What you wear conveys an image. If you tend to wear ratty T-shirts, dirty jeans, and worn-out moccasins, people will get an instant impression of you long before they speak with you. In our society, what people wear conveys an instant first impression. Your ratty T-shirt may have absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person, but when people see that shirt they will assume that you are unkempt, unconcerned with conventional dress, and a generally messy person. You may be something entirely different, but the general public still evaluates people on how dressed up (or dressed down) they are. Is that unfair? Yes. But that's one of the stark realities of life.
Basically, you want to dress for success. How you dress will be the first thing an interviewer or committee sees, and it is your best opportunity to get the interview off to a positive start. When in doubt about what to wear, always go with conservative, mature, and professional.
In your visits to schools, and during your student teaching experience, make a note of the outfits school administrators wear ("Casual Fridays" don't count). Notice what both men and women administrators (principals, assistant principals, superintendents, curriculum coordinators) wear during the day, and model your interview wardrobe accordingly.
Plan to wear a sport coat and a good pair of slacks (both recently dry cleaned). It's okay to wear a suit, but a navy blue sport coat with medium gray or tan slacks is a classic duo. Stay away from black, a color that denotes very formal attire or a great deal of power. The style of your outfit should be well-tailored—again, with a slight lean towards conservatism. Try to select a coat and slacks that are of a natural fiber—cotton or wool—rather than a synthetic blend.
Select a shirt color that is lighter than the color of your coat (black or purple shirts are definitely unacceptable). White or light blue Oxford shirts are good choices. Wear a tie that coordinates with your shirt; solid colors or stripes are always preferred over loud or painted ties. The tie should be knotted neatly and pulled right up to your collar. Don't wear any pins or other adornments on your jacket. Make sure your socks are color-coordinated with your tie.
Wear standard dress shoes (with laces) instead of loafers, sandals, moccasins, or work shoes. Check the heels to be sure they are not worn down. And always—I mean always—shine your shoes the night before an interview. I have known far too many candidates who were derailed simply because they didn't take the time to shine their shoes.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"The first thing I check is whether or not the candidate's shoes are shined. If they are, he or she is 'in.' If they aren't, then for me the interview is essentially over. If a candidate can't take care of the little things—like shined shoes—how is he or she going to be able to take care of the big things, like teaching kids?"
Again, aim for a conservative style. Your best choice is a suit with a matching skirt and jacket. You may choose to wear a skirt and blouse of one color with a jacket of another color. Bright colors such as reds and yellows are inappropriate; keep your color selection to blues, browns, and grays whenever possible. As with men, you should opt for natural fiber suits rather than synthetics. Make sure the suit is well-styled and well-tailored. Don't wear a pantsuit; it often conveys informality. The same goes for miniskirts.
Your blouse is a critical choice in your interview outfit; do not skimp on this article of clothing. Select a blouse of quality fabric; cotton is always suggested. Stay away from blouses with ruffles, oversized collars, frills, or loud colors. And, ladies, please select a modest blouse rather than a revealing or off-the-shoulder one. Just as interview committees will talk about men's shoes, they often talk about a woman's neckline. Show too much cleavage (or any cleavage, for that matter), and your chances of getting a teaching job will be close to zero.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"There were three of us—all men—on a committee interviewing several teacher candidates. One young lady came in wearing a skirt that was slit all the way up the side. About three minutes into the interview, she crossed her legs exposing her right leg almost up to her underwear. At that point I leaned over the table and politely told her that she should have a conversation with her mother about appropriate attire and appropriate dress. I then escorted her out of the room and called in the next candidate."
Select your accessories with extreme care. Keep your jewelry to a minimum (a ring on every finger is a little over the top). A classic necklace, small earrings, and a single ring are often sufficient. Don't wear a lot of flash and sparkle. You don't want an interviewer focused on your jewelry collection; you want him or her focused on you.
Also keep your makeup to an absolute minimum. Please don't overdue the eye makeup; go lightly on the mascara and eye liner. Your lipstick should be pink, red, or coral—black is a no-no. It's okay to use fingernail polish—shades of red are fine; shades of blue or black are not.