Capsule Wardrobe for Art Teachers

Ok art teachers, let’s talk fashion.

Some of us are super into it, others not so much. And probably the majority of us wish we could look put together but simply don’t have the time or know-how as all of our brain resources are monopolized by our students.

I was definitely in this last group, and then something magical happened. I discovered capsule wardrobes, and suddenly art teacher fashion was within my grasp.

(Please note that this post contains affiliate links.)

art teacher clothes


Capsule wardrobes encompass a small number of mostly neutral pieces that all go together. The idea is that you can pull any top and bottom out of your closet and they will look great together. There are many different ways to put together a capsule wardrobe, but I really like the guidelines of the 333 Project, and have selected just 33 items to make up my fabulous art teacher wardrobe.

(If you don’t have many basic pieces in your wardrobe, try using an online thrift store like Thredup to purchase high quality pieces at art teacher prices.)

  1. Less decisions to be made. You already make 100 kazillioin decisions every day as an art teacher, there is no need to burn out on decision making before you even leave the house.
  2. Less expensive. Let’s face it, we art teachers don’t get paid all that well. A capsule wardrobe keeps your costs down and makes sure everything in your closet gets used and used well.
  3. Less waste. A capsule wardrobe prevents magpie syndrome. When you ask yourself if a piece will fit into your capsule wardrobe and go with the things you already own, it keeps fast fashion impulse buys at bay.
  4. Effortless style. When you plan for everything in your capsule to go together, you look put together. Even when you just had that one class that the whole school dreads and they somehow trampled tempera paint all over the floor of your room. You will look fabulous when you sheepishly approach the custodian (if you have one) and fess up to needing an extra floor cleaning.

What makes an art teacher capsule wardrobe different from all the other examples out there? Well, let’s face it – art teachers have special art teacher needs.

SPECIAL ART TEACHER NEED #1 Most wardrobe capsules are so neutral that they are no fun at all for art teachers. No one, and I mean NO ONE, loves color more than art teachers. This is why we need our own special kind of wardrobe capsule – one that allows us to embrace our color impulses.

SPECIAL ART TEACHER NEED #2 We get paint and markers and ink on things. We need a wardrobe that can take high damage points and still be not just presentable, but fabulous!


First, pick 2 colors that you just love to include in your wardrobe. I use a cherry red and cheery yellow because primaries just scream “ART TEACHER!” to me. Although I am using red and yellow in my example, you should pick colors that YOU just love. Simply switch out pieces labeled “Color #1 and Color #2” with your preferred colors.

Maybe you are a more low key art teacher and prefer a neutral blue or rust. Or maybe you are the kind of art teacher that is known to sport a boa or two and go for hot pink and orange!

You don’t need to overthink your two color choices. In fact, one of the best ways to choose your colors is to simply open your closet door and pick the two colors you already have the most of in your wardrobe.


CAVEAT #1: I am a straight woman, and my wardrobe examples come directly from my own closet. For men and non-binary folks, you can still use the wardrobe suggestions with common-sense substitutions. Trade the dresses out for button down shirts, the skirts for t-shirts, etc.

CAVIAT #2 Although I use examples from my own closet, each person will have their own style preferences. For example, I use a fuller striped skirt with pockets in my example, because I hate feeling restricted in my movement and adore pockets. But if you have a more modern sensibility, you might prefer a striped pencil skirt instead. Or if you have a more hippy vibe, you might prefer a floor length flowy striped skirt. Or maybe you hate skirts all together and substitute the striped skirt for striped slacks. The key is to not try to match each example exactly, but rather to go with the main themes (stripes and a bottom piece) and apply it to a style that you adore.

CAVEAT #3 Before purchasing anything new for your wardrobe, take stock of what you already have. Find pieces that you already own that make great matches for the suggested art teacher wardrobe capsule. If you do decide you need some additional pieces, consider buying higher quality pieces. You can get some amazing high-end pieces made from quality fabrics that will last a long time at online secondhand stores if you are on a budget. (An as an art teacher, I’m going to go ahead and assume you are on a budget.)

I’m a huge fan of the online secondhand store Thredup, and if you use this link for your first purchase, we both get a free $10 to spend. Art teacher win-win!

Want to start atelier training? Join our Ateliyay! Painting Bootcamp today!
art teacher clothes
  1. Neutral Stripe Bottom. Patterns are fun! Picking a neutral pattern will guarantee it goes with everything else in your capsule wardrobe. So, when you are fumbling around at 4:30 in the morning because you promised your before-school art club you would do clay but haven’t prepped for it at all and have a million other decisions to make you can literally grab any top you blindly feel for in the dark and it will look great with your striped bottom piece.
  2. Color #1 Skirt. As with any light value colors, it’s probably best to avoid wearing this one on wet media days. But it makes a great colorful splash for less-messy art teaching days. Make sure to consider the height of your students when selecting this skirts, especially if you teach littles.
  3. Your Favorite Jeans. For those clay days when you are granted special permission to wear jeans to school. Or for any art teachers out there whose admins realize that a dress code for grown adults is a load of nonsense. *Note* If jeans are banned at your school, try black jeans. Somehow these often get a pass.
  4. Color #2 Dress. So you are giving an art history lesson on the storied past of true vermillion and want to dress the part a la Miss Frizzle. This colorful staple is just what you need to integrate your look with your lesson.
  5. Neutral sweater Dress. I lost the belt to this dress a long time ago, and a good thing too! because now I get to splash it up with color simply by adding a scarf. Or a belt like a normal person.
  6. Color #1 Fun Dress. Shimmer up your wardrobe by having at least one piece that embodies a touch of flair. I personally love wearing this yellow dress because I feel like I’m on a safari. I have dreams of taking my students on a field trip to the zoo in this dress + cargo jacket.
  7. White Collared Shirt with Small Pattern. Nothing is scarier to art teachers than a white piece of clothing. Will it make it through first period? Lunch duty? It’s pretty stressful. Wearing white is a surefire way to spend the day guarding your shirt with zeal. That’s why art teachers need a special kind of white shirt – one that camouflages potential disasters. For hiding potential paint/marker/crayon/pencil marks, I love this mostly white shirt with colorful hearts all over it. Or ARE they all hearts? You don’t know, do you?
  8. Sacrificial White Shirt. White is just such an important color for a capsule wardrobe, so I’ve included, one, just one, plain white item. Get a nice cheap second hand white shirt that you allow to get messy. Maybe put a mark on it yourself – it’s like a ding in your car, once an imperfection is there, you won’t treat the sacrificial white shirt so preciously. Thredup is a great place to get a high quality, low price sacrificial white shirt.
  9. Neutral Cami. Camis make the process of taking off work clothes and putting on comfy sweater super quick, and therefore it is indispensable.
  10. Color #1 Cami. So you want to get away with wearing a light value color, but want to protect it from the impeding disasters that await light colors in an art classroom. Try a peekabo effect by layering a colorful cami underneath a sweater or button-down shirt.
  11. Grey T-shirt. Duh. You need this. Everyone needs this. Maybe grey offends you because as an art teacher you are more drawn to colors. But grey is a color too! Show it some love. The other colors wouldn’t look nearly so fun if not contrasted next to sturdy ole grey. I like this scoop neck style cotton t-shirt.
  12. Black Long Sleeve Tee. Black is one of the greatest art teacher colors because when you get acrylic paint on your shirt, you can always Sharpie over it.
  13. Pattern Long Sleeve Shirt. Channel your inner Parisian artist with this basic wardrobe staple that goes with every single bottom in your closet.
  14. Neutral Turtle Neck. Good for layering under your fun clothes.
  15. Color #2 Print Graphic Shirt. We all have a favorite t-shirt, and with an art teacher capsule wardrobe it is easy to elevate a t-shirt into something school-acceptable by pairing it with a skirt or layering it with a button down top. I love this t-shirt I had made with the name of my blog on it – Department of Aesthetics. It’s a Bona Fide Art Teacher Credential: there is a white paint stain on the upper part of the shirt. Maybe I should get a red sharpie, too.
  16. Cargo Jacket. Pockets! Lots of pockets! Perfect for teaching art projects that need gradually distributed supplies.
  17. Black Blazer with Working Pockets.  Not one of those blazers with faux pockets. Some designers have never had to confiscate kiddie scissors mid-lesson and it shows.
  18. Pull Over Sweater. A nice comfy sweater give you a place to internally retreat on those hard art teaching days. Also good for hiding certain involuntary hand gestures during pointless admin meetings.
  19. Lightweight Scarf Color #2. Brightens up your neutral wardrobe pieces and can double as a belt if you get one long enough. Bonus: A red scarf is especially good for bandaging hands of students who thought it would be fun to play with the paper cutter.
  20. Neutral Scarf. I love a very long scarf for regulating my body temperature in notoriously fickle school heating environments. I can wrap it around my body for an extra layer of sweaterry warmth, or I can drape it loosely around my shoulder for just a little bit-o-insulation. I’ve been known to wrap it granny style around my head in that one inexplicably freezing cold space that has artic-blasting air conditioning while the rest of the school is stifling hot.
  21. Stretchy Grey Fake Pants. Why wear uncomfortable real pants if you can get away with wearing these comfy pants that look like they are real? This is one of the few exceptions I have for a working-pocket rule. Comfort overrides pockets for this item.
  22. Neutral Leggings. If you are in a cold climate, these will layer to keep you warm. If you are in a warm climate and fortunate enough to have air conditioning but too much of it, these will also keep you from shivering. If you teach art to Littles who can easily look up your skirts, this is a must-have layering item.
  23. Neutral Dress Pants. For those times it might be in your best interest to look like all the other normie teachers in your building, like observation day.
  24. Statement Earrings. Because a good portion of your wardrobe is neutral, you can get away with all kinds of fun jewelry and still look very styled. But commit to just one piece. Remember, a capsule wardrobe is about simplifying the dressing process. You can’t marry everyone (at least not at the moment) so pick one piece you can really commit to.
  25. Statement Jewelry Piece #2. Some of you may like a big chunky necklace as a statement piece (my friend Cynthia at Arttechtivity has an epic one made out of color pencil nubbins!). Personally, I am tired of being punched in the face by my necklaces every time I bend over to help a student and have forgone them altogether. No matter what your jewelry preferences, this is a place to go all out and have fun with color and design and letting your art teacher fashion flag fly!
  26. 1 Neutral Belt. Imperative for feeling like you have your art teacher sh*t together. Doesn’t matter if you have belt loops or not, throw a belt on anything for instant “Yeah!”  points.
  27. Black or Gold Flats. Comfort is KING when it comes to your art teacher shoes. I want to give a special shout out to my Tieks. One advantage of a capsule wardrobe is that it encourages investment in pieces that are timeless classics, and that is what these ballet flats are. It took me a long time before I was willing to pony up for a pair, but they live up to the hype *Fair warning* they are made from Italian leather and require a break-in period during which they are quite uncomfortable. After breaking in, however, these are magical, amazing comfy shoes. Not only that, but they fold (yes, fold!) super small, making them ideal for throwing in your purse so you can always have your dress shoes on hand for that unexpected observation.
  28. Black Ankle Boots. Pick a pair that will stay on your heel when running late to your next class.
  29. Comfy Boots. I like wearing the tall UGGS with knit tops because I feel like they are just a slight dress-up notch above traditional UGGS, but are just as comfy. I also like that they can be folded down for a lower boot look, or when you need extra insulation around your ankles during those bus duty snowstorm events.
  30. Black Leather Jacket. To remind both you and your students what an art teacher bada$$ you are.
  31. Neutral Wool Coat. For keeping you and your broken heart warm after you find student artwork in the trashcan.
  32. Neutral Book Bag. So you can carry all your art teacher things to and fro.
  33. Neutral Purse. For when you have less things to carry and don’t want to look like a student. Must be big enough to hold the magic crockpot*.* If you have not experienced the joy of a hot meal at school, I implore you to add this tiny crockpot to your must-have school kit. You can literally throw frozen food from your freezer into it in the morning, and have a cooked hot meal by lunch time. This is the modern age of art teaching people! You can have a hot meal!

Now that you have selected all your pieces, let the magic begin. Pretty much no matter how you throw your wardrobe capsule pieces together, you will get a great look. Here are examples for fall, winter, and spring showing how you can style the pieces in your wardrobe to look completely different with each season.


art teacher clothes


art teacher clothes


art teacher clothes


Although it takes some time and effort to organize a capsule wardrobe up front, the amount of energy and brain power saved makes it worthwhile. Save your sanity for the challenges at school, and let your clothes be one less thing to worry about.

Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? Tell me about your experiences below.

Want to start atelier training? Join our Ateliyay! Painting Bootcamp today!

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