree it is a fine line between looking too over dressed. My uniform tends to be skinny jeans with a nice top and flats or summery dresses, tailored shorts and tops in the warmer weather. I always do my hair and pop on some basic makeup. It actually makes me feel better and I find particularly the days when working at home I think I am more productive if I make the effort (don’t know how – but seems to work for me). I did have a mum comment to me last year that she thought I worked in an office as I always seem “dressed up”. So I suppose it depends on people’s perceptions, my smart casual is her dressed up?

    • Absolutely Alicia – and it comes down to personality. Some of us a natural ‘dressed up’ people and others feel over dressed in what we’d call casual!

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