Inside: They shouldn’t, but appearances matter. Here are tips for what to wear to a Parent Teacher conference or IEP meeting.

It matters. I wish it didn’t, but it does. We are a society who judges people based upon their appearance, particularly first impressions.

That’s why what to wear to parent teacher conference or what to wear to an IEP meeting matters.

It’s why there are entire books and magazines devoted to what to wear to a job interview or a college interview.

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what to wear to parent teacher conference
Dress comfortably and professionally, and your confidence will increase.

What we wear to a Parent Teacher Conference or IEP meeting matters.

“I have an IEP meeting tomorrow, should I dress as a Storm Trooper?” Uh, no. No, you should not. One of my friends asked that on Facebook a while back. I get that this mom feels like she’s going to battle, but that outfit would be distracting.

We stress out the first time we meet a boyfriend’s parents, right? It’s no different for IEP meetings. What you wear to an IEP meeting matters.

Does it matter what you wear to an IEP meeting?

YES. I’ve said it before-even though this is your child, your baby, your love, and light of your life, the IEP meeting is a business meeting and should be treated as such.

So should a parent-teacher conference. You want to put your best foot forward.

You wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a business meeting, would you? Flip flops?

Times are changing. We are a more casual society in general. When I was little, we had “Sunday clothes” and dress clothes. Very few do that anymore.

Go into any school, and often the school staff is dressed quite casually. I’ve attended IEP meetings where everyone was wearing Eagles jerseys (it was the Friday before the 2018 Super Bowl) and I’ve gone to parent teacher conferences where many were in Halloween costumes.

Still, you want to be confident and comfortable. You want to be taken seriously. Appearances matter. They shouldn’t, but they do.

Why it Matters What you Wear to an IEP Meeting

  • It is usually the only time that the entire IEP team is together. Or, one of the few times your child’s teachers see you.
  • Most of all, an IEP meeting is a business meeting. You need to dress for a business meeting.
  • A parent teacher conference is not a business meeting. But, it’s also not a cocktail party, a night at the club, a gym workout or Netflix-sofa-binge-time either. So don’t dress like you’re doing any of those activities!
  • Usually, it is the largest block of time that you will spend with IEP team members or your child’s teachers.
  • Since you likely are the only person present who is not being paid to be there, you want to visually position yourself at the professional level.
  • You are an expert, you are the best expert there on the child. Look the part!
  • Wearing something that you love and you know you look good in will increase your confidence.
  • For some members of the team, this is the only interaction that you will have with them all year. What impression do you want to give?

Now, here’s my disclaimer:

This is a blog for IEP advice. 

That’s all this is-IEP advice based on my personal experiences as a special education advocate.

This is in no way meant to shame parents or stress parents out. I get it.

But take a look at this snippet. It’s from a business book for women.

Inkedapparel matters LI

Ok, but what if you have special circumstances?

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I Have to go to My IEP Meeting Right from Work

Sometimes you have to come right from work, so you might be wearing scrubs, a fast food uniform, or something else.

It happens, that’s life.

If you have the time and the situation allows for it, I would bring a change of clothes with you to work.

fashion is confidence

How I Choose IEP Meeting Clothes

I choose boring, classic clothing.

Lots of solids in neutral blues, reds, and tans. I use a bracelet or a scarf to add a pop of color if I need to.

You can be comfortable and professional. You should also dress to your own personal style, but not to the point that it is distracting.

If you have more style than I do, absolutely express yourself. But, you shouldn’t look like you’re ready for Halloween, a night of clubbing or a drag queen parade. Even if you’re a drag queen, tone it down.

The focus should be on your child, not your clothing.

What to Wear to Parent-Teacher Conference

When I added the section about Parent Teacher Conferences, it got a lot of people upset.

Look, I said it in the first paragraph. It shouldn’t matter what we wear, but it does. I am not shaming anyone. I am just calling it as I see it.

At a parent-teacher conference or an IEP meeting, everyone else but you is at work.

If you want to keep the visuals equal, you want to appear that you are at work too.

3 Cs of School Meeting Attire

  • Comfortable-You may be sitting for a few hours and you want to be able to focus on your child. You may have to go through security at some schools. Maybe you have to walk a great distance in heavy rain, extreme cold or extreme heat. You want to be comfortable. Now is not the time to try something new or something that you know needs to be adjusted.
  • Competent-You want to look professional and knowledgeable. You don’t want flashy and distracting. You don’t want “hey I’m a stay at home mom who wears yoga pants and ponytails” look. Everyone around the table, it is their job to be there. You need to project this as this is your job too. You are an expert at the table, an expert on your child.
  • Classic-Classic colors and classic styles never go out of style. It’s consistent, it’s understated, it doesn’t draw attention away from you as a person, as some other flashy or trendy outfits might.

My Favorite Stores to Shop for IEP Meetings

  • Goodwill: yes, Goodwill! Granted, you have to have the time and desire to really hunt and pick through their racks, but the payoffs can be amazing. Last week my local store had a sale and I got sweaters from the Gap, Ann Taylor, and Talbot’s for $2 each.
  • Sears: I love Sears, particularly Lands End. Lands End has amazing online sales and you can do returns at your local Sears. I love both Sears and Lands End because I’m not tall but have long legs, so I need tall. They have them! And petites and other hard-to-find sizes. (yes, that’s how old this article is–Sears still existed when I first wrote it. They don’t anymore, but Lands End does.
  • JCPenney: I don’t know why people don’t like this store, I always have tremendous success there. JCPenney has fantastic sales and coupons, I love their line of yoga wear (for the days I am staying at home!) and they have classic styles. I love some of their house brands and I still love Liz Claiborne stuff, which they carry. They also carry talls, petites, and hard-to-find sizes.
  • Boscovs: Boscovs is a regional chain, but I really love them. Their prices are fantastic and they have perfect IEP meeting attire.

Preparing for an IEP Meeting

This is a big deal! I’ll be the first to say that the IEP meeting is not and should not be the end all, be all of the IEP process. But it is a significant time in the process.

  • Clear your schedule for 48 hours if possible. The day before and the day of the IEP meeting. No social commitments, no volunteering, nothing that will keep you out late or distract you.
  • Lay out your clothes the night before. Make sure that buttons are all there, things are ironed, you have both earrings, things fit and so on.
  • Try it on. Make sure it’s comfortable. Nothing can stress you out like being late because you couldn’t find anything to wear!
women confidence fashion

It’s a business meeting. Prepare for it like you would a job interview. Know your material and know what you’re going to ask for. Good luck, you’ve got this!

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