It's always a challenge trying to decide what to wear to my university lessons. I sign in at the office each time, so I have to stick to the business attire. The classes are from 12 to 25 kids, mostly boys, mostly 19 or 20 years old. I am on a dais at the front of the room, writing things on the white board, then coming down off the dais to walk around the room checking work and progress. So I have to watch my front, my back, my midriff and my cleavage.
Skirts cannot be too short, nor heels too high. Heels too high would risk a slip when I step off the dais. Skirts too short is self-explanatory I think! Pants can't be too tight - I lean over their desks to check work, and am just terrified at the idea of a split. Not to mention just the sight of my big bum in the next boy's face.
Waistlines must be high enough that I don't show midriff while reaching up to write or erase on the board. It also looks very unprofessional to be tucking in an undershirt all day long! Shirts need to be long enough to cover the gap - when deciding what to wear, I always take into consideration the height of my pants/skirt vs. the length of my shirt. Shirts also need to have a top or at least upper button - I may be old enough to be their mother, but a face-full of cleavage is still a distraction to your average hormonally challenged teen.
As well as having to take care about VPL, midriff, cleavage and bra straps, I also have to think about sweat...
The school where I teach is a beautifully designed modern eco-friendly building. They really take the energy saving seriously - we don't get air conditioning until the last week of June, and heating doesn't come on until mid November. The rooms have big windows and the sun warms them, so there's often a disconnect between the temperature there, and at my house, which is a typical Japanese house, built to protect from the heat, but very cold in winter. Consequently, I have to be very careful that the clothes I choose aren't too cool or too hot. In mid summer, if I wear a light shirt that was perfect at home, I might find myself freezing in the air conditioning. If I choose a sweater in winter that was just right in my living room, I will probably be too hot. I have to wear summer clothes in spring and autumn, warmer blouses in summer, and the same in winter with an undershirt and a jacket for outside. And if I choose wrong... hello sweat patches.
Then there's the body I'm squeezing into these clothes. I gain and lose weight (the former being more of an issue, of course). Right now, I am out of black slacks. This is a bit of a catastrophe, as I live in black slacks*. But they are not something you can easily buy online, I've found. You really have to try them on. And while there are larger sizes in Japan now, they are for short, fat Japanese ladies, and are always too short for me! Then the hair - again, thinking of leaning over desks to check work - my hair must be up, or am I not only constantly pushing it back, but it falls in their faces and up their noses and what-not. So the hair is always tied up in a twist or a bun.
A teacher bun.
So, there you have it, in a (big) nutshell, why teachers dress conservatively!
And... so knowing all of this, why did I fail so spectacularly today?
Because it was cold this morning, I chose my purple check pants, and my long-sleeve, green cotton blouse. Underneath, I wore a sleeveless cotton t-shirt as underwear to keep me warm.
I did my Halloween lesson today. Yeah, it's November 2, but sometimes it just works out that way, okay? Halloween lesson day means a fairly active class. We do a bunch of games - ring toss with a black blow-up 'spider' that looks like an octopus. Bowling with PET bottles covered with ghosts, purple bats and a pumpkin. Pin the hat on the turkey. Bingo. I am moving constantly, checking ring toss scores, blindfolding students, photographing turkeys and writing up the results on the whiteboard as we go.
All this action... a warmer than expected afternoon... and a light green cotton blouse.... means sweat patches. You know it's happening, you know you are hot, you can feel the sweat, you can feel the damp patch as you move. All you can do is hope that it isn't so bad, that's it's small, that no-one will notice. You start adjusting your movements, no more arms in the air, body side-on to the board so you can write without displaying those armpits!
I had the bright idea mid-class to escape to the toilets during the break, and take off my undershirt. Off I strolled, after having let the kids out early. Finally in the bathroom, I could survey the damage. Horrendous. LARGE patches, visible even when my arms were down. I practiced standing and walking, realizing that if I held my arms just so, slightly to the front, the patches were mostly obscured, but I should not push my arms back at all. I took off the shirt in the cubicle, and the undershirt, and then realized that I had nowhere to put the undershirt, since my bag was back in the classroom.
There was a knot of boys congregating at the corner near the bathroom, between me and the classroom. I did not want to go back to the classroom carrying an undershirt. I did not want to go back to the classroom, fetch my bag, and return to the toilets. That screams "PERIOD". I experimented with rolling it up to shove in my back pocket - nope. Folded under my shirt against my body? Hmm, still bulky, and I still had to hold it there, and besides, what if there was someone there near my bad when I got back?
While testing undershirt concealment techniques in the mirror, I noticed the camel toe. Darn. Nothing I could do it about it either. I yanked and pulled and patted and squished, and it just kept coming back!
Oh, and my shoes squeaked with every step I took. Yep, today was an unmitigated sartorial disaster!
*By slacks I mean pants, Americans. Pants are knickers in the UK, which are of course, undergarments. I don't wear usually undergarments in the classroom, but I also don't usually like the word 'slacks'. It just sounds good with 'black'.