The Intern with the $9,000 Handbag

hermes to workWe got an interesting e-mail from reader N:

I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.

We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.

First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building.  We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.

In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse.  But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters. (We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact.)

Now, some people will not even recognize a real Birkin bag, in which case it won’t be an issue. For those around you who do know what a Birkin bag is, though, our main hesitation towards carrying a Birkin bag at a young age is that it conveys something about you that isn’t necessarily a good thing: you’re rich. Or perhaps your parents are rich, or your fiance. Still: you’re not working for the money. (Certain engagement rings can convey something similar.*) So what does that mean? It can be a good thing for some employers, who may reason that your love of the work is what keeps you coming in to work every day. It may also be a positive for employers who see you — and your wealthy connections — as a powerful tool towards getting new business.  On the other hand, other employers may worry that you’re biding your time — until the trust fund kicks in, until you get pregnant, or, you know, until your sex tape leaks and you get your own reality show.  You may find you have to work even harder to get the respect that you deserve. You might also find that your personality, your wardrobe, your attitude, and everything else about you will be under extra scrutiny as people try to reconcile their first impression of you (rich girl, maybe a materialistic girl) with whatever else your work product says about you.

Even with all that said, though, we are drooling over the pictures of the “blue jean” leather Birkin 30 displayed on the excellent site, PurseBlog (pictured above) — it is a gorgeous purse.  You might just wait to carry it until you’ve earned enough paychecks there to afford it on your salary.

Readers, what are your thoughts?  What would you think about an intern who carried a Birkin?

*For some reason, while both a fancy handbag and a large engagement ring can send vibes of “I’m rich, materialistic, and show-offy,” we’ve never really gotten those vibes from a good watch — particularly one lacking bling.

Comments

  1. I have a similar issue. I work in a medium sized law firm (40 attorneys) where all of our parking spaces are grouped together. I am a senior associate. I used to drive a junky car but recently upgraded to an entry-level luxury car after driving my junky car into the ground for 10 years (went from Chevy to a BMW).

    I am very self conscious because I am sure the partners see my new ride and may be thinking that they pay me too much or I have an alternate source of income someplace else and, as such, I’m not as dedicated to the firm. I am sure a million thoughts go through their head. At the same time, I am single, have been diligent in saving money and can afford my car payments, so why shouldn’t I be able to drive the car I really want to?

    • You can drive the car you want to. People will think what they think. What you do with that info is up to you. (i.e., is it worth it to drive a luxury car if it means you have to dispel assumptions that you’re not dedicated, superficial, a spendthrift, etc.? If yes, then it is what it is! If no, don’t drive a luxury car.)

    • anon - chi :

      FWIW, I think there is a big difference between a senior associate rewarding herself with something nice after years of hard work and a summer intern carrying an item that the most senior people in the office may feel is extravagent. I’m sure the Birkin is beautiful, but I would save it for after I got a firm offer and after people in the office had already gotten to know me. Otherwise, you risk alienating people who, perhaps unfairly, develop a negative attitude based solely on their perceptions of the bag.

      But as for the BMW – I say, enjoy it!!

      • I agree- as a senior associate, it says that you’ve worked hard and saved appropriately — as an intern w/ something like a Birkin it says that you’re a spoiled daddy’s girl (may not be true, but that’s the impression you’re going to have to work to dispel)

    • Plus, anyone who’s paying attention to what kind of car you drive probably knows you were driving an exceedingly unflashy car up until this new acquisition. I wouldn’t worry — ignore the haters!

    • I bet the partners were wondering why you were still driving a junky car when they pay you so much :). An entry-level luxury car is hardly an overindulgence for a midlevel professional. I doubt anyone thinks negatively of it.

    • FWIW, I just bought an entry level luxury car, and I am a second year associate (thank you law school scholarship and SO who also has a well-paying job). I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks of it. I have a relatively long commute, and I wanted to drive something that I really enjoy driving.

    • Biglaw Refugee :

      Actually, partners love when associates buy fancy cars and houses — just one more ratchet on the golden handcuffs. That said, I’ve never heard any lawyer begrudge another a mid-model BMW or Mercedes or whatever. If you showed up in an Aston Martin, you might have reason to worry.

    • I have the same issue and have recently tried to downplay other areas of my life. I am married to a physician and get a lot of “rich doctor husband” comments. Last year I made the mistake of buying a bmw convertible (because I got a great bonus) instead of the junker I had from lawschool (!). You would not believe the comments I have gotten. I’ve tried to stress the fact (just in conversations) that I don’t want kids and that my husband is the “poorer” type of doctor and is waiting for me to make partner so he can be a house husband, but I still get the comments. One partner even told me that I didn’t need a big raise because it wasn’t like I “needed” the money. So, I’ve tried to lessen my clothes lifestyle even while I still love the stupid car I drive . . . and I never wear my engagement ring anymore.

      • divaliscious11 :

        That’s pretty sad of them and for you, but don’t let it get you down. Wear your ring, enjoy your car, and I’d give them crap right back, keep being very good at my job and stop apologizing for enjoying the fruit of your own hard work!

    • Can’t win for losing – in big law, drive a civic, and have been criticized for not driving a “lawyer” car – with suggestions in the Lexus line.

      • Same here! I was driving my junky car during my first year at my firm. One partner saw my car leaving an out of the office meeting. As soon as I upgraded (junky car died, bought a Honda- so not luxury!), the partner started teasing me about my junky car and how embarrassed he was for me. Now anytime I go to lunch/drinks with him he tells the new round of associates/partners about my embarrassing ride. Soooo annoying.

        Also, the partner who rags on my old car drives a Honda too.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m in the same position. I’m a mid-level attorney who makes good money, my husband makes good money, neither of us has student loans (because I had a law school scholarship and went to law school part-time while working), we have no credit card debt, and we have no children or plans to have children. I just bought a Lexus IS 250, and feel ridiculously self-conscious about it even though it cost less than my husband’s truck!

      However, I think an entry-level luxury car is not unreasonable for a mid-level associate. I also have a long commute and it’s a lot more pleasant in my new car.

      So, enjoy your BMW, and I’ll enjoy my Lexus. :-)

  2. I’d much rather see an intern carrying around a birkin than one of those god awful louis vuittons!

    • Agreed! The birkin is at least tasteful. I have no idea what the rest of your wardrobe is like, but please, please, please don’t go around plastering yourself in logos. It makes the worst impression possible – (1) obsessed with status; (2) too much money to know what to do with it; (3) no taste.

      • Wow, I think these comments are kind of harsh. IMHO the LV and Birkins are both gorgeous and I covet both. How you choose to spend your money is up to you!!

        Also, I view the Birkin and LV bags the same (aside from the obvious price point differences) in that they’re both status bags. Anyone who can recognize a Birkin will know what a LV or Chanel or Kate Spade bag looks like, etc. The appearance and absence of the “logo” won’t make a difference for those that care. For those that don’t care (like my husband) all purses are alike.

      • Clearly you have never spent much time in Asia–it’s luxury purse and logo central. It’s A BIG DEAL to carry around the latest purse in HK or Sing. It just is. So while, by US standards, we think this is over the top, in a cultural context, I would still say it’s flashy, but not crazy.

        All of my friends who live in Asia carry (by US standards) ridiculous statement purses. Not all of them are super-flash, but all of them scream “I spent a few grand on this Bally/Gucci/etc. handbag.”

        I still think this is OTT for a summer though.

        • MJ, exactly! I live in Singapore and I see more luxe brands daily (think LV, Cartier, BV, etc) than I’ve ever seen in any country in Europe or even the US. When I started work as a junior manager in a Big 5 Accounting firm ages ago, even my PA wore a genuine Cartier and carried an LV!!

          Please do not apply US standards (they are way too conservative and self conscious) in Singapore – regardless of whether it’s an intern or a partner. In Singapore a partner (female) will probably drool over your bag loudly before walking upto you to ask “so much did you pay for it?”:) The average middle class woman in Singapore will have atleast 1 luxury brand that she proudly flaunts. Heck, at work, even the 25 year olds discuss whether to use SKII or La Mer!!

          I suffer from the “rich woman” tag at work as my husband is a banker and I can tell you, that will never go away – no matter how well I’m regarded at work/ what I wear/drive etc.

          So I say, enjoy your money, enjoy life and quit worrying about the rest.

          And Kat – this is probably the only time I have disagreed 100% with anything you have said. Why is it an issue to carry a bag outside at lunch? You would raise eyebrows here if you didn’t …unless you carried a designer wallet of course:)

          • Kat – Apologies, I misread your statement. Yes, carry bag to lunch. No, do not carry it around the halls (why would anyone?).

            This reader email really brings out the big difference between countries. I always used to wonder why the over-achieving ladies on this blog were so worried about how people would perceive anything & everything they did……till I realised it was just a ‘country’ thing.

            I think I’ve mentioned before in Asia, no one cares…..as long as you work well !

          • Reader N – do not fall into the Asian trap of revealing how much you paid for the bag when asked. It’s the most common question asked in Singapore…how much rent do you pay/what did you pay for x, y, z….?.

            Just accept compliments with a “thanks” and think of a suitable reply to the latter $ query that will invariably follow….

    • Amen, sister.

  3. What would I think? I would think — how the hell does a law student have $9000 to spend on a handbag? I don’t have that kind of money.
    Generally, my advice is not to dress better than the attorneys working there. The only exception I could see here is that (I don’t know the Singapore market at all), if that were more expected or more common.

    • I’m so out of the high-end luxury loop that I had to go look at Birkins on eBay. Holy Shamoley, Batman! Those suckers are expensive. $9K is on the LOW end.

      All that money would be wasted on impressing me, I guess, since I can’t tell a $90 purse from a $9000 one…

      • divaliscious11 :

        Valid point, but only if you assume she was trying to impress you, versus buying something she loved for herself…..

        • Honestly, I would think she was spoiled. Completely wrong of me, and I would work and working to control that impulse, but I think if a summer intern walked in with a 9k bag, I would think “give me a break” and my first impression might be of spoiled rich kid, depending on the overall attitude. Totally not fair, but I just thought its fair to let the intern know.

    • Most people who receive and carry around Birkin bags actually get them through inheritance, which is how I assumed the SA in the article got hers, since I can’t imagine any SA in their right mind spending that amount of money on a bag that cannot be used for schlepping files AND saving the whales.

      • That’s not to say that I wouldn’t get one for myself, but I tend to see it more as a “I’ve lived in this profession for xx years/just gave birth to triplets with no pain meds/eradicated cancer this morning with my bagel, and so therefore will treat myself to something veeerrryyy nice.” Obviously, if I know the various ways (aside from purchasing) a Birkin, I would like one, even one that doesn’t simultaneously save the whales. But if she got it from her lovely, deceased grandmother, I can’t really fault her for it.

      • I know this totally harsh, but if I was an attorney or fellow SA at that office my first thought would be, “Wow, her daddy’s got some money.”
        As I said, I know that’s harsh but I’m being completely honest right now. If you don’t want to risk people thinking that you’re a spoiled rich brat, I migh refrain from carrying that bag around. Maybe save it for once you have a job after graduation?

        • Admittedly, if I saw a law student carrying a birkin or any other major luxury brand bag I’d also jump to the rich-daddy assumption BUT it wouldn’t make me think less of her. At all.

          • Yes me too;
            I would think she is wealthy and would probably be tempted to observe her attitude the first couple of days to classify her either as a) old money, great education, classy or b) nouveau riche, show off and probably condescending maybe even gold digger

        • I didn’t mean to say that her carrying around a very expensive bag would per se make me think she was a spoiled brat. Unless she did, in fact, act like a spoiled rich brat. But I think we can all agree that there are people out there who would think that when seeing a young woman with a bag like that. It’s a pretty unfortunate truth.
          But as long as she (like every other summer associate) shows she can and will do the work like the rest of the summer associates, that’s what’s most important.

          • True fact. If she acted like a spoiled rich brat, even if she got her purse from her grandmother, I’d probably think something like “grr, stupid oil money” or something of that nature. I can’t imagine anyone’s parents buying them a Birkin bag for the heck of it (even though I’m sure it happens-those people just aren’t me/my friends/anyone I’ve ever met), and so that’s why I assumed that she had to have gotten it by inheritance.

        • Oh I posted before I saw you had already written exactly what I was thinking!

    • A daddy’s girl… at least that’s the impression I get… which does not equal responsible future employee – it equals spoiled brat who doesn’t work hard.

      • I had a friend who scrimped and saved for 5 years to buy a Fendi at 26. She had rich parents, but insisted on paying full rent, doing all chores (in Asia without a helper – that’s something), paying all the bills etc as she stayed in their apt. She didn’t even have a credit card – paid for the bag with cash that she’d stowed away for god knows how long- and was the thriftiest person that I ever met (apart from the Fendi which she’d coveted for ages).

        That doesn’t make her a daddy’s girl as over 50% would have assumed.

        Why are we all so judgemental?

        • Good for your friend – that’s awesome.

        • In that case, I would have to work to not judge her for spending her money on silly things. Judgmental of me? Absolutely yes. I admire people for saving up for things they want. I just can’t really fathom that being a $9k bag. The list of things I’d rather spend $9k on is very nearly infinite.

  4. I would, however unfairly, think negatively of an intern with a Birkin. Because it’s such a status symbol, I would think that the person is overly concerned with material things, status and how they appear to others, and because the money had to come from somewhere, that the person was likely from a family w/money and may have an entitled mindset. Even if the person purchased the Birkin after some time working, I would still think negatively of them…misplaced priorities, etc. But I am not a handbag connoisseur and have never spent more than $70ish on a handbag, and can’t imagine spending $1000+ on something that you use to carry stuff around, just because it means other people will think you have money – I’m probably in the minority on that one.

    I know someone who purchased a Mercedes (albeit probably used) while working as an entry-level local govt attorney (not a clerk for a judge), and happen to know for a fact that she does not come from family money – that was a turnoff as well – it screams “status climber” to me – but that’s just me. BTW, I’m really not that judgmental in general – just get along best with people who aren’t overly concerned with status.

    • I don’t think that buying any sort of expensive item necessarily says that a person is a status climber. Some people truly like the look (or whatever quality) of a certain car. Just because one person does not value that particular item as highly doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is a status climber.

      • Agreed. I am saving up to buy very expensive shoes, because of the quality of the workmanship and the luxury of not having aching feet at the end of the day. It will be a gift to myself, not a symbol of my wealth. When expensive equals quality, I don’t think ownership of an expensive item automatically makes it a status symbol.

        • I agree with you here. My boyfriend did a project in law school about the counterfeit bag phenomenon and read some study that said there are two types of luxury buyers: those who buy to show/prove/imitate status and those who buy for the design/workmanship aspect. The only person who knows who is what type of buyer is the buyer herself. And even then, so what if she has the bag to show her $$ status? It’s just a physical possession and I think the only people who would be truly put off by this [jealousy that would affect their relationship, not just raising an eyebrow about how she may have acquired it] are those who are insecure or threatened by people who might have more than themselves

        • See for me this is the difference between a 900 bag and a 9000 bag. I am more than ok paying 300 for great comfortable shoes. I would never pay thousands for them.

          • Same here, I would go for 1000 $ bag but not more (that being a major splurge once every couple years).
            Of course, this reflects my current financial limits and priorities.
            If I could have 10 times the income I have now, I would probably change my spending habits too.

    • I think it depends on the perception more than anything. To one person, $200 shoes would seem extravagant, to someone else, $600 shoes would not seem extravagant. You might not be a status climber, but others may see you that way because to them, $200 is “very expensive” for shoes.

      In the “Mercedes” example above, other aspects of the person comport with the status climber thing, but I agree it’s not always the case. One of the senior associates in my group drives a BMW but in no way gives off a status climber vibe.

      • A used Mercedes can cost the same as a new Toyota/Honda or the like. If the person can afford it, it is not for others to judge.

      • also, I know absolutely nothing about cars, but if luxury-brand cars actually do perform better or last longer, I would just judge cars as a good investment, like a nice pair of expensive shoes you know you’ll get the wear out of.

        • FWIW, I have driven a friend’s 7-series BMW and I can tell you…for someone who loves to drive, it really does feel incredible to drive. You can feel the power of the engine, the tightness of the steering, etc even just pulling out of a parking lot. And it is very comfortable for long rides, and is very elegant looking.

          That said, I drive a 15 year old Saturn and I love the way it handles; it has amazing pickup as well! But one day I hope to have a BMW.

    • just going to put this out there:

      someone who judges people based on what handbag they carry (or what car they drive) is being superficial. it does not matter whether the judgment is positive or negative.

      • This is true. But if you know that people might judge you negatively for something that’s easily avoidable, why not steer clear of ruffling feathers?

    • Agee — if an intern is carrying a bag worth more than twice what my first car cost, then I’m going to assume it was paid for by her rich parents – and that her work ethic is likely non existent (if her parents paid for that bag, it follows that they also paid for everything else, up to and including her rent).

      • Again this is a “country” thing.
        I live in Africa, it is very common for parents to cover their children’s expenses until they get married (sometimes beyond).
        Parents pay for their children’s education, and let them leave with them until they get married. Sometimes the children will still stay with their parents after marriage and have their kids their too.
        This does not affect people’s maturity or sense of responsibility it is just a social thing that is expected in some cultures, as leaving your parents or elderly alone can be considered disrespectful… country thing.

      • While I agree that a $9000 bag is a bit over the top, it’s a pretty big jump to assume that one extravagant handbag makes someone useless and lazy. My parents didn’t have much growing up, so when they were in a position to do so, they wanted to give their kids what they didn’t have as children. They were generous enough to pay for my undergrad and law school tuition and helped me out with bills along the way–and I am an extremely hard worker. I worked like crazy to get into the best school possible, I have a big firm job, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for helping me out along the way. I saw how hard they worked to get where they are, and that has been inspiring–not a license to mooch and lounge around. I had no control over the family I was born into, and I would like to be judged for who I am, not for the source of my tuition and rent money up to that point.

        • I think we’d all like that. But our backgrounds also play into who we are, and someone who has not had to pay her way through school and living expenses will sometimes have a different outlook on money and personal responsibility than someone who has had to pay her own way. Doesn’t mean either one will be more hardworking/risk averse, etc. than the other, but sometimes that’s the way it turns out.

          • Anon at 10:47 :

            Oh, I agree completely, and I do not mean to ignore the fact that upbringing and experience with finances early on will affect us. I was just taken aback by how harsh Shayna’s judgment appeared to be. I may have had my parents’ help growing up, but I wasn’t lavished with opulent gifts. I have gone out of my way to engage in financial planning because, when I finished school, I was on my own with no money to my name besides the money that I would be making in my career (and a small amount in the bank from my summer associate positions). Parents with money does not necessarily equal kids with overflowing trust funds.

  5. I’ll be very curious to see the responses to this. I have similar issues — my husband saved a lot of money during his young manhood to buy his eventual wife (luckily, me) a 2.5 ct engagement ring, and the car I bought myself is a ten-year-old Porsche 911 (for $22k, it’s cheaper than many new less flashy cars but because Porsche doesn’t change its body style very often and I bought it in excellent condition, it looks brand new). I’m a state prosecutor, so these two accoutrements stand out. I always take off my ring in court and when meeting with victims and opposing counsel (who are usually PDs or sole practitioners, not biglaw) and find myself explaining away the car by saying it’s ten years old.

    As for the Birkin — I think if N’s clothing is tasteful and not covered in CCs or LVs, and if she just uses the bag back and forth to work without flashing it around, displaying it on her desk during the day, or wearing it prominently on her forearm at work events, she’s good to go. The people who know what it is will appreciate it, and the people who would get all huffy about it probably won’t know what it is.

    • I completely agree! Also, it makes me sad that you have to take your engagement ring off in certain situations (but I respect your tact). We should live in a world where you can be proud and not ashamed that someone thought so much of you (before he even knew you) to scrimp and save for that ring (which I bet is gorgeous).

    • Honest question here: What is it exactly that the people who know what the bag is would be ‘appreciating’? Because I am thinking after you ‘appreciate’ the material and craftsmanship, are you then appreciating $8000 of pure status symbol?

      • I think it would be appreciated as any luxury item is – for its craftmanship, design, functionality, rarity, and slow rate of depreciation – and then the conversation would flow as ERP has outlined below. That’s how I would react, anyway.

      • Original artwork, fancy cars, fancy wine, etc are all both status symbols and things that can be appreciated on their own both by people who can’t and who can afford them. Designer bags are the same IMO.

    • I’m also curious to see the responses.

      I think on the one hand you shouldn’t be concerned with status symbols, and likewise should not be concerned with people who are concerned with them. I take the subway every day & about half of the subway car on my morning train ride usually has a bag with some sort of logo. Living in NY, where fakes are sooooooooooo incredibly common, I don’t even think about it — more than half the time the bag is from Canal street & the only thing it makes me think is that the person could have bought a better non-logo bag for the money.

      But it’s sad to think that people are being judged as “status climbers” or entitled just because they purchase something that, at least theoretically, connotes quality (I am not thinking an LV logo bag here, so much as a good car or a bag that will seriously last generations). Obviously there is a difference between a nice, classic cartier watch and a blinged out equally expensive & just plain tacky watch . . . . But I feel like so many times the judgment is not about that, but just about “you spent too much money on yourself! how dare you!”

      We all work hard. We should be able to do what we want with our money. But at the same time, people who are above you, and others, may well resent you at work for whatever they perceive your $9000 bag to imply — I would play it safe. Unless it’s super common to have “fancy” bags in your office (which it may well be), leave the Birkin at home.

      • It’s a question of what values you have – and if you value status then it follows that you purchase status symbols – tangible, visible, things to show others your status… so it’s not about saying whether it’s good or bad that you spend your money on this, that or the other, just what others are able to tell about you.

        • divaliscious11 :

          No possibility of valuing quality – i.e… paying a lot once versus paying and replacing cheap stuff over and over again?

    • I think that visible indicators of wealth can prejudice a jury against your case, so it’s a good call that you’re taking the ring off.

      • I agree with this statement. I am a public defender in a small county in Oregon, and I have found that juries respond so much better to me if I don’t wear a matching suit or anything that is obviously expensive. I’ve even given up using my good bag on trial days. I just use my everyday carry-all.

  6. I’m curious about the general Corporette consensus – what size engagement ring would make you form a negative opinion of the wearer? Does it matter how old she is, or how long she has been working?

    The reason I ask is that, unlike the Birkin bag, it is fairly likely that the woman wearing the ring is not the person who picked it out, and it seems strange that someone would form a negative opinion of another person based on the size/blingy-ness of a gift.

    • The size of the ring is irrelevant. If she shows it off and it’s been more than a week since she got engaged, I’ll probably form a negative opinion no matter how big it is.

      • Similarly curious as to the size question. I LOVE diamonds, and am hoping for one larger than a carat, but wonder if opposing counsel will think I’m less serious as a result. I’m less worried about my colleagues, because a carat seems de rigueur at my firm.

        • Nancy P –
          OMG – how do you know that?? I can’t even tell you the average size of the engagement ring among my circle of close friends, much less my circle of colleagues. I’m sorry, but I am judging you as a status climber right now. If you don’t want the judgment, you best be discreet about those aspirations.

          • I know what a carat looks like. Judge away, I like my jewelry.

          • anon - chi :

            Geez, seriously? My guess is that Nancy P is close to getting engaged and has looked online and/or in stores, which would explain why she can identify the approximate size of the stones in her office. That has nothing to do with being a “social climber,” whatever that means. And there’s nothing wrong with liking nice things, either.

          • I think you only have to do a little ring shopping to know what a carat looks like. Why does wanting a ring more than a carat or noticing other people’s rings make you a social climber? Some women have big hands and want a stone that won’t look dwarfed on their fingers, just as many very petite women I know specifically requested a diamond smaller than a carat so it didn’t look all Real Housewives on their hand. I looked around at plenty of hands when my fiance and I were ring shopping – it helped me to see styles and sizes “in action” instead of just in the case. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          • I’ve never owned a diamond (and won’t any time soon) but I can tell a carat! I do my homework and get to recognize things I want so that eventually when I finally but them, I know I bought the correct size, quality etc. There is nothing bad about doing your homework before a major purchase.

        • I wouldn’t worry about other lawyers. I would worry about juries and, depending on your practice area, clients. Juries can be prejudiced by visible indicators of wealth, and while some clients want to see their lawyers wearing expensive clothes and jewelry, others will think they pay you too much. So plan to take it off for trials and some clients and you’ll be fine.

        • Shame on you. Do some reading on the diamond industry please.

          • Agreed. When my bf and I finally get engaged, we are definitely not going the diamond route. We’re both appalled at the diamond industry, and although you can get perfectly fine diamonds online from Canada, I don’t want to contribute to the whole “engaged must have a diamond” thing because most people won’t go the Canadian route. I also figure it will be a good conversation starter (why don’t you have a diamond? “well, these are my concerns about diamonds”), especially since my boyfriend loves buying me antique jewelry with a history or story behind it (he got me a beautiful Byzantine-era ring with a pink semi-precious stone for our one-year anniversary). I find it interesting that so many of us here are socially concious and refuse to shop at Wal-Mart because of their business practices, but have no problem with the diamond industry’s practices. Status, indeed.

      • la peagoise :

        how would one “show off” a ring? do you mean obviously pointing it out, as in, “check out my new ice?” or would simply wearing it qualify as showing off?

        if you’ve got a big ring, you don’t really have to do a lot to show it off… my sister has a carat-ish (but flawless) diamond ring and i notice it all time. i have a vintage-looking diamond ring with four smaller diamonds mounted in a way that it looks like one large one…people notice it all the time. i’m not doing anything to show it off, but would that count?

        • I meant the former. Also, don’t post it on facebook with the caption “BLING BLING look at my ring!!!!!!”

          Yes, true story.

        • I agree completely. My law school roommate had a big ring and was known throughout the law school as the girl who got the big rock. It was probably 2-3 carats and looked even bigger because she was a very petite woman. When she got engaged, she pretty much kept to herself and it was others who brought it up.

          • Ha — I had a good friend in law school who was marrying some internet millionaire and she had a habit of raising her ring hand and waving it around in some way that always managed to catch the light. She also had a habit of tapping the fingers of that hand against her mouth while she was thinking. Looking back, it was kind of hilarious.

      • “Personally, I think it would be perfectly tacky to wear diamonds before I’m forty…”

        “.. . of course they are perfectly lovely on older women, but…you DO understand!”

        - I know a lot fellow readers must know what movie that’s from! : )

    • On the one hand, no, she didn’t pick it out. On the other hand, she likely had some input and/or picked a person who thought to get her a really tacky ring :)

      I am mostly joking with that. I have become very de-sensitized to engagement rings. I would only form a negative opinion in certain contexts. Like, if you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen, leave the 2.5 carat diamond at home. Same if you’re representing an indigent defendant, or working at the pro se office, or wearing your ring to treat patients in the ER (that’s just gross, actually), etc. Context is everything. What you wear on your own time is your business — I would just question the judgment of wearing something obviously expensive in certain situations, which I do think is a valid judgment apart from “but she didn’t pick out the ring . . “

    • Honestly, I’m probably not going to notice your ring unless: (1) your ring blinds me or (2) it looks like it’s weighing your hand down. Even if you’re not the one who bought it, like it or not, your ring still reflects on you because you’re choosing to wear it and most likely had some input into what the ring looks like.
      (I know I’m in the minority, but I specifically told my boyfriend (now husband) that I did not want a diamond. Almost all married women I know had some input into their engagement ring.)

      • More power to you for not wanting a diamond! I agree completely.

      • Yes – I have many friends getting engaged/married at this point in my life, and a substantial percentage of them helped pick the ring and I don’t know anyone who said they had zero input. So while I don’t consider myself someone who judges strangers/coworkers on their rings, if I ever catch myself distracted by one, I doubt I’d think she had nothing to do with it.

      • Another Mel :

        Yay! Another person who doesn’t want diamonds. I love rubies and whilst I didn’t have any input into my engagement ring (in fact I had no idea) thankfully my husband got me a ruby engagement ring.

        I have recieved some fabulous comments from people including:
        “can it really be an engagement ring if its not a diamond”
        “is that really what you would have picked for yourself?!!”

        • and people are apparent utterly tactless. You also apparently found a really awesome guy who knew you well enough to a) know you didn’t want diamonds and b) know what you do want. I feel like that’s pretty impressive for a guy.

          • My engagement ring is a sapphire, 1.2ish carat, which yes, I asked for specifically, and I LOVE it. I want to do public defense. I have no idea whether it’s too “blingy” for clients and court. Sapphires are much less expensive than diamonds, even nice ones like mine, but it’s still shiny and eyecatching. Opinions?

    • For me, it’s not really the size that makes me judge. When I have noticed engagement rings and judged the wearer, it’s been because the ring is large AND exceptionally garish, and the rest of that person’s clothing and behavior reflects those values. In a professional office setting, it’s never been an issue. Provided it’s not giant cocktail ring-size, I think anything goes with the proper considerations (don’t wear too much jewelry, think about which clients you’ll be seeing, etc.)

    • For the ring thing, I would take your hand movements into account. If you use your hands a lot when you speak, then maybe a smaller stone or leaving your ring at home would be a better idea.

    • The process of mining diamonds has killed and maimed a lot of people, started wars that caused unprecedented suffering and destruction in places like Sierra Leone, and wrought wholesale devastation of the environment in many places, including Africa, South America, and Canada. I would implore people contemplating purchasing a big diamond – especially a perfect, clear stone over 1 carat in weight – to read the book The Heartless Stone, by Tom Zoellner. After I read it, I decided I had no desire to participate in perpetuating the abuse of human life and the Earth by buying or wearing a diamond, and I told my husband never to buy me one. My engagement ring is a diamondless heirloom, and my wedding ring is a plain titanium band. I am just as married and committed to my husband as the woman walking around flashing a 2.5 carat rock that some Sierra Leonan probably lost a limb to bring to market.

      • Anonymous :

        1. People from Sierra Leone call themselves Sierra LeonEans, not Leonans.

        2. Not all diamonds come from conflict zones, and you shouldn’t assume that every woman wearing a diamond is somehow implicated in the trade in conflict diamonds.

        3. I certainly hope you didn’t type your post on a computer or smart phone, because the trade in coltan (used in computers, cell phones, DVD players and a host of other electronics) has funded and indirectly led to as much if not more devastation in the DRC as the diamond trade did in West Africa.

        • Except that most of us on this website NEED to have a computer and cell phone to do our job, while NONE of us NEED a huge diamond.

          • divaliscious11 :

            Oh, so its fine to pillage because you NEED something to make your work easier. How on earth did work get done before the 70′s….

          • and if we are contributing to the exact same kind of devastation, we do not NEED to be self righteous about it.

        • “2. Not all diamonds come from conflict zones, and you shouldn’t assume that every woman wearing a diamond is somehow implicated in the trade in conflict diamonds.”

          This is why I recommended people READ A BOOK about this subject. Whether or not the diamonds come from a “conflict zone” they still contribute to environmental devastation and social injustice. South American diamond-mining operations are not in conflict zones but they still have caused lots of problems. The other issue is that the process of “certifying” that diamonds are conflict-free is pretty laughable. In Zoellner’s book and several others, diamond brokers in Antwerp and other places basically admit they have no real idea where diamonds come from when they land in their hands. For awhile, South African diamond miners (who were “independent contractors” paid by DeBeers) were smuggling conflict diamonds out of Sierra Leone in dead bodies, and then claiming they were “conflict free.” Please do some substantive research, and then I’d love to discuss this with you further.

          • Not disagreeing with the validity of your point, or that terrible things have been done with diamond money, etc., but I do think its not particularly effective to pick one thing (i.e., a diamond that you will buy maybe one or two of in your life if you are like most people) to hang your social consience hat on and then jump on anyone who has *gasp* dared to engage in that activity. The number of things you buy that go to support terrorism/war lords/drugs are actually pretty high and include a lot of things used in your and everyone else’s every day live s(see the cell phone example above).

          • “but I do think its not particularly effective to pick one thing (i.e., a diamond that you will buy maybe one or two of in your life if you are like most people) to hang your social consience hat on and then jump on anyone who has *gasp* dared to engage in that activity.”

            Why not? I shouldn’t stand against one type of injustice because there’s so much of it out there? Sorry, I don’t buy the argument of “well, there’s just so much wrong with everything, why pick anything to care about?” Some things are way worse than others, and to me, the diamond industry is one of those things. And believe me, I have not “hung my social conscience hat” on the diamond industry, and that’s a pretty ridiculous assumption to make. Everyone – EVERYONE – can at least TRY to do something SMALL to create positive change in the world. I try not to buy things that are made in China. We eat locally-grown, organic food as much as possible. We recycle. We shop at local businesses to support our local economy. I do volunteer work and donate money to causes I care about. Yes, there are a lot of bad things happening in the world. But guess what would happen if everyone threw up their hands and said “oh well, I guess that’s life” and went on their merry ways, consuming and generating waste in an anesthetized fog, oblivious to the suffering of others? There’d be a lot more bad things, and they’d be a lot worse.

          • A. by all means, pick a cause and be passionate about it. You know what really would have been very effective in this conversation? “Because this is a personal passionate of mine, I just want to ask everyone considering buying a diamond to do some research into the history of the diamond industry and so many people who have been harmed.” Your comment was so off putting and self righteous I just rolled my eyes, and suddenly have the desire to go buy 8 diamonds while I eat beef that’s not grass fed.

          • @Ri – Nicely put.

          • @Ri — you are a voice of reason

          • “Your comment was so off putting and self righteous I just rolled my eyes, and suddenly have the desire to go buy 8 diamonds while I eat beef that’s not grass fed.”

            What a mature and eloquent response. Why let logic get in the way of your own righteous indignation, eh?

          • Same Anonymous from 5:28pm :

            While you were busy “reading a book” about the subject and eating your grass-fed beef or whatever, I was practicing human rights law in West Africa for more than 5 years. So get off your high horse. Posting on the internet in all caps doesn’t make you seem like an expert, and the fact that you’re doing it on your coltan-filled laptop while telling an experienced human rights practitioner that you know more than she does makes you seem like a fool.

          • So you read one book, with a clear agenda, and now you are Ghandi? Puh-lease (from a girl with a less than perfect 1/2 carat engagement ring).

        • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Global-mined-tantalum-production-1990-2009.png

          Yes, there is coltan mined in DR Congo. But guess what — we’re opening mines right here in the US to meet demand. DR coltan production share has been near zero for many years and has only crept up recently because of the closing of a couple mines in Australia, as well as reduced demand (better quality ceramic capacitors).

      • Please do not judge everyone wearing diamonds as perpetuating the conflict diamond trade. My husband did a lot of research and specifically sought out a jeweler that specialized in conflict-free gems and bought a sustainably mined diamond.

        • Plus many artificial diamonds look darn near perfect, and I highly doubt you are qualified to tell without examining under a microscope if the “diamond” is a diamond or not. Your high horse does not serve you or your cause well at all. I completely agree with your position and know your arguments are valid, and yet the way you made them did a lot of harm. Alienating potential allies with self-righteous grandstanding is never a smart move. I expect you’re just going to smart mouth me the way you’ve done anyone else who takes issue with you, but I had to try.

    • I have a similar ring question. Before getting engaged, my husband and I had decided on a moissanite, which looks like a diamond to most people, but is a man-made “white” stone (more flourescent/brilliant than a diamond, sometimes yellow/green in different lights). I had asked for the equivalent of a 1ct diamond, since I had seen that liked how it looked with my hands.

      He had agreed to the size, but in the excitement, the jeweler got him to buy the roughly 2ct version (meaning it looks like a 2ct diamond). It’s set off by 4 small (2mm diameter) diamonds on each side and the wedding band matches the engagement ring with 10 of the 2mm diamonds.

      I feel sometimes like it’s quite a bit of bling. On multiple occasions, people have commented on it when I’m not trying to show it off in any way (but obviously have it on). I think most people assume it is a diamond, and while I am not ashamed in any way to explain what it is (and most of my friends etc. know if it’s come up), I also don’t feel like I need to respond to a comment of “beautiful ring” with “thanks, it’s not a diamond.”

      The problem is that a diamond of this size and apparent clarity/brilliance would cost roughly $20k, and I’m going to be a first year associate at a “big firm” this fall. I also usually like to wear a matching 8mm moissanite in a thin necklace (also a gift from my husband). At least one partner at this firm has commented on the necklace before, and by the way she did it, I think she thought it was also a diamond and was surprised.

      I’m not sure if I’m sending the wrong impression … do these pieces of jewelry make me look like I’m a social climber or materialistic? (I should say that other Coach purse with a tiny label I don’t think I wear anything else that would cause that label, at least that I know of…). I’m really curious though, what you guys think.

      • By way of background: I consider myself to be incredibly frugal (or ridiculously cheap, on bad days). I’m in BigLaw in a non-NYC market.

        My husband bought me an engagement ring that is approximately the same size as your ring, and it’s a perfect diamond. If I had picked it out myself, it would have been 1/4 the size and I’m somewhat horrified that I own a ring that costs about ten times the worth of my crappy car (what I mean to say is that I didn’t “ask for,” “endorse” or “suggest” a ring of this size, quality, or cost — if given the option, I would have spent the money on paying back student loans!) But — to be clear — now that I have it, I love it and it’s perfect.

        What I’m getting at here, though, is that my ring doesn’t particularly stand out in BigLaw. It might be on the larger end of “normal” but it’s still normal. I wear my engagement ring and wedding band every day. I would probably the engagement ring off for trial. Otherwise, I feel no need to explain myself.

        So if you’re a “social climber” then so am I and I think pretty much every single female associate at my firm is, too. I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

      • “… do these pieces of jewelry make me look like I’m a social climber or materialistic?”

        I’m sorry, but yes. If I saw it and did not know it was a moissanite (and I did not even know that word until I read your post), I would be judgmental. Sad, but true.

      • I hate to say it, but I might mention what kind of stone it is if someone commented on your ring. There’s just too many assumptions people will be making – as evidenced by this thread – otherwise. A simple “Thank you, it’s moissanite, which I’ve always thought is so pretty,” might do wonders to dispel them.

        And, I guess, in some sense it’s not even that bad to have to make the comment. People buy huge ass diamonds to convey something specific; it’s not like they exist in a cultural vacuum. If you don’t want to convey that message, it makes sense that you have to go out of your way to do so.

      • anon - chi :

        I wouldn’t worry about this. A 2 carat diamond in BigLaw is not unusual and will not attract stares or speculations on your morals, I promise. ;-) You certainly don’t sound like you would draw attention to your ring in a way that would make people judge you harshly, in any event. So wear it and don’t apologize for loving your ring!

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Two carats is definitely not unusual at all around here. Several of the rings in my office are bigger than that. Don’t worry about it.

      • divaliscious11 :

        If someone says you have a beautiful piece of jewelry, the appropriate response, if thank you. It is none of their business the cost, value or substantive make-up of your jewelry. And unless you are walking in the room, Left hand up and first, my guess is people notice that your married, and than move on….

      • I think not. But then I don’t judge people by the size of their rocks, label on their clothes or logos on their bags.

    • I think there’s a HUGE difference between an engagement ring, which is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime gift of extreme symbolic, emotional, etc. meaning that you receive from the most important person in the world to you and a purse.

      Right or wrong, even if the purse was bequeathed to you by your dying grandmother who raised you and it was her sole wish that you carry a birkin every day and it has just as much meaning to you as an engagement ring to someone else, most people will see carrying around an extremely expensive status-symbol purse in a MUCH MORE negative light than a big ring, and I really don’t think the two are comparable. Wear your engagement rings with pride ladies!*

      *Exception if you threw a fit b/c the original ring was so small and required that it be exchanged or guilt-tripped your fiance into getting a second mortgage just to buy the ring of your dreams.

    • I worry about this too. I have a large-ish engagement ring (2.5 carats) in a vintage setting surrounded by smaller diamonds. I love it, and it was passed down to my husband from a grandmother. I used to work in a big east coast firm, and I felt like no one noticed. But I’ve recently switched and now work for the government, and I feel like people stare, and I have even gotten a few comments. I usually just say something like “thanks, it was my husband’s grandmother’s” and hope that dispels assumptions, but I wonder if I should stop wearing it, though that would make me sad. I don’t regularly appear before juries.

      Thoughts?

      • I doubt anyone’s judging you for it, and even if they are, their judginess won’t harm you. I’d take it off for juries, but you’ve no need to justify it to your coworkers (and seriously – government pay isn’t so bad that a nice ring is out of reach for most government lawyers, and besides, it would have been paid for by your husband and not you).

    • One thing to add, as this is a personal sore spot for me. I got engaged when I was quite young, and my now-husband gave me his late mother’s ring. It is much larger than we could have afforded then and definitely not the kind of thing we would ever buy on our own, but is hugely emotionally significant for both of us. I have always been really bothered to know that people — more back then than now, as I have “grown into” the ring — are judging me negatively because they think I’m some spoiled princess who asked for an enormous rock. So please consider, before you judge, that the fancy engagement ring or the Birkin bag might be treasured family heirlooms!

      • Ring, yes — absolutely! I have seen many women wear engagement rings that have a long family history (I inherited a necklace made out of my great great grandmother’s stone, and while I could never afford a diamond necklace myself, I wear it as a treasured family heirloom proudly) – but a Birkin bag? Likely a gift, but somewhat less heirloom oriented.

        • Shayna – to each her own. How do you know you won’t someday pass on a treasured item (ring or not) to your kids/siblings/whoever?

        • My friend had a classic Gucci purse and wallet passed down to her from her grandmother, who carried them with her constantly. The purse and wallet are very much a part of the image she remembers of her grandmother, so she treasures them. If my friend had received a piece of jewelry from her grandmother instead, it would likely have had less meaning for her. Jewelry is not the only hand-me-down that can claim sentimental value.

  7. The intern’s personality, intelligence and work-ethic will probably say far more about her than her purse [whether fabulously Birken, or otherwise]. Air of entitlement? Or smart and hardworking?

    The mainstream men probably will not have a clue one way or the other, and the aspiring fashionistas, like myself, [after getting over a quick bout of jealousy] would probably be excited about the Birken and view it as a conversation piece. E.g. what a fablous piece!!! how long was the waiting list? did you have to promise your first baby? etc.

  8. ooh, I’m torn. On one hand, carrying it shows that if you do have enough money (or your family has enough money) to obtain such a bag, you have very nice/mature taste. (Assuming here that it is not a “notice me” or distinct color, even if that’s the classic orange).

    I don’t think (or wouldn’t like to think) I would judge the OP as entitled. However, I would notice it and guess I would be vaguely jealous, for lack of a better word.

    As an intern, you may or may not need to be carrying a laptop/papers back and forth — that could answer this question for you.

  9. I may be in the minority here, but I judge people based on their attitude about their possessions and not about their possessions themselves. The senior partner who comes in squealing about her new handbag is much more annoying than the trust-fund summer intern who carries a tasteful bag and doesn’t show it off. Ditto with the woman who flashes her engagement ring compared to the one who doesn’t. So long as the bag is work appropriate and the intern isn’t carrying it just to show it off, I can’t see what the problem would be.

    Then again, I picked up my friend’s $3000 Botega something handbag a couple weeks ago and said I was surprised it was soft because I didn’t think a woven bag would feel so nice and is it really woven, to which she replied, “um, it’s hand woven, and it cost $3000 so I hope it would be soft.” And then I put it down lest I spill a drink on it. Needless to say, I am not a bag person.

  10. Without knowing what type of Birkin, it’s hard to help much. Many people will not even recognize one. In fact, most people would not likely recognize one. Further, you could potentially get one for $1,000. If the OP’s bag is something like the one below (see link), then dammit, carry your bag, woman! However, if we are talking one of the $10,000 or higher, then be careful. Don’t carry it on the first day. Gauge the scene carefully and observe other interns.

    http://www.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=7458671

    Also, be honest with yourself about the stereotypes and stigmas you want and are willing accept. What many women forget is that we are responsible for our own reputation and attached stigmas. Make your choices based on stereotypes you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that you are willing (and WANT) to live with.

  11. I like lawyer’s observation that the people who know what it is will appreciate it, and the ones who would get huffy won’t recognize it. This is true; if I knew a young associate was carrying a very expensive handbag (or wearing an expensive watch, shoes, etc), I would suspect that they got the job through daddy rather than merit. But unless it’s got prominent logos on it, I won’t recognize it. So this may be another lesson; if someone compliments you on the bag, but seems not to know its price or the brand, be discreet. Just say, “Oh, I just love (the color, the size, the leather, etc). ” Or say, “Yeah, I put in a lot of hours at my last job to save up for it. ” (only if that’s true, of course!) Don’t mention price or brand unless asked specifically.

    • Agree. Carrying an expensive bag is not the issue. Letting everyone know that you are carrying an expensive bag is. Even when complimented, don’t draw attention to the price or status of it.

      In regards to the ring issue: I wear a beautiful, but not (compared with others in my industry) large diamond engagement ring. I am in medicine and I find it tacky for other physicians to wear very large (to my mind 1.5 carat and higher) when caring for patients. I think it distances you from your patient in an inappropriate way. Some of my colleagues who I am close to wear a simple wedding band at work and save the bling for pers0nal time, which strikes me as an appropriate compromise.

    • Right, carrying it is one thing; volunteering the brand or what it cost is an entirely different thing, I think.

      (FWIW, if I recognized that someone was carrying a $10k bag I’d assume we had very different priorities, but I like to think I wouldn’t let that spill over professionally, though I suppose some of it might unconsciously.)

    • I would never think to mention price or brand in response to a compliment! Do people actually do that???!!!
      Eek! I actually am always at a loss of how to respond when someone does ask me how much something cost or who made it b/c I think that’s an incredibly tacky question coming from most people (i.e., unless I know you really well). It would never occur to me to volunteer the information, and I am really surprised to hear that anyone would.

      • I had that same thought!

      • In my experience, men are worse about this. I had one co-worker who spent months telling me about how he was going to go ring shopping and spend $X on the ring (more than my car cost) and it was incredibly off-putting. I doubt his fiancee ever mentioned how much the thing cost.

        • Chicago K :

          My fiancee was at a guy night shortly after he proposed to me, and all the men went around saying how much they spent on engagement rings. I didn’t have my ring yet so there was no way for my guy to comment, but I was shocked they would even think about sharing this! You are so right that it’s a guy thing!

      • I only answer with price and/or brand if I got a hilariously awesome deal, and it’s someone that I know well and feel pretty comfortable around. I keep trying to stop, but I’m so darn proud that I got the DvF dress at Off Saks for $70! People probably think I’m crazy.

      • I never do – unless it’s a close friend, and I found it on a great sale :-)

    • I think you’re exactly right. Most people won’t even know what it is (or how expensive it is). The problem will be if someone does recognize it… because I have to be honest: if one of our summer associates had a Birkin bag, there is a strong possibility that someone will notice, and there is a good chance “someone” will mention it to other people…. and before you know it, the whole firm will know and you’ll be referred to as “the summer with the Birkin”.

      I HATE the idea that we’re judged by our belongings (whether they are high end or low end). Having said that, I wouldn’t bring it as an intern. The fact that enough of us here would make some negative assumptions is reason enough. Save it for when you’ve got the job.

  12. I’m really curious if everyone would KNOW it was a real Birkin. There are so many knockoffs (at least here in NYC) that I might guess at first that it was a good fake.

    • Yes. I assume at least 80% of the bags I see are fake.

    • Whenever I see a Louis Vuitton, Hermes, or Dior bag, I automatically assume it’s fake. Especially around here, where for quite some time it’s been popular for women to throw “purse parties” in their homes where you can buy very convincing knockoffs for under $100.

    • The thing is, if you own a real one (any brand), you can easily spot a fake. Even a “really good fake” that fools everyone else. The color(s) might be off. Something might be the wrong size. The material might be shinier or more matte.

      Anyone who thinks they are fooling people is only fooling themselves!

      • I hate to say this, but that’s not true.
        Knock offs come in different types. Some are terrible. Some are so so. And some are so good that it’s next to impossible, esp. without looking inside, to tell. Women have spent hundreds of dollars on good knock offs — hundreds! As in what other people pay for “splurge” bags.
        Anyway, I have lots of issues with knock offs, and think its actual kind of sad to buy them if you think it through, but don’t kid yourself that you can ALWAYS tell the difference.

      • I think this is something people who spend money on authentic bags tell themselves; I don’t necessarily think it’s the truth. I am not judging as I have done this myself with Coach bags, but the bottom line is, there are very good fakes out there and I have been fooled several times now.

  13. I think that the intern should wear her purse if it is something that she does not use to make a statement about what she can buy/who she is, etc… If you just so happen to have been given a birkin bag why should you be faulted for that? or if you chose to save for a birkin bag, yes that does say something about you (not sayign it’s negative), but who cares? wear it, don’t flash it, and live your life. I bet most people wouldn’t even notice. BUT, if you choose to wear it in hopes that it is impressing other people, leave the bag & that terrible way of thinking at home. :-)

    • This is impossible – since it’s not up to her whether her carrying it around is a statement or not – it’s up to the perceptions of those around her. I would err on the side of caution and leave it at home.

  14. It is totally unfair, or in your words ‘strange’, to form a negative opinion based on a gift, but I know several women whom have thrown fits or delivered ultimatums in order to get a ring that is big enough or flashy enough to fulfill girlhood/advertising-implanted fantasies. I guess I somehow (unfairly) suppose that’s what a newly-met woman with a monstrous ring just begging for a mugger has done as well. I would never say anything to anyone about their ring – whether it was big or small – and I am more than happy to have them changing my mind away from my assumption that they may be materialistic. I confess, however, that a bursting-bubble presumption of materialism instantly arises.

    Ditto for a Birkin. I’d immediately assume the intern is materialistic, but it would be pretty easy to change my mind.

    • I’m just generally curious about those women who throw fits for a larger ring. How do you even do something like that? There’s something really off-putting about a person who would do something like that.

      • I’m curious too…honestly, I don’t want a large diamond ring for several reasons (including concern about conflict diamonds, the fact that I don’t particularly like the way the look, my hands are really small and it would look funny, I would worry about catching it on things…) but regardless, I was taught to be gracious and thankful when receiving a gift no matter WHAT it is or who it’s from. When my mother bought me a gold watch (not Cartier but not timex) I felt really guilty and conflicted because I didn’t think it would work for me, but I knew she spent a lot of money on it (for her) and really loved giving it to me and I didn’t want her money to go to waste, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

  15. I had an intern who wore high-end designer clothes, carried designer handbags, lamented that her expensive sports car didn’t do well in the snowy winters here, and sported a very ostentatious diamond ring and an expensive Tiffany necklace. I admit that she got along well with several of our (significantly older, male, and primarily divorced) higher-ups. But frankly, it all came across very badly to me, and the office staff DESPISED her for it.

    It’s one thing for an attorney to wear expensive clothes and such. Not only does our profession expect it, to some extent, but our salaries are significantly higher than the salaries of those who answer the phone, type out the letters, and empty the trash. But interns are -students-, and they don’t typically make the kind of money in a year which merits frivolous clothing purchases. It seems classless and rather nasty towards the staff to rub expensive clothing in their faces each and every day when you haven’t even received your degree yet.

    And, in the meantime, -I- don’t make the kind of money to buy the clothes or cars she had, either. Her dressing that way sent me the message that she expected attorneys to dress that way, and that was a subtle critique of my own dressing habits.

    I don’t care if an intern is rich, and I don’t think having money is inherently a “bad” trait. However, I -do- care if an intern demonstrates a complete lack of consideration for how other people will take her dressing habits, and whether she’ll give offense.

    And I have to say that, yes, I put her insensitivity on such subjects in her evaluation. Somebody thinks they can be a good attorney – let alone a “rainmaker” or a good trial advocate – while spending an entire summer completely obvious that she had alienated 90% of the office, despite subtle hints in that regard? Yeah, right.

    My advice would be to dress as nicely as folks one or several rungs up the ladder (depending on how horizontal or vertical the hierarchy runs), but an intern should never aspire to dress as well as a partner, and NEVER dress simply to show off wealth.

    • And that should say “oblivious” instead of “obvious”. Must not type and speak on phone at the same time. :/

    • divaliscious11 :

      But none of the “tone deafness” about her attitude was because of her nice things. She sounds like she’d have been a pill in a burlap sack!

    • “And, in the meantime, -I- don’t make the kind of money to buy the clothes or cars she had, either. Her dressing that way sent me the message that she expected attorneys to dress that way, and that was a subtle critique of my own dressing habits.”

      This statement makes it very clear that your post says a lot more about you than it does about the intern. It’s sad that your personal feelings about her made you unable to objectively evaluate her job performance.

      • Uh, no. I’m more than able to recognize knee-jerk reactions when I have them and separate them out from my evaluation of an intern. It’s this neat little trick called “self-analysis”.

        My problem was that she showed no capacity to do the same, to evaluate how her actions would make her appear to others – specifically, our office staff and others. I thought I made that pretty clear in my post; apparently not.

        Besides which, the intern who initiated this thread asked if bringing a $9000 bag in would cause problems. There are plenty of people would feel pissed off and not be able to identify why.

    • Oh wow. I am so sick of lawyers looking down at students because they, as you would say, “haven’t even received their degree yet”. As if there is a world of difference once you complete an extra 8 months of school and get a piece of paper. PFFFT. If anyone has extra money to throw around on expensive clothes or accessories, it is likely to be a student who may live at home, receive help from their parents, etc, not someone like me, 35 with a mortgage and kids. If it is classless and nasty for a student to “rub” something in the staffs faces, it is classless and nasty for a lawyer to do it too. At least if this student is young you can shake your head and say something about being young and not knowing any better. Grow up. You should be the mature one to set an example.

      • Agreed… to add, what if the “intern” happens to be a student that is a bit older and worked in a professional environment prior to attending law school. Do I lock away my old suits and go out and find a new wardrobe intended to not fly in the face of staff? Give. Me. A. Break.

    • I have to ask how wearing nice clothes is considered “rubbing the staff’s nose” in it. Most people don’t place any value on clothes, and I’ve gotten a lot of really nice stuff off of (gasp!!!) ebay. Your tone shows you didn’t like her, plain and simple, and you used the way she dressed as a reason to excuse this dislike. If she were snotty, that would be one thing, but taking pride in the way she looked and dressed? I fail to see how that’s a problem (and for the record, you didn’t say anything else about her performance or how she behaved, which leads me to believe clothing was her only problem and you gave her a crappy review because of it).

      Grow up.

  16. Related topic. I have a slightly senior, but not in my group, colleague who frequently asks me how I can afford to go out to eat “all the time.” My answers have been A. that I don’t go that much (maybe once a week, which is maybe more than some people do, and maybe I go more often than that on average), B. that I don’t always pay for myself (which is not really true, but I do occasionally get taken out by family members or my bf), or C. that it is my fun activity and I don’t take a lot of vacations or buy designer clothes or things (which is the truth). But she keeps asking. I think she is kind of frugal, and she definitely makes about 50% more than I do, but I find the line of her questioning inappropriate because frankly it’s none of her business how I spend my money. She also, when she found out where I live, hinted strongly that I live in an expensive area even though I only live 4 blocks from her. I found myself explaining that I lived on a busy street and so it was cheaper than other apartments in the area (not true). Any thoughts on how to deal with this? My lifestyle isn’t extravagant at all for someone in my income bracket – certainly none of my other coworkers live more frugally.

    • Your colleague is behaving inappropriately.

    • I think a polite but firm and closed ended “well, we all choose to spend money in different ways.” And end it there.

    • anon - chi :

      Here’s my guess: None of this women’s comments really have anything to do with you or how you spend your money. She sounds nosy and judgmental, and she probably would be even if you ate out half as much and lived in a worse area. If it were me, I would stop providing these long excuses and explanations about how I spent my money – that might mean telling this woman you are uncomfortable talking about your finances, or just shrugging off the questions with a smile. Just don’t take this woman’s comments as an indictment on your lifestyle and let her make you self-conscious. It’s really nobody’s business but yours.

    • I would just respond by saying, “I structure my budget so that I can afford to do the things I like.” Repeat as needed, and refuse to say anything else. And definitely, definitely don’t go into the details of any specific purchase or choice. Because you’re right, it’s none of her business. Hopefully, if she gets the same boring answer over and over again, she’ll get bored and find someone else to pick on.

    • The next time she grills you about it, I would answer by saying “why do you ask?” or “haven’t we talked about this before?” or even get more assertive if you’re feeling up to it “why do you KEEP asking?” or “haven’t we talked about this more than once before?” or “I’m not going to answer this line of questioning again.” You could even try joking about how obsessed she seems with your habits if you think that might get the message across. These responses will hopefully point out how inappropriate she is being in a subtle manner. I’ve dealt with people like this and their inquiries are typically motivated by a combination of curiosity and jealousy.

    • Thanks for all the advice, everyone – it’s helpful. I probably have been over-explaining.

      • I would say your coworker is probably a bit jealous, a bit naive and very nosy.

        It reminds me of a boss I once had, who always, always went out to a sit down lunch every day. He also bought breakfast from the coffee shop in the building every day. As a young employee just starting out, I DID wonder how he could afford to eat out every day, as I was flat broke back then and really just didn’t understand that people really did make THAT MUCH more than me.

        To make matters worse, he would CONSTANTLY ask me if I went out for a nice lunch. I always said no, that I brought my lunch. I know he was just being nice and trying to make conversation, but it was really awkward.

        Finally one day I made a comment about eating out daily really adding up, and his entire attitude changed. I honestly don’t really think he’d ever thought that there are people who can’t afford it. He told me he really valued getting away from the office at lunch to take a break from work, and that he was only encouraging his staff to do the same.

    • I think she is plain rude, that is too intrusive

  17. The Birkin is just so in your face as a status bag. Say I who at 52 bought my first visibly logoed bag EVER. But in Singapore the entire class and social signaling system may be different.

    Me, just me, a 53-year old liberal Democrat with a terrible weakness for luxury goods, I’d be put off by an intern with a Birkin. But an associate? Someone who has been working? You go right ahead. Again, it’s just me. I’m only a data point, not an arbiter per se.

    • LPC – How do you know the intern hasn’t worked prior to this job? Even if that’s a fair criterion….

      It might be a graduation gift/whatever….she doesn’t have to “earn” the right to it.

      Let’s live and let live, please.

  18. I am shocked by the comments so far especially for a website that regularly highlights very expensive clothes, shoes, and handbags.

    Putting aside the intern aspect for a second, we all work very hard for the money we make and I’m surprised that people make such harsh judgments about what other people choose to spend their money on. For some people it’s clothes, for other people it’s cars, vacations, homes, or the spa. I don’t begrudge anyone their fancy handbags or shoes. I might be jealous of them, sure, but I don’t think it speaks to their desire to be a social climber or give off the impression that they come from money. Why can’t we buy nice things for ourselves because we’ve earned it?

    • Hear, hear!

      If the question-asker spent $10,000 on a vacation that no one else knew about, it seems like that would be okay, but somehow spending that much on an item that brings her joy daily (and is functional) is not?

      • I did spend roughly $13000 on a vacation as a 4th year associate. I hadn’t had a real vacation in like 10 years, and it was for 2 weeks to a “once in a lifetime” type of place. I guess the difference is that what I spent on a vacation wasn’t obvious like the price of a Birkin? People can spend their money however they want. I care a lot more about attitude. We’ve all worked with that coworker whose father owns the company and they never had to work at anything a day in their life. I’ve also worked with coworkers whose father’s name was on the door, and they worked as hard or harder than I did. It’s the individual person that matters.

    • anon - chi :

      I’m in the “don’t carry the Birkin” camp, but it has nothing to do with whether the intern is entitled to have the bag, or whether it’s silly to spend money like that. I think it’s a silly decision to carry a bag like that as an INTERN when you are presumably still aiming for a permanent position all summer long because you risk alienating someone in the office. I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

      • I will grudgingly agree with you that she should consider leaving the bag at home so as not to alienate anyone. But I do think that some folks are acting like it’s not okay to have something expensive because the simple fact of having it means that you’re lazy or flashy.

        As someone who covets stupidly expensive fountain pens (definitely an item that some consider frivolous or silly), I feel the need to defend the right to a little frivolity.

    • I do agree with you. For me, certain luxury items are absolutely worth the price and we may (and should) spend our money as we please. I love Hermes and Chanel handbags. fine jewelry, and well made shoes, and I carry them unapologetically and without anxiety.

      I would not, however, dismiss the anxieties that some really do women feel. The comments on this blog over the last year + demonstrate that there are real issues and a lack of consensus regarding professional women’s appearances, whether it’s wearing a skirt rather than pants in front of a judge with a known preference, taking off the Rolex to dress “down” for a jury, or whether hair of a certain length infantilizes you.

      Yes, it matters how you present yourself (carrying a demure Birkin vs. squeeing with ostentation over your latest purchase), but frankly that’s personality and hard to change. My guidance is to consider your surroundings. A midsize firm experiencing layoffs in a cash-strapped Midwestern state? Think twice, perhaps. A big firm in a big Asian city? Go for it.

    • But isn’t the whole point that she hasn’t earned it because she is an intern? That’s the whole reason people are saying they might view her as a social climber or come from money, because since she is so young she either 1) choose an expensive bag over say, saving for a house, family, etc. or 2) mommy and daddy bought it for her

  19. Eff what people think. Carry the bag if you want to, don’t carry it if you don’t want to. Anybody who judges anybody by a purse is ridiculous.

  20. Thanks for this thread — this discussion has been fascinating.

    I had to deal with a similar issue directly about a month ago. I’m a 2010 law school grad looking for nonprofit work to do during my deferral year, and I have a 2.5 carat engagement ring (just a simple solitaire, but I’m not going to pretend it’s small or unnoticeable). I haven’t been wearing my ring to interviews/meetings at nonprofits. I don’t want anyone to get form an opinion about me based on something as silly as my engagement ring, especially in the nonprofit sector. You’d hope that no one would think poorly about my good intentions because my fiance has the money to buy a large engagement ring (because I definitely don’t have that kind of dough!), but I just didn’t want to risk it.

    Similarly, if I were the OP, I would not risk carrying the Birkin. And this is coming from a girl who covets Birkins big time! :)

    • If I found out that someone was engaged or married and not wearing a ring because of what others might think, I would think less of her for putting her own insecurity and others’ perceptions ahead of her marriage. Now, if she simply never wears it that’s something else entirely, but if she removed it in certain situations because of what “people” might think, that’s really sad.

      • I don’t like the fact that someone might think differently of me for having a large engagement ring, but it seems to be a valid fear, judging from the opinions on this thread. I actually scored one of the internships, and I certainly plan on wearing my ring to work everyday, as I would with any other job.

        I’m quite comfortable with the fact that my eventual marriage comes first, and so that’s why it wasn’t worth it to me to risk an interviewer thinking poorly of me because I have what some might consider a flashy ring. I wanted to be considered for the job because of my credentials and personality, not taken out of the running because someone made the mistaken assumption from my ring that I’m a spoiled brat. That’s been accomplished, and now I have no problem wearing the ring. For me, it was all about managing the first impression since, as they say, you only get one shot. I guarantee no one will remember if I wore a ring to my initial meeting, which is the whole point.

      • I might not wear a 2.5 carat to an interview, but just because it might be distracting not because of what people might think. Along the advice of make sure your clothes make you the main event, even if all the person would think is “wow a gorgeous piece of jewelry” I want the focus all about me and my work not my suit or my jewelry.

    • I work at a nonprofit, and asked my now-husband for a smaller ring as a result. When I really thought about it, I felt weird working with people who were barely getting by while I flaunted something so ostentatious. I am also a bit of a hippie tree hugger type, so YMMV.

      :)

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