Daily Dispatch

Keeping Your Spring Fashion Frolic in Check

By | Apr.07.14 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Professionalism

Dress Code

Loyal adherents to the professional dress code shudder at the arrival of warmer weather. Spring — especially that first 65-degree day — is the time when normally well-dressed lawyers are tempted to throw off their woolen suits and play hooky, at least where their wardrobes are concerned.

Even a fleeting disregard for professional attire can take a toll. While every spring fling inevitably comes to an end, the images of inappropriately clad attorneys are forever burned into the brains of their clients, colleagues and supervising partners. You probably want to avoid that, so here are some guidelines to keep your frolic with spring fashion in check.

1. Skip the super casual. Unless you’re actively on vacation, nix the sportswear, the loungewear and the beachwear. I don’t care how nicely you iron your short-sleeved flowered shirt and attempt to tuck it into your slacks — it doesn’t belong in the office. Same goes for the golf shirt, the sundress and the ball cap. No amount of pressing, belting or accessorizing mitigates the harm done by these three clothing categories. Simply avoid them altogether.

2. No one wants to see your armpits, feet or thighs. No matter how business-appropriate your sheath dress may seem, your exposed armpits are not professional. Same goes for your blinged-out but barely there sandals, and I shouldn’t even have to mention the dreaded flip-flops. An easy solution for armpits is to layer with a lightweight shrug or a summer cardigan. Or, look for items with a sweet little cap sleeve instead. As for your tootsies, some types of spring footwear provide more coverage than others, so look for shoes that have modest cut-outs or peep toes, or thick straps that camouflage your inner sole. Please don’t force your co-workers to directly confront your running calluses. The thigh thing is easy: no too-short dresses, short skirts or shorts. Never, ever.

3. Avoid the squeeze and the slop. The debate rages over which is worse — an attorney squeezed like a sausage into too-tight clothing or an attorney swimming like a sad sack in baggy, draggy clothing. Spring is the perfect season to look crisp and sharp. Seize the opportunity for a major wardrobe rebirth and make sure each item fits you well, with nary a squeeze or slop in sight.

4. Get poppy with color. As long as you’re adhering to the guidelines above, go wild with springtime color! Anchor a poppy blast of fun with a neutral and it’s hard to go wrong. Pair turquoise with tan. Bright green loves gray. Hot pink is perfect with camel tones. Electric blue wows with black. Get your warm-weather glow with metallics. Shimmer in a rose-gold jacket. Shine on with those silver ties. As long as you keep your wattage grounded and don’t overload with multiple wacky colors at the same time, there’s nothing off limits.

Ryan Sullivan has been a trial lawyer for almost 14 years, practicing exclusively indigent criminal defense. Ryan is also a speaker, writer and trainer. She believes a sense of humor and the ability to frame events positively, combined with solid professional skills, leads directly to career and business success. Her experience working and training others in challenging careers has given her the skills to manage the toughest customers, speak and present persuasively, and shine under stressful circumstances. Ryan and her husband have three children, three dogs and a home suspended in a perpetual state of DIY remodeling.

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2 Responses to “Keeping Your Spring Fashion Frolic in Check”

  1. The Crone
    7 April 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Or else what?

    Your pedantry about what’s appropriate clothing for law firm office wear (not in courtrooms, deal rooms, important client meetings) is relevant only to specific law firms, states, cities, parts of cities, days of the seven-day work week, legal practices, and client industries.

    But what is most troublesome about this column is the impression you give that what pleases you personally is a style requirement for everyone who passes within your field of vision.

    Ponder this: Diversity, including diversity in our choices of clothing, is not a bad thing. Also: What people wear in a law firm office means a lot less than what you think it means.

  2. Krystal
    7 April 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    I think these are great tips for any professional office! Coming out of a brutal Northwest Wisconsin winter, I can relate to the feeling of wanting to embrace the spring weather and wear something fun, but there is a time place for everything.

  3. Dave
    12 April 2014 at 11:11 am #

    While I don’t feel quite as strong about this as the Crone, I do agree with his/her sentiment. I assume your post does not relate to Court appearances/meetings/similar appearances where, regardless of weather, nothing short of proper business attire (i.e, suit and tie for men, equivalent for women) is acceptable. In other situations, where the heat is oppressive and you have to commute to work, building up a sweat, why is it wrong to wear a clean, pressed golf shirt and slacks? Doesn’t it look worse to show up in clothes dripping wet from sweat? As long as you have proper business attire in your office for emergencies, why is this a problem?


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