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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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