Shimmy into Your Symbolic Work-Shirt

We often hear about dressing for success.  Let’s take a look at what that means for piano teachers, and why it matters what you wear – even if we’re teaching a few students from our living rooms.

Shimmy into Your Symbolic Work-Shirt facebook 1

⬆️ Listen to the podcast above or keep on reading, whichever fits your style. ↙️

As piano teachers, we’re used to wearing many hats. We’re often financial planners, administrators, company directors and marketing executives, just to name a few. 

But when it comes to our non-metaphorical hats, there’s no HR department to tell us what’s appropriate. There is no guidebook for what piano teachers should wear. Because of this, you might be tempted to think you can throw on anything for your lessons. After all, do the students really care?

Why What You Wear Matters

Imagine 2 insurance company offices. In ABCD Insurance Ltd, all the staff are wearing shirts and blazers. In WXYZ Insurance Ltd, everyone is wearing vests and boardshorts. Which insurance company are you likely to choose? 

I think the answer is pretty clear.

Now, what if the office attire looked the same but you were comparing surfboard suppliers instead? 

I’m not here to say that you need to wear a suit. But you should look how people expect a professional teacher to look. This is one more signal to the parents and students who you work with that you respect their trust in you, and that you take the responsibility seriously.

Your Piano Teacher Uniform

No, you don’t need a literal uniform. (Although, honestly, if that idea appeals to you, go for it! You could get some polo shirts printed with your logo, decide on a trouser colour and never stand staring at your wardrobe again.)


Assuming you don’t want to wear an actual uniform each day for teaching, you should come up with a dress code for yourself. 

This can be as simple as defining what feels like the right level of formality for you. If you don’t want to simply go with your gut, a good rule is to look at what school teachers wear in your community. 

Different cultures and areas have very different norms, so take a little mental survey and define it for yourself.

  • Formal: suits, shirts and blouses
  • Semi-formal: blazers, work-style trousers (AKA slacks) and generally non-stretch fabrics
  • Smart casual: dark jeans with tops (i.e. not t-shirts) or dresses
  • Casual: jeans, tracksuit bottoms, t-shirts and flip-flops

There’s no such thing as exact definitions here, but what piano teachers wear in your area will probably fall loosely into one of these categories. This is a good place to start because it’s exactly how we want parents and students to see us. 

We may not be in a school, but we are real teachers.

Visit my Studio Business hub page for the latest, up-to-date trends, tips and advice to make sure others see you as the professional you are.

The Mindset Magic of What You Wear

Creating a special routine for the start of a work day – like drinking a cup or tea, going for a walk around the neighbourhood or writing out our important tasks for the day – can help us shift into a work mindset.  Putting on your work clothes is a powerful part of that routine.

what to wear

Personally, I mostly wear more casual stuff in the mornings. I don’t start teaching until 3 on weekdays and I’m usually doing office work and bits and pieces around the house during the day. If I don’t have a reason to put on my “real clothes” before then, I’ll get changed at about 2pm and that’s the start of my teaching day.

I’m not saying you have to do an outfit change in the middle of the day; I realise I’m in the minority on that front. But the next time you’re putting on your piano teacher uniform, have a think about what it means and why you chose it.

It might just change your perspective.

PS Just like a special routine can shift us into a work mindset in the morning, we can use the same idea at the end of the day to transition into a home mindset. I call this a “system shutdown.”

Which is your favourite outfit to wear for piano teaching, and why?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Shimmy into Your Symbolic Work-Shirt”

  1. I like to wear things that are music/piano related. For instance, I have lots of tees that have cute music teacher sayings. I pair them with matching leggings. And, speaking of leggings, I have many with piano keyboards and other musical instruments that I wear with a nice solid color top. I consider these my “piano teacher uniforms.”

  2. In the spring and summer I’m a bit more casual. But for fall and winter, I like to dress as if I’m actually going to teach a music class in a real school. So, Christopher & Banks type outfits. Almost always a skirt and top, sometimes a dress. ( I actually don’t like to wear pants — they don’t flatter my figure at all!!!) For the winter, I usually following Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recommendation and where a third something, i.e. a scarf or shrug or sweater/jacket/topper type something.
    One of my students’ parents remarked about me being dressed up — I think it helps the students to (maybe) realize that I value them enough to shower and dress up mid-day for their lesson.

  3. I start teaching from 3pm every day.
    At 2 o’clock i dress up nicely: putting my makeup, my jewelry, etc for my students and parents. This shows that i care and respect my job. I strongly believe, that this is very important. Kids always comment on my manicure and give me lots of compliments. Girls love to dress up for piano lessons. When u go to the professional, u expect then to look certain way. If your doctor wears shorts, or old jeans, i doubt u would like to come back to this person. I won’t.

  4. When I was in university, this was something that my pedagogy professor stressed to us. Especially for young teachers who may only be 5 – 6 years older than their teenage students, dressing professionally is a great way to set yourself apart as an “adult,” so that students and parents will treat you like the professional that you are. With that said, when you’re working with itty bitty students and doing lots of Eurhythmics / dancing / floor staff / manipulative activities, you’ve also got to wear clothes that allow you to move, bend, and sit on the floor with students. It’s definitely a balance trying to find clothes that will allow movement but simultaneously look professional!

  5. This is going to be controversial, I’m sure. I don’t dress any differently than I would be if I were not teaching. I draw the line at my feet though. LOL! I make sure I wear shoes even though I never wear shoes in the house. I don’t expect my students to dress up for their piano lessons and I’m sure they and their parents do not expect me to dress up to teach them. I have a waiting list, by the way.

  6. I have always thought that you must dress for respect. So I have always dressed up for my students. I wear dresses mostly but I do live at the beach in Florida and I do wear dressy flip flops and always sandals whether healed or not. Our school teachers around here tend to dress almost like the kids. I just can’t bring myself to do that. I have always been a part of a professional music teachers association since I was 16. I just did and still feel that I should present myself as a professional.


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