Style Icon: Cathy Fisher


An apple for the teacher: Photographed in her classroom, Cathy wears a Calvin Klein dress, Stella & Dot "Rebel" pendant, bracelet from Shoefly and Michael Kors watch

An apple for the teacher: Photographed in her classroom, Cathy wears a Calvin Klein dress, Stella & Dot “Rebel” pendant, bracelet from Shoefly and Michael Kors watch

Cathy Fisher, Algebra Teacher

Written by Tracy James

Photographed by Chuck St. John

The end of summer is upon us with kids returning to school mid–August. What hasn’t ended is the Alabama heat, confusing folks as to how to recognize the heralding of fall style-wise without melting in heavy fabrics or dark colors. Cathy Fisher, an algebra teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, makes the grade when it comes to transitioning from one season to another and simultaneously honoring her employer’s dress code, which is the same for teachers as it is for students: no spaghetti straps (only sleeveless items that pass the “two finger rule”), no short hemlines, etc. Teachers may only wear jeans on Fridays, whereas students can wear them any day, implying an expectation of teachers to dress up a bit more and set the bar.

Sidebar: Years ago, I was in a new client’s closet for a wardrobe consultation and discovered a trove of novelty sweaters embroidered with apples and ABC’s. As I purged every one, I received the “But I’m a teacher” excuse, to which I responded, “And thus even more important for you to be an image example, not a resource for tacky sweater parties.” 

Not a tacky sweater in sight in Cathy’s closet. Instead, it is full of colorful clothing that is contemporary, but not overly–trendy. “When I buy something, I want to keep it for a while and not look back and hate it the next year,” she explains. And while black is certainly a consideration because of its ease of wear and flattering quality, Cathy defaults to color when choosing an outfit. Easing into fall, Cathy stays with lighter fabrics but opts for more saturated hues over the bright colors of spring and summer, and when in class, throws on cardigans or a denim jacket over dresses, her signature clothing item.

Recently flipping through her own baby book with her mother, Cathy noted her mother’s observation of a 3-year-old Cathy: “She refuses to wear pants or jeans and only wants to wear dresses.”  When she was in high school in Montgomery, her mother hand made all of her dresses, from school dresses to those for church, dances, and even sorority rush, come college at Auburn. “I got to pick whatever I wanted style and fabric-wise and didn’t have to shop around to find what I had in mind,” she says, admitting, “There were times I wished I could just go to a department store and buy a formal dress, but looking back it was very special!”

Learning curve: While these 10th grade girls may have a thing or two to learn about Algebra, Cathy loves hearing about the latest fads from her students. From left, Chandler Moss in a dress and necklace from Auburn boutiques Behind the Glass and Therapy; Olivia Head in chevron stripe Everly dress from Jade in Trussvile; Ellie Barrentine in Banana Republic top, BDG jeans and jewelry from Altar'd States.

Learning curve: While these 10th grade girls may have a thing or two to learn about Algebra, Cathy loves hearing about the latest fads from her students. From left, Chandler Moss in a dress and necklace from Auburn boutiques Behind the Glass and Therapy; Olivia Head in chevron stripe Everly dress from Jade in Trussvile; Ellie Barrentine in Banana Republic top, BDG jeans and jewelry from Altar’d States.

These days, Cathy does buy dresses at department stores, particularly Belk at The Summit, as well as at local boutiques like Shoefly, Mia Moda, Soca, Theodora and Stella Blu. Favorite website Piperlime.com is another resource “because I don’t have that much time to shop during the school year,” Cathy says, “plus it’s hard to beat free shipping and returns.” Cathy admires the dresses worn by the women of The Today Show, Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie, “They always wear very classic, simple dresses. They look great on TV and so elegant, never overdone.”

Cathy’s penchant for dresses affirms that she is a “girly girl,” making it funny that she has all boys at home, two sons (14 and 12) and two step sons (16 and 12). “I live in a house of boys, thus full of dirty socks, stinky shoes, and an overwhelming supply of athletic equipment,” she says with a smile. “So while I adore my boys and wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s nice to be able to escape from all of the boy stuff and talk fashion with my girl students.”

A cluster of chattering girls in trendy attire can often be found around “Ms. Fisher’s” desk before and after class. “She never repeats outfits,” reports sophomore Ellie Ballentine. “Or shoes!” adds classmate Olivia Head. Ellie thinks twice and realizes her style icon teacher just does a good job of mixing up items in her wardrobe to come up with different looks. But Cathy’s most stylish aspect is revealed in student Chandler Moss’ statement, “Ms. Fisher always has a compliment for each of us.” Now that’s setting the bar as a true mentor.

Dress code: Preparing for the day, Cathy writes a problem on the board. Before her first class, she will throw her jean jacket over her Ya dress, as she finds the cutout back detail "a bit much" for school hours.

Dress code: Preparing for the day, Cathy writes a problem on the board. Before her first class, she will throw her jean jacket over her Ya dress, as she finds the cutout back detail “a bit much” for school hours.

After-school activity: To beat the lingering heat, Cathy removes her jean jacket as she heads to the football field for her boys' practice. Veronica M maxi dress and Big Buddha wedges from Shoefly; Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses; Jewelry from Soca

After-school activity: To beat the lingering heat, Cathy removes her jean jacket as she heads to the football field for her boys’ practice. Veronica M maxi dress and Big Buddha wedges from Shoefly; Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses; Jewelry from Soca

Head of the class:  In keeping with the school's dress code, Cathy wears cardigans over her spaghetti strap dresses and tops. Veronica M dress from Mia Moda; Jules Allen cardigan; Gold necklace from Theadora  dresses.

Head of the class: In keeping with the school’s dress code, Cathy wears cardigans over her spaghetti strap dresses and tops. Veronica M dress from Mia Moda; Jules Allen cardigan; Gold necklace from Theadora dresses.

 A stylish equation: Accessories are an important detail not overlooked in Cathy's ensembles. Here, a favorite gold and geode ring from Stella Blu. OPI "You Don't Know Jaques" nail polish

A stylish equation: Accessories are an important detail not overlooked in Cathy’s ensembles. Here, a favorite gold and geode ring from Stella Blu. OPI “You Don’t Know Jaques” nail polish

Everything old is new again: A favorite wardrobe item is a dress Cathy's mom wore to her own bridal luncheon in 1968. Years ago when Cathy would wear it to church, she received many inquiries about the unique vintage garment. However, proving that fashion repeats itself, in recent seasons the swing shift styling and cotton lace fabric has become trendy again.

Everything old is new again: A favorite wardrobe item is a dress Cathy’s mom wore to her own bridal luncheon in 1968. Years ago when Cathy would wear it to church, she received many inquiries about the unique vintage garment. However, proving that fashion repeats itself, in recent seasons the swing shift styling and cotton lace fabric has become trendy again.

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