Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wanted: Fashion Advice For The Office

Nothing gets me more excited than having a reason to dress up. My two summers of employment at The Firm were awesome due to the simple fact that I got to wear shirtdresses and blouses and blazers. I LOVE IT.

However, I was always self conscious. Am I wearing this bazer right? To tuck in or not to tuck in? Are bare legs appropriate?

So I'm seeking YOUR help!

First question: Tuck in your blouse or don't tuck in? I like the look of a sleek tucked in blouse on others. But I think I just look funny. Is it unprofessional to not tuck in your collared button up? Secondly- has anyone tried those Victoria Secret bodysuits? The look awesome but I have a long torso and really, onesies for adults?

Skirt Length?
I personally like my skirt to fall right at my knees (my knees are kinda gnarly anyway). But I always have a hard time finding this length. Maybe it's me- I have long legs AND a long torso. So skirts always fall a couple inches above the knee (office skank?) OR they are a couple inches below (office prudely matron?). What's the most appropriate length? Why do above-the-knee skirts look appropriate on others but make me feel, to put it nicely, like a $2 ho-bag?

Blazers & Jackets
When you wear a suit, do you button the suit jacket or leave it open? If you button it, which button do you button? All of them? Are there different standards when you are in-court versus hanging around the office picking the lint between your toes? Ew, I SO do not do that, btw.

Bare NEKKID Legs?
I HATE panty hose. But they DO keep my legs warm in the winter (and they offer an extra day or two between shavings). Is it appropriate to be bare-legged at the office? What about court? I've heard people refer to the "tie rule." When a guy has to wear a tie, that's when a girl should don the horrid panty-hose. What do all you hip, modern women think about that?

Open Toed Shoes.
The answer of course is YES! I love peek toe shoes. But my real question is, is it totally a fashion sin to wear sheer leggings with pants and open toed shoes? Sometimes I have to wear leggings. The world needs a protective barrier between it and my feet (public safety, y'all).

Under the Blazer or Suit Jacket.
I usually just wear a collared shirt under a suit jacket, because I am boring like that. What else can I wear under one? A thin sweater? A frilly tank top? Are those no-nos?

Bright Colors?
I tend to be conservative when it comes to colors. I hate to stand out. But I feel like my wardrobe is drowning in greys, blacks, off-whites and blues. How do all you professional women avoid the drab without becoming a bee attracting eyesore?

Other considerations: I really like to live by the motto, "dress for the job you want not the job you have." And personally, I look younger than I am (I hate that!). So I try to be more conservative and professional in general so that people will take me more seriously. I feel like this is really important for a woman in the legal field. But I don't want to be stuck in my grandma's era of professional attire. So anything that you can offer as advice is so appreciated! Thanks in advance!


LL said...

I love work clothes too. I think a lot of things depend on your firm, but I can tell you how I dress in my "business" but not "business formal" firm (i.e. guys in nice pants, no khakis, and crisp button-down shirts, usually with a blazer or tie, but not necessarily a matching suit and tie).

Tuck-In: I sometimes tuck-in, but frequently leave out. It depends on the bottom hem- if it's finished and even, then I'll leave it out, sometimes with a belt around my waist over the shirt. Otherwise, I tuck it in. My dislike for tucking things in has led me to invest in a lot of those light knit tops that Ann Taylor and Banana sell.

Skirts: At or just above the knee. I think it's okay to show knee, it's just all about the overall ensemble. If you're also in 4" heels and a too tight shirt, it's bad. In 2" heels and a sweater or button-down, it's fine.

Blazers: I button it when I'm walking around and unbutton it when I'm sitting.

Bare legs: I have never worn panty hose. Ever. Even to court, though I suppose I would if I was wearing a skirt suit, but I always wear pants. I'm not a fan of hose and peep toe shoes, but I'm not sure on it's fashion status.

Shoes: I wear a lot of peep toe shoes and feel they are appropriate. At some firms maybe this wouldn't fly, but it kind of guys with the skirt idea - if the rest of you is put together and professional I don't think the peeptoe negates that effect.

Under Blazer: I hate having a collared shirt under a blazer and never do it. I'm a big fan of knit shells, silk sleeveless shirts, or other "light" things. Then I just don't take the jacket off.

Colors: I wear a lot of color. It's good to bring some brightness to the legal profession. Once again, it's all about the overall look - if it's professional and polished, you can push a little.

Man I miss my regular work clothes- I was gazing at them in the closet the other day desperately hoping I fit back in to them after this baby!

Jenn said...

Tuck-In: I usually leave my shirts un-tucked because I feel like they give me a bunch-effect that I don't like. I think it depends on the shirt and what else you're wearing. For example, I don't think the shirt should peep out underneath the blazer.

Skirts: IMO, these should be at or above the knee. I use the rule that Moms everywhere teach their daughters: either be more covered on the top or the bottom. If you're wearing a short-sleeved shirt, maybe use a longer skirt. If you're wearing a long-sleeved shirt, it might be okay to wear a shorter skirt. I think it just matters that you don't look like you're going out after work while you're still at the office.

Blazers: I unbutton while sitting and button when I get up. Usually I button all the buttons.

Bare legs: I'm from the South, so we wear pantyhoes more often than the average women. That said, I always wear pantyhoes to court. At work, I usually wear them with shorter skirts but not with longer ones.

Shoes: I tend to wear closed-toed shoes, but I don't think peep-toes are inappropriate.

Under Blazer: I really don't like wearing collared shirts under blazers. I think it feels like too much bulk, which might be accentuated by the fact that I'm a larger-chested woman. I like to wear shells, light sweaters, and nice t-shirts. If it's short-sleeved I don't take my jacket off.

Colors: I don't shy away from color, but I think it's important to make sure you're not mixing too much of it. I like to keep it to one colored item, keeping the rest of my outfit to more neutral items.

I LOVE this blog: It's a fashion/life blog for working/professional women, and has ideas about EVERY question under the sun. You should check it out.

Workchic said...

Hi there- this was a great post! I own a website called
You should check it out! In response to your questions:

Tuck in- it depends on the type of shirt you wear. Different fabrications look better belted. If it is a fitted button down shirt with some stretch you can wear it not tucked in.

Skirt length- if you have trouble finding skirts in the perfect length make your tailor your best friend. You can always buy something longer and have it tailored. Perfect skirt length is right at mid knee level.

Jackets/Blazers- I usually unbutton the jacket while sitting and button when standing- normally if it is a three button jacket you can button the top two.

Pantyhose- have not worn pantyhose in years but a big fan of tights.

Open Toe Shoes- I think they are a do depending on your office environment. If your office is very conservative then it is best to avoid them.

Under the Blazer or Suit Jacket- you can definitely enhance your blazer or jacket with a knit or chiffon blouse in a print or floral pattern. It is a definite way to spice up your wardrobe.

Bright colors- you can add some color to your wardrobe even with the use of accessories- a great statement necklace, scarf, and even a handbag.

Let me know if you have any questions-be glad to help u out!

Reconstructing said...

Ah, the how to be "professional" and still look cute question. Good times,so many good times that I wrote a blog about it, ( One must men consider this stuff? Is there a blog somewhere about lace up v. non-lace up men's dress shoes?

Proto Attorney said...

I do not tuck in shirts, because that makes me look super fat. I button jackets, because that keeps everything in. I wear peep toe 4 inch stilettoes to court. I almost always wear panty hose with skirts, but that's probably because otherwise the glare off of my white legs would blind people. In the winter, I wear tights with boots. I don't think there's anything wrong with not wearing hose, but I prefer it. Most of my wardrobe is black, I'm goth like that I guess. That and too much of my wardrobe comes from White House Black Market. But bright colors are perfectly fine for most situations.

Most of the considerations I give to my wardrobe are more about making me feel professional and not having my fat rolls exposed. I'd say look around your office for a general standard, and then dress in what you feel comfortable wearing. When I feel confident and professional, it helps me be confident and professional. Clothes are a big part of that.

Portia said...

I was going to post a comment linking you to corporette, so I'm glad Jenn covered it. I love bargain Fridays!!

This is something I am still working on, but here are my general thought:

Tuck-In: I usually tuck in, but sometimes leave out, if (for example, like today) I am wearing a sweater over a well-hemmed collared shirt. If I tuck in, I have to make sure it's well-secured, though, or I'm fussing with it all day, and that's annoying.

Skirts: I agree with the previous comments; I generally go at or just above the knee. It's important to remember the whole ensemble. (I also cover my knees almost without exception with tights or pantyhose, though - see below).

Blazers: I usually keep them buttoned, except when sitting, but sometimes if I'm wearing a cute top underneath and the blazer looks OK unbuttoned, I will leave it open.

Bare legs: I live in Boston. I sometimes wear pantyhose or tights even under pants, just for an extra layer. And with a skirt, BRRR! But in the summertime, assuming my clutzy self hasn't made my legs look black and blue, I have been known to go without it. I agree with the hose and open-toed shoes thing, though. EWW.

Shoes: I have a pair of red patent peep toe shoes which I LOVE. I can't wait for summer to bust them out again. I agree with LL, it depends on how the rest of you is put together, but generally I think there's nothing objectionable about a cute peep toe!

Under Blazer: I wear a wide variety of tops under a blazer. Collared shirts, light sweaters, tanks, thin knit shells, camis, sometimes even collared shirt + sweater (again, BOSTON). In the summer, though, I like to have the option to take the blazer off, si I avoid sleeveless tops (or wear shorter-sleeved blazers) so I don't burn up when I go out for lunch.

Colors: Even though most of my wardrobe is black and white, I do love a good pop of color. I generally do this either with accessories (or my red shoes!) or with a top - but usually, if it's not a darker color, I will tone it down with a neutral cardigan or blazer on top. But again, it's all about the overall look.

je said...

just want to say thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU for posting all these questions, Cee! And to everyone who is giving awesome answers! This is eye-opening, and I'm considering bookmarking this post for easy reference when I (finally) get a summer job.

Also, I second Super helpful!

Anonymous said...

Shirt - tuck in,if it's a button up, I just think it looks sloppy. Around the office, tuck out is okay, but I would never walk into court without my shirt tucked in.

Peep-toe: I don't like peep toe for myself, but again, office it would be okay, court is a no no.

Skirt - Some thoughtful comments on that, I agree just above the knee or above the knee is fine so long as the top is tasteful. Once you hit thigh there's no salvaging it.

Pantyhose - I NEVER wear it, in court, out of court, and yes, I have done a jury trial in a tasteful business suit skirt with no panty hose. My skin tone is naturally tan enough that people think I'm wearing panty hose anyway, but I don't care about that. I can't stand wearing panty hose or, even worse, tights (I don't wear skirts in winter). You will find that this question splits among age - young professional women don't think this is a big deal, older women think you NEVER go without pantyhose.

Color - I have a purple winter jacket that is very stylish and I get complimented on it like crazy. I also have a very awesome pair of fire engine red patent leather heels that are office tasteful. I make sure when I wear a bright, colorful piece of clothing that the rest of what I'm wearing that day is subdued and just complements the bold piece.

Blazers - I never button and leave the jacket open. The only time I do button is if I'm wearing one of my button up shirts that doesn't quite fit across the girls, if you know what I mean, and I want to hide that oh-so-attractive middle button gap.
Although, I will say I am a criminal lawyer, and while our rules may be more formal in court, I think our office atmosphere is more casual than corporate. I notice the corporate contributors to this section favor buttoning the blazers

Anonymous said...

Cee, you must wear some color! Not trendy color suits or anything like that, but defintitely invest in jewel toned tops to wear under your suits. They will bring color into your face, which will help you to look bright eyed and bushy tailed (even when you're not).

Also, I am a proponent of trying to wear some small thing that becomes your "thing" and that will also help people you are meeting anew to remember you. i.e., maybe you are girl with the amazing antique pin collection. Or the girl who can tie everything together with a scarf. Or the girl who can rock a bulky bracelet. These small visuals can go a long way, especially when networking with other women.

You will be great! Don't be afraid to experiment a little.

Lyn said...

Love this post as well! Here's my two cents, following the format of most of the other commenters:

Tuck in: I tuck in button downs because I think they look sloppy otherwise, unless it's casual Friday and I've got a sweater over them. Other shirts - no buttons - it depends on the shirt, particularly on length. If the shirt is neat and fitted, I don't tuck. If the shirt is long, I either belt it or tuck it in. If I'm wearing a shirt under a suit, I usually tuck it in, because I don't think your shirt should be longer than your suit jacket.

Skirts: I rarely wear skirts and I only own two dresses that are work appropriate. These are at the knee or very slightly above - the shorter dress is black with a crew neck and I wear a blazer over it. I wear opaque black tights with my skirts and dresses. I occasionally wear tall boots in the winter.

Blazers: I wear them both buttoned and unbuttoned, depending on the shape of the blazer. I think longer and less structured blazers look better if they are buttoned. I have a couple of suit jackets that are cut in closer at the waist, so I think leaving those unbuttoned looks good - you can still see shape.

Shoes: I live in the Midwest, so I don't wear peep toes in the winter - my toes would freeze! I wear a lot of booties/ankle boots in the winter, and I wear normal pumps when I go to court. I do wear peep toes in the summer. I interned at a local federal district court during law school and was told there that I was not allowed to wear open toed shoes (not b/c of safety concerns), so I don't wear peep toes to court. I'm sure other people do and it's fine, but since I know that at least one judge doesn't like it, I avoid it.

Under blazers: I wear everything under blazers. I work in an older building and it's really cold in my side of the building - I use a space heater even in the summer - so I tend to wear long sleeves under my blazers in the winter. I wear button downs, blouses, etc. I think Ann Taylor has a great collection of more feminine shirts to wear under blazers so you don't feel like a man. Also, I've gotten a few of the nylon/stretchy shirts from BCBG that are really warm, soft, and fitted - I try to wear more fitted shirts under my blazers.

Color: I try to wear color, but it's generally restricted to the shirt I'm wearing under my suit. All my suits are neutrals - grays, black, navy, dark brown.

Pants: I always wear suit pants even when I'm not wearing a suit - no cotton blends, no khaki-type material.

Generally: I agree with the person who said that you should look to what other people in your office wear. Every office is different. We have a broad range of styles at my office - one woman here wears only skirts & sweaters or dresses - I've never seen her in a suit. Of course, she practices in a field that involves zero court time and little client contact. Most younger female associates wear J. Crew / Banana Republic style pantsuits, and throw in their own personalities with shoes, jewelry, and shirt style. Definitely stay on the conservative side until you get more comfortable.

Maverik said...

Hi there! Congratulations on choosing the legal profession and good luck too. Your desire to sport the appropriate dress, whether to tuck-in or not, including bright colors and so on, gives me an idea as to how much of a confident and self-loving person you are.

I have known a few people in this profession and they do not usually care to add color to their dressing. I have always wondered why!
My personal opinion as replies to your queries...

Tuck in: You should tuck in almost always as you have a slim build (from your photo).
Skirt: You do not feel satisfied with above-the-knee skirts as you have long legs; however, if you are slim enough, this should actually look good... perhaps you need to work on your mindset rather than your skirt!
Blazers: unbutton when you sit, button when you stand or walk about, button only the middle one, not all.
shoes: Oh, come on - do not go by the fashion book, please. Just go ahead and flaunt those pair of open-toed shoes you have always loved. Be a brand!
Colors: Unfortunately, you cannot afford to sport those fluorescent colors while at court, right! You do not have to submerge in greys and dull colors, though. Choose muted shades of bright colors, say Pink but do not announce to the world as if you have invented a new color. You see, choosing bright colors is not a sin after all, but it should be appropriate for the profession, more so for yours!
General: For god's sake, please do not think too hard before trying something new. Unleash the creative horse in you, but only tether it to the professional mindset and believe me, you will be fine.
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