The prevalence of the business casual dress code in both law firms and corporate legal departments is viewed by many attorneys as a good thing, and we wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, the freedom to dress more casually at work has also led to quite a bit of confusion about what is and is not appropriate attire for the office. Below is a brief primer on what today’s lawyer should and should not wear to work.
One question we often get is what to wear to an interview. Unlike your day-to-day work wardrobe, what you wear to an interview, particularly a first interview, should be more formal business attire. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. We recommend that men wear suits and ties, and that women wear either pant suits or skirt suits. Dressing this way at your current workplace may raise some eyebrows, especially if it is a deviation from what you usually wear. In that event, try to make arrangements to change clothing either before or after your interview so as not to draw attention to yourself.
Interview attire aside, there is a place for more casual clothing in today’s business environment. The trick to dressing for work, however, is to remember that your clothing decisions, like everything else you do at work, are a reflection of who you are. It is always best to present yourself as professional, mature and sophisticated. If you are in doubt over whether something is appropriate for work, don’t wear it. Below are a few quick tips:
Denim – law firms and companies often have explicit policies on jeans in the workplace. If denim is allowed, make sure that you pair it with a shirt, blouse or sweater that is dressy enough to compensate for the informality of jeans. A darker, more formal wash is preferable, and jeans should be neat, with no holes or tears. Work appropriate jeans should be hemmed appropriately (no dragging on the floor) and should be neither too skinny/tight, nor too baggy.
Showing Skin – this is a no-no for both men and women in the office environment. Shirts and blouses should be buttoned up appropriately. Spaghetti straps are not appropriate for work, and sleeves are not optional for men! Undergarments should not be visible.
Skirts/Dresses – workplace rules regarding bare legs may differ, so make sure you know what is expected. Regardless, skirts and dresses should be long enough to sit comfortably in, usually within 2-3 inches of the knee. Clothing should not be overly tight.
Footwear – leather dress shoes or boots are always a good choice. Athletic/gym shoes are generally questionable in the workplace. Perhaps a pair of fashion sneakers are acceptable in some business environments. Worn or distressed tennis shoes, however, are never appropriate. Similarly, open-toed shoes are acceptable in some business environments, provided that they are dressy and in good repair. Flip-flops are never appropriate, unless you work at the beach!
Athletic/Leisure Wear – yoga pants, track pants, tank tops and other athletic wear are not appropriate for the workplace. Ever.
Business casual dress codes afford today’s professional the opportunity to not only dress more comfortably, but also to express oneself more freely in one’s clothing choices. By keeping in mind that your clothing speaks to who you are as both a person and a professional, you are more likely to make appropriate choices.
Check out the links below for some more information on what to wear in the business casual workplace.