Looking Professional, In the Factory

Reader D has a unique question: what to wear in the field?  More specifically, to visit a factory (and ride in her client’s plane!)

I am going on a site visit to a factory near Seattle.  The visit includes riding in a small plane and then visiting a large factory so I will need to be casual, wear flat comfortable shoes, yet still look professional.  Any advice?  Although I am a senior associate I will be the sole representative for my client and want to make sure I come off as professional as possible.

Congratulations on the opportunity — it sounds fun (riding in a private plane is on my Bucket List) and like a good career opportunity. As far as fashion goes, I think my answer depends on one question: can you wear denim around your client? If so, I think a pair of dark (preferably black) jeggings skinny jeans, tucked into flat boots, topped with a button-front and blazer, and accessorized with your normal work jewelry, would probably be my best guess for an outfit. (Update:  There’s a lot of disagreement with me in the comments, which is fine, but just to be clear: when I say “jeggings” — I mean skinny  jeans that have a bit of extra Spandex in them to make them more comfortable, but are still primarily denim.  E.g., these, these, or these. Not these.)  Here’s my thinking:

– Factory = boots. While ballet flats and other flat shoes have many things to recommend them, on the off (off) (off) chance something falls on your foot, you should be as protected as possible. Also, I think if there’s any uncertain footing that requires delicate stepping (e.g., over pipes), you’ll want to be in shoes that you know will not fall off. Oh, another reason: if it’s at all muddy or dusty on the runway (or in the factory), you’ll want the dust to stick to your boots rather than your pants.

– Factory and small plane = pants. See above re: delicate stepping.  I think it’s also possible in the factory you could be walking on grating, or on metal stairways, with people walking or working below, such that you wouldn’t want to wear a skirt.  I could also see there being some awkward stairways to get up to the plane (although it’s entirely possible I’ve just watched Arrested Development too much).

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– Factory and small plane = tight-fighting, non-voluminous clothing. You wouldn’t want to get a flowing cardigan or skirt caught on a piece of machinery, or (ack) in some part of the propeller.

– Professional = blazer, dark pants. I would suggest that you carry over the jewelry you normally wear with suits to this more casual outfit — if it’s pearls and diamonds, do it; if it’s a statement necklace that you always wear, do it. Part of this is for a continuous look: the client has seen you wearing the jewelry before, and even though you’re in a different type of outfit now you’re still, at the core, the professional lawyer he knows. Another part of this is to help YOU feel confident and be in your zone for your most professional self. For me, for example, that means putting on my good watch whenever I have a business meeting, no matter what I’m wearing… even if I don’t wear the watch when I’m lazing around the house or hanging out with friends.

So all of these thoughts, above, send me to jeggings, flat boots (get ’em shined before you go!), a nice top, a blazer, and your work jewelry. There are some non-denim leggings that have enough weight to the fabric that they can be worn as pants (despite the popular Buzzfeed “am I wearing pants” flowchart) — I got a nice ponte pair from Ann Taylor earlier this year. If you really would rather wear proper trousers, I might still advise wearing flat, knee-high boots beneath them — that way if conditions are really horrible you can tuck your pants into your boots.

A few other considerations: plane and runway = wind, so I might suggest pulling your hair back from the get-go. Keep in mind, though, that the factory may require you to wear a hardhat, hairnet, and/or goggles… so I wouldn’t do anything too fancy that will interfere with those requirements.  In other words: low “on purpose” ponytail, not a French twist.

Readers, have you had to visit factories (or, speak up ladies, how many of you have ridden in private planes)? What would you wear?

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  1. Oh, no... :

    Jeggings???? To look professional????

    No. Just…no.

    • Anonsensical :

      I wear them every casual Friday, usually with flat riding boots and a dressy sweater or blazer, and get lots of compliments from the more stylish female attorneys at work.

    • I thought that maybe this was a late April Fool’s joke. Dark skinny jeans made of actual denim, yes . . .knit jeggings, no no no.

    • I have stretch denim “jeggings” from Calvin that are awesome and definitely on the pants size of the equation, though comfortable and stretchy, they play like jeans but are great tucked into boots. I wear them with blazers or sweaters and I love them.

      • I have black ponte knit pants (more like leggings) that I sometimes wear to work. With nice shoes and a blazer on top, people have actually mistaken them for a “dressed up” look (including a director-level colleague, who thought I had had dressed for a client meeting). This, considering I wear pencil skirts and pantyhose almost daily.

        Meanwhile, I felt more like I was wearing yoga pants. Comfortable but good-looking=win.

        • Where did you get these? I’ve been looking for something like that!

          • Express, believe it or not. I got the “skyscraper” ponte knit pants, so they’re extra long and needed hemmed, but I liked that they had extra room around the ankle. They have regular skinny ones, too.

      • No jeggings for plane flight or factory visit. This is where you wear a pants suit or pants and a blazer, with a shirt or something sorta high necked. Dark or neutral, keep jwelry to a minimum. You will be stared at in the factory, so don’t give them a lot to stare at.

        Jeggings are not for work – but they are adorable and I love them. Bought mine at Burlington for $7.00 and they do look great.

    • there are jeggings that are thick denim, basically look like jeans, just a little more stretchy. That are not ‘pajamajeans.’ No where close. I think Kat is right on with this suggestion, but maybe it needed a little more specificity, since apparently people have very different ideas about what ‘jeggings’ means.

    • Agreed. I’ve done the factory visits and rides in private plane. I would recommend trousers, khakis, or even jeans and a button up blouse or knit shell and blazer (it may well be extremely cold on the client’s plane, if it is not a jet).

      • Having trouble posting here. If it is a small private plane, you may well have to do some awkward climbing in and out of the plane. Flat shoes or boots are a must. If you have not traveled in a small plane before, I would recommend the little airsickness prevention bands that you put around your wrist. I don’t consider myself particularly sensitive, but it is very easy for me to get queasy in a hurry if the ride is bumpy in a small plane. In that case, turn on your air vent full strength and aim it at your face. An ice cold regular canned coca-cola also helps, and many private pilots will have them available for you.

    • Even though Kat denies it above, jeggings means leggings with a denim look. What she recommends is stretch skinny jeans, which is not at all the same.

  2. momentsofabsurdity :

    My thoughts :

    On many factory floors, you will need to wear protective gear to tour certain areas, and will have to leave personal items outside. Therefore, slimfitting pants and a slimfitting top are a must, as you may have to pull on a second pair of pants or jumpsuit or a gown over them. Similarly, while I agree with covered fit shoes, you may need to pull bootie covers over them, so make sure they are not too bulky. Wear contacts, if you wear glasses, so you don’t need to deal with safety goggles over your eyewear and any reflection problems that might cause. Make sure you have a hair elastic with you. Put your really really important stuff (like ID for flying, keys, credit cards) in a small card wallet you can stick in your pocket, because there’s a good chance you’ll leave your bag outside.

    In general, as someone who visits factory floors often for work, Kat’s suggestions are spot on. By jeggings, I assume she means heavier weight pants with more stretch in them than regular slim fit pants, that look more like denim than leggings, but feel more like leggings. If you’re uncomfortable with that, slim fitting or skinny trousers should work just as well, but you will not have the same range of motion for climbing in/out of small planes, walking all over the factory, etc.

    • From my SIL who works at Boeing (where I suspect Reader D might be traveling to?), on the goggles point:

      “The only thing she didn’t mention was GOGGLES! The ones they hand out at the door are totally embarrassing, and usually much too large for a women’s face. If you comment on this site often, you might suggest she buy some at home depot that don’t look like they were made for an old grandpa driving a Cadillac. :-)”

      Otherwise, she says Kat nailed it.

      • No one will laugh at you if you wear the embarrassing, ugly safety goggles. But they will laugh at you if you bring your own goggles. Plus you have no guarantee that yours will offer an appropriate standard of protection for the situation.

        Otherwise, wear slacks you can move freely in, and sturdy flat shoes/boots. Don’t worry about steel toed boots or anything unless someone tells you specifically that you need them (I never have). No scarves or dangling jewelry. No jeggings.

  3. A question I would ask of the person from the site is if steel-toed boots are required. A lot of factories require anyone who is on the floor to wear them, and if you don’t have them, they will provide you with spat-like covers for your shoes. In my experience, these spats are made for men’s shoes, and do not fit well over ballet flats or most other women’s shoes. If there will be more than one factory visits in your future, I would recommend purchasing a pair of steel-toed shoes or boots, which are far more comfortable than the spats.

    • This is what I was thinking as well – she should find out if steel toed boots are required. There are actually lots of different styles out there now, and while not necessarily super fashion forward, not necessarily super industrial looking, either.

      And they should count as a reimbursable expense, imo.

    • Go for composite :

      If you do need to get steel-toed shoes, I would actually skip the steel-toe and buy composite-toe. It’s the same strength (at least as far as I know!) but much lighter, which makes a big difference after a day of walking around.

  4. Echoing the above: NO JEGGINGS AT WORK EVER. EVER. EVER. Obviously Anonsensical is doing something right, and I congratulate her. Without a pic, I honestly can’t imagine how she’s pulling it off. But I went into law because I lack imagination, so…

    • Anonsensical :

      They’re dark skinny jeans with a lot of stretch to them. Not sure where y’all draw a line between skinny jeans and jeggings but to my mind, they’re the same thing ~ jeans that are so skinny they’re like leggings. I’ve noticed even Express and BR have been calling their super skinny denim “denim leggings” or “jeggings” these days. Is it purely a matter of the cotton to spandex ratio? How soft or thin the fabric is? The presence of pockets?

      • No, it’s both. I would never, ever wear skinny jeans or jeggings to work. Depends where you work, but not in my big company at a high level job. This is just not at all acceptable. Even at the factory- were I to dress down, it’d be in normal-fitting pants.

  5. I work in construction management, so it may not be completely transferable, but I think you would be fine in a pair of khakis and a collared shirt. Definitely wear boots. That is typically what we and the other professional people wear daily or when making a site visit.

    • Yes, this. Boots over jeggings is NOT professionally appropriate for the field. Ever. Khakis, medium-to-dark denim, cargo pants, or any combo of the previous are ok. You want thick fabric for the pants so that the magical factory dust stays on your pants and does not travel through onto your skin. If steel-toed boots aren’t required, Timberland’s or something similar. A French braid or very low ponytail for goggles/hardhat accommodation. Jackets are good and make sure you bring more business cards than you need to hand them out to whomever appropriate.

      Try to wear something with pockets so that you can stick your wallet, keys and phone in them. Stay away from dangly jewelry – necklaces, earrings, etc. I’d say a watch and not-fashiony rings would be ok (like a wedding or engagement ring). Depending on the type of factory, I’d say do NOT wear contacts bc the particulate matter in the air can get stuck in your eye and teary red eyes are not the most professional look either. And some chemicals can bond to your contacts and be really irritating.

      • lostintranslation :

        This x100. Kat’s response is like me giving lawyers fashion advice from reading John Grisham novels. Do NOT wear jeggings/riding boots. The decisive factor is the actual product. Heavy industry -> Ru’s instructions. I work in automotive/electronics industry which has super clean manufacturing facilities, so I wear dark trousers, a collared shirt, loafers or boat shoes, and minimal makeup. I wear a lot of dresses to work otherwise, but in this case I stick to a much more boring/unisex look and find it to work better.

    • Khakis are awful, though. I don’t mind them on men, in the right context. But for women, there is always a more flattering and stylish option that is still appropriate.

      • J.Crew and Old Navy have some relatively stylish ones that work. They are certainly not the most fashionable pants in the world, but they do stand up well to factory conditions. I’m an environmental consultant, so when I do site visits, I wear a company polo, khaki pants and steel-toed shoes if it is a factory. That is usually as dressy as it gets for most industrial facilities.

        • Yes, my comment was too broad. I understand that khakis are essentially the uniform for certain jobs. When offered a choice, though…

          • I agree, every day when I’m not doing field work, I wear anything-but-khakis. It took me 2+ years to find a pair of khakis that I didn’t mind wearing every day. Apparently there is no market for nice looking women’s khaki pants, so no one makes them!

          • Nice khakis :

            J.Crew Favorite Fit Chinos (Factory) – they have them in a khaki color that I did not purchase because I don’t need khaki color pants, but I own them in grey and black. Very flattering.

          • Express Columnist barely-boot pants are available in khaki. I don’t own them in khaki, but I own them in other colors and they’re one of the most flattering cuts of pants I own. I also own a pair of khaki dress pants from Ann Taylor that I like, but they’re from a few years ago.

        • New York and Company also offers pretty reasonable chinos that are appropriate for the field.

    • eastbaybanker :

      I also visit construction sites occasionally. I wear what I would always wear to work, but a more boring, unfashionable, and sensible version of a typical outfit. I’ve gotten feedback from construction types on white collar visitors who try to dress the part. Basically, they think we look ridiculous when we try to blend in (see jeggings and riding boots!) So I still dress for my professional role. No khakis and polo shirts for me, thank you.

      Basic rules of thumb:
      – No skirts, so I’m not flashing anyone on a ladder or open elevator.
      – No bright colors or large accessories, since I prefer to keep a lower profile in a dirty high testosterone workspace and not come off as too girly.
      – No scarves or anything dangling that could get caught.
      – A purse that leaves both my hands free.
      – Older trouser pants that I could get dusty and wouldn’t be too sad.
      – My go to shoes are an old pair of black leather ballet flats. They’re too old to wear to the office but are still a plain closed toe professional shoe that I don’t care about getting dirty. I’ve visited a fair number of dirty job sites and never felt like I needed work boots.

      • I’d also caution about Kat’s “nice shirt” injunction. A nice shirt here is one that you can lean in to look under something without flashing whatever guys happen to be present. And let’s not even mention maintenance issues. But if you feel an unstoppable urge to wear a silk shirt, at least put a crew-neck t-shirt on underneath.
        And likewise I’d think twice about the usual jewelry – it’s not just avoiding an expensive accident, it’s that any accident could lead to removal of body parts. You don’t really want to make headlines about cracking graft techniques, and even a wedding ring can be downright dangerous. That said, you should not be touching anything, but safety should be a primary consideration.

  6. I 100% agree with the NO jeggings comment. Especially because factory/plant environments are typically more conservative.

    I recently had a business trip that included a lot of time in a server room, which has similar consideration to a plant. I wore comfortable grey trousers (mine were a moderately wide-leg cousin to khaki’s, not wool, but any professional trousers would work), sturdy shoes (mine were Tsubo’s that have a wedge heel because my trouser length needed a heel, but flats are obviously fine – I agree with the sturdy-ness factor, though, for safety purposes), thin sweater or knit top, and an unstructured blazer or cardigan. I chose grey & black for my color palette because I was only there for 2 days & needed everything to interchange easily (and fit in my carry-on).

    Stay away from scarves or anything else that could get caught in machinery, including flowy tunics an big necklaces or earrings. If you have long hair, you might want to put it back or in a half-up style that could accomodate a hard hat. In some environments, you might also have to wear a hair net, anti-static or steel-toed shoes, or other safety gear (should be provided for you), so the idea is to wear separates that are easy to manage.

    Honestly, this is a time when function should take consideration over stylishness, although you can still express your style in a print top, color palette, etc. No scarves or big jewelry!

    • Totally agree. Call me crazy Kat but part of looking professional is dressing appropriately. If you wear a statement necklace, be prepared to take it off at the factory because it can strangle you. Function over form, all the way.

  7. I agree with Kat’s recommendations. I work in a factory-type environment with polished concrete floors, plenty of oil/grease in spots that I might want to talk, and hazardous chemicals. I would recommend skipping your favorite shirt, pants, and shoes, just in case something spills, you step in grease, etc. I wouldn’t worry about being too informal, since most of the warehouse/factory staff work in jeans, t-shirts, and usually wear rubber boots or steel-toe boots, and some kind of apron and glasses. The office staff usually “upgrades” to khakis or trousers and a polo shirt, so that they can go into the shop without being hindered. You might also want to be aware of temperature changes between the factory and office, and consider dressing in layers in case it goes to the extreme.

  8. It depends what kind of factory. A sawmill is one thing, but most modern factories are cleaner than my house. It’s highly unlikely a visitor will be let anywhere near machinery with moving parts.

  9. SpaceMountain :

    Yes on the boots, or lace-up flat shoes. I had a client with some factory-type settings, and it seemed like every visit, I was called out on my shoes and forced to cover them up or change into something else. It was embarrassing, as I was the only woman in the group and they always found something wrong with my shoes. That and my jewelry.

  10. I tried this threadjack yesterday but I think it was too late in the day – anybody have recommendations for blogs focused on Attorney Working Moms? I thought Corporette was going to have something (does anybody remember a discussion about this by Kat in one of the pregnancy/maternity posts?) but I don’t see anything. Just looking for a blog community of mom’s who are attorneys and all it comes with. Thanks!

    • Charlotte :

      I remember that post and was looking forward to it, too…

    • I recall Kat talking about doing a Corporette Moms newsletter of some sort, but I’m not sure what even happened to it. To tell you the truth, though, while I absolutely love what Kat’s done here, I’m not sure that I’d be thrilled with the idea of a Corporette Moms newsletter from her, because she’s never been both a ‘rette and a mom. Don’t get me wrong; I completely respect that she’s decided to stay (sort of) home with her munchkin and that she’s made this site into something that is actually something like a full time job, I’m just not sure how much Corporette Mom advice she can give. I was wondering if that was why the project seems stalled.

      Of course, if she did it as more of an aggregator of others’ contributions – I’m sure that that would be really great.

      • anoninnyc :

        Kat, do you read the comments? I would be really curious to find out about Corporette Moms, plus-size Corporette, and other projects that I vaguely remember you mentioning.

  11. Anonymous :

    Two-part threadjack:

    1. Is there anything you do when you’re extremely sore from an intense workout the day before?

    2. I’m joining a new gym and plan on negotiating the cost. Any advice/tips from those of you who have done this?

    • another anon :

      For the soreness, drink a lot of water. Take some tylenol or ibuprofen. And try to get up and walk around a bit–it can hurt at first, but I find that the movement makes me feel better.

    • Go for a short job or walk, just to loosen up the muscles/keep the blood flowing. Also, stretch after the walk so your muscles don’t tighten up too much.

    • Eat protein.

    • Tired Squared :

      What did you do in your intense workout?

      For soreness, I usually try to stretch out the muscles I worked the previous day. For example, if I did lots of squats/lunges/leg stuff on Wednesday, then I like to do a quad stretch, a couple of (easy) lunges, and probably a squat or two on Thursday. I don’t know the science behind it, but I feel like it really helps to stretch out the sore areas so you can go on with your day.

    • Anonymous :

      Hot tub or hot shower and movement.

    • My recipe for success :

      (1) It is counterintuitive but get up and get some activity. Long walk, light jog, easy yoga, etc. It will be painful at first but will then feel ooh so good.
      (2) Stretch then stretch some more later.
      (3) Eat healthy (think protein, veggies, fruit like bananas). Feed your body. Feed your muscles.
      (4) Water water water. You want to add as much fluid as possible to help your body flush out that lactic acid and to rehydrate.
      (5) Sleep.

      Yay for you to get movin!

      The negotiation part? No clue. My gym is flat fee, no haggle.

  12. Anonymous :

    Sorry, but the parade of horribles in this post is kind of cracking me up. Poor Reader D has a lecherous client look up her skirt on the plane stairs, gets sucked into a propeller, then finally gets to the factory (which apparently is circa 1920s in terms of cleanliness and work conditions) and has to walk on some sort of open grating plankway (where more lecherous workers look up her skirt), trod through puddles of greasy gross chemicals and climb over piles of pipes and machinery, only to have to avoid getting sucked into the killer machinery they are for some reason allowing her to get up close and personal with!

    • Reminds me of poor Mrs. Palsgraf.

      • I just laughed SO MUCH at this. It is my first year in practice, and frankly, I am just really pleased with myself that I even got the Palsgraf joke. Yay for law humor.

      • BigLaw Optimist :

        I’m a few years out and appreciated this joke very much.

    • This cracked me up! But…I supervised a 6 month document production at an oil refinery and I can tell you that this parade of horribles is NOT that far-fetched! No plane, but definitely circa 1920s cleanliness & working conditions, open grating plankways, puddles of greasy gross chemicals, climbing over pipes & machinery, lecherous workers, tramping through dirty fields — yes, yes, yes to ALL of that! Ugh!!!

      Another time we got an emergency call at 8am to go to the refinery — thankfully I’d worn pants that day to work. My co-worker had on cream very-high heels, barely long enough pink skirt, & brocade-ish pink & gold jacket (absolutely beautiful, just not very refinery-worthy). The refinery workers still call her “Tinkerbell” — affectionately, but she was trying to be taken seriously, not be equated with a Disney fairy. From that day on, I kept an extra pair of pants and real shoes in my car, just in case.

  13. Ugg this got trapped in moderation – anybody read any good bl@gs for working mom’s who are attorneys? A little less fashion focused a little more mommy focused? Thanks for any recommendations!

  14. No jeggings! Most modern factories are very clean environments, i’d eat off their floors before I would my own. I would say business casual, nice trousers and a button down or sweater. That is what I usually wear to work. I only wear jeans on casual Friday, never anything that ends in “eggings.” Flat or low heeled boots, or even oxfords are fine. I usually wear 2-3″ heels and never have an issue. Just make sure your toes are covered.

  15. Instead of jeggings, try these: http://www.secondclothing.com/product.php?id=3

    I wear style 18. I’m wearing them now since I’m working from home. They’re awesome. They have a zipper and pockets so they’re actually jeans. And they make my a$$ look great.

    I can wear jeans to my new job so I’m actually going to buy another pair.

    • Anonsensical :

      Those look awesome! What’s the fit like? I have trouble finding jeans because of my waist-to-hip ratio ~ most stuff gaps horribly, which is precisely why I gravitate to denim leggings over heavier and more structured jeans.

      • The fit is good – no gaps at the waist. And because they’re built like yoga pants they’re very flattering.

  16. If you’re in a factory where there will be lots of dust or grease, wear dark colors and shoes that you don’t mind messing up. Speaking from experience on that one, unfortunately!

  17. No Jeggings! :

    I definitely say NO to jeggings tucked into boots. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have been on a tour to one of my firm’s client’s factories. The best thing to do is to wear professional clothes that don’t attract too much attention to the fact that you’re an outsider – make it seem like you know the client’s business and are more like “one of them.” The jeggings look is just too trendy for a factory. Just wear comfortable pants and sturdy flats or boots (with no heel). Definitely no heel whatsoever.

    This kind of coincides with another issue that I want insight on. Although there are plenty of women in the law, when a female lawyer is interacting with a male client in a male-dominated industry, should we be making concessions about our appearance and behavior? I used to work in construction management before attending law school and was told multiple times to tone down my femininity on the job-site (e.g., loose fitting shirts and pants, hair pulled back, minimal make-up, no perfume). Yes, the statements were likely discriminatory, but (and this is definitely no excuse) tight skirts and heels were distracting to the workers and caused talk.

    When we are dealing with clients that have certain *opinions* about women in the workplace, is it just in our best interests to make ourselves appear more masculine? Or do we just stick to our guns and wear what we normally wear?

    • Anonymous :

      What about straight-leg jeans? On Fridays, I’ll wear black or a dark rinse straight-leg jean tucked into riding boots. I do wear a blazer but more often than not I’m wearing a tee underneath.

    • I’m an engineer and wear fluttery dresses and heels to the office every day. But when it comes to field work, I make sure that I’m dressed appropriately for that environment – nothing that flutters, make sure everything is covered and proper foot attire. I don’t think that has anything to do with femininity but function. It can be dangerous for you to wear a skirt and heels to a job-site. Workers are REQUIRED BY LAW to wear full-length pants and shirts with sleeves.

      As for opinions about women in the workplace, those can be ignored, says the chick who shoes up to the field in a bright red hijab. I’m a professional, my gender is not what’s important here. My ability and skill are what matter, and appropriate attire is part of that.

    • I think some of it depends on your own level of comfort and the difference between “feminine” and “hot”. I work in a male-dominated industry, and during my interview, I was asked specifically about how I would feel about this type of environment. I feel like my colleagues treat me with respect, and I don’t feel ogled at all in my office, but when I attend industry tradeshows, there’s definitely an air that women are eye candy, not professionals. I think you can be feminine, but not “hot”. I wear knee-length skirts and conservative heels, but I usually do the husband test: if I put it on and husband reacts with anything other than a boring, “See you after work”, I assume it’s too eye-catching for the office. If it’s an attitude that woman should be home baking cookies, heck no you shouldn’t have to put up with that. But, if it’s that the general mentality will be too mentally undress you, I would choose to dress more conservatively. In my case, I feel comfortable in skirts and well-fitting but not tight dresses/blouses, but for others, that may mean pants and loose-fitting tops.

  18. I’m a construction lawyer and site visits are not uncommon. Jeans (not jeggings!), flat boots, a blazer only if site and temperature appropriate (I’ve attended inspections in 113 degree heat and 30 degree cold). All of the other lawyers, clients, and experts are generally dressed similarly.

    Dressing like a lawyer will make you look like a fool–I learned this one personally at my first site inspection. And at the last inspection I attended, one of the male lawyers was suited up and the others were teasing him.

  19. Funny story….I once showed up to the construction site for CityCenter in Las Vegas in a skirt suit and heels. We didnt know we were going on a tour of the site after our meeting with management. They ended up finding me a pair of women’s work boots that I had to wear with my suit, which tore up my nylons. We all laugh about it now, but at the time it was uncomfortable!

  20. I think it depends on the kind of factory. I have to do site visits to both plants and construction sites. I bought steel toed shoes for work–there really aren’t any great looking professional women’s options that I have found. I settled on some Keen shoes that look more like hiking shoes that the usual Franken-boot out there. There are also a few varieties that look like sneakers. I usually wear mine with dark jeans and and some variety of knit top (unlikely to get caught in machinery). If I wear jewelry, I keep it close to the body (i.e. stud earrings instead of hoops). Depending on the weather, I might wear a sweater, jacket or blazer over the knit top. For my job, hard hats, safety glasses and ear plugs are also typically required. Because of that, I usually pull my hair back in a low ponytail.

  21. I’m surprised that anyone would recommend skintight clothing of any nature to someone who will be the sole representative of the company. Regardless of whether you believe leggings/jeggings are pants (I land on the ‘no-they’re-not’ side), no one can deny that their whole purpose is to be skintight. If you would wear a skintight shirt to work, why would you wear skintight pants?

  22. I don’t think jeggings are necessarily unprofessional, but I agree that they sound too trendy for this type of thing.

    I also think “factory tour” can mean a lot of different things. A denim factory is going to look a lot different than a hot dog factory, which is going to look a lot different than a furniture factory, or computer factory, etc. Not to mention, the “tour” could be long walks on the floor, or it could be through sterile hallways looking down on the floor, and peeking into the work rooms.

    Is this something you can ask the client? I think you can keep it simple and not too “girly.” I’d just write to your contact and ask, “Is there anything special I should plan to pack for our factory tour, like boots or other gear?”

  23. Anonymous :

    Thinking of the workout and previous Zumba posts:


    This video is mesmerizing.

  24. I used to go to a lot of data centers and have to do tours of them looking for smoke detectors, flood protection, etc. Avoid cuffed pants if you don’t got with the pants-tucked-into-boots look. I got a stiletto heel caught in a cuff on my pants, tripped, and got saved from hitting the floor by my client. It was not one of my finer moments. . .

    • that has happened to me in the office with a few pairs of wide leg dress pants. that’s why i avoid stiletto heels (i’m a chunky heel girl), avoid pants, and if i have cuffed pants i stitch the cuff shut before i embarrass myself.

    • You did tours in stilettos????????? But why????

      • I didn’t know we were going that day — we were there all week and it was impromptu. I learned my lesson though!

  25. No skin-tight pants. Chinos please.

  26. I think it really depends on the site visit, and the people you’re going to meet with.

    I have been on site visits which involved boat rides, walking distances over open fields, and hiking through muddy wetlands. Professional wear in any of those circumstances would be a bad idea, and in addition to being unsafe and hazardous to my clothes and shoes, would show me up to my clients as being out-of-touch with the realities of their work.

    More important than “looking professional” for a site visit, one should look appropriate for the situation, and don’t be dressed too much better than the people you’re meeting with. If they wear khakis and polo shirts every day, and you are meeting at their workplace, don’t show up in a pantsuit with pointy-toed flats, no matter how trim-fitting and professional.

    • This reminds me of the time I went to a two day meeting, end of day one client MD announces he’s booked a bonding activity and husles us to the waterfront where he’s booked a spead boat trip. As in we’re all in suits and have to put on waterproof jackets and pants because we’ll be soaked. I was the only woman and wearing a skirt suit and heels. I got major props for getting my boss to hold his jacket up to protect my modesty while I rolled my skirt up and slipped those pants over it and managing to board and alight without falling in said shoes. military project so women weren’t really expected when it was booked apparently.

  27. One other thing that I didn’t see get mentioned is that some manufacturing floors, usually those in clean room areas, do not allow anyone to enter the floor wearing make-up. I would ask in advance if this is a policy at the site you are visiting so you can be prepared. I’ve seen women be asked to wash their faces so that they could be allowed to tour, and it’s never a comfortable situation. So I would definitely ask in advance!

    • Anonymous :

      Wait, what?! How on earth is that relevant? Wearing makeup is not the same as showing up wearing heels or dangly jewelry.

      • You’ll note that she said those in clean room areas. Clean room areas must, absolutely must be spotless. In these industries there can be no risk of contamination, and makeup can transfer. It’s a low-risk, but given that said transfer can ruin the work product, it’s a precaution that must be taken.

        • Even in less than clean room facilities, make-up can totally transfer. We had an employee that tainted samples we were testing for quality control purposes because her foundation/mascara/whatever got into the solutions we were testing. Caused a mystery spike on the HPLC that took us forever to figure out. Not quite the same thing as just being a visitor, but it CAN happen, so check ahead.

        • I work in a lab that does trace analysis. For the work we do, we don’t have to wear bunny suits, but we definitely have seen contamination in our samples from makeup. We are on the dirty end of what could be considered a cleanroom.

    • This! Happened to me.

  28. Baby fever :

    I have a bad, bad case of baby fever.

    That is all.

    • PharmaGirl :

      Oh man, so do I. While I have no desire to go through the first year again (ever!), I want another toddler like crazy! Every adorable thing my little guy does basically feels like a kick in the ovaries.

    • This is why tumblr exists. And nice friends that let me borrow their babies.

    • I visit my brother and his wife every other day pretty much because their 6 month-old baby boy is adorable and my biggest fan.

  29. I don’t think I’ve ever commented even though I regularly read this blog. I am an accountant and HR director at a factory, and I would recommend against it for a visiting professional. Trust me when I say that all the guys in the factory will be looking at your body and/or your clothes and be distracted from the purpose of your visit. The rest of the outfit sounds fine. I would sub jeggings for regular jeans or dress pants.

    Depending on the factory, sometimes you have to put on safety toe caps over your shoes. I would inquire of the client if they are required, and if so, do not wear really nice shoes because the safety toe caps sometimes scuff them.

  30. can i just say that these comments are fascinating to me? it’s all so interesting and different to me.

    • Ha, that’s C for me every day. I’m always riveted by the intense discussions about hose v. no hose, skirt v. pants, hair styles, etc., that lawyers engage in. Worlds away from my every day =).

    • anoninnyc :

      I am loving this too. It’s a big world out there — sometimes I lose perspective, and this thread is such a fascinating reminder of all the different ways that people can be awesome and “overachieving.”

  31. AnonInfinity :

    The aspect that jumped out at me for this was the small plane! I might get to ride on a small plane next week. I’ve never had a problem with motion sickness on big airplanes. Will I have a problem on the small one? I also don’t feel ill in cars or buses unless I try to read while riding.

    • The main difference I have noticed is just that a smaller plane can be bandied about a lot more easily than a commercial plane. It takes a less powerful wind to move a smaller plane, so it happens more often. It also depends on the day, though; sometimes it is not even noticeable. You’ll notice more turbulence upon ascent and descent because of the change in winds at different altitudes. Sometimes, if you have a friendly pilot, he will enjoy explaining these things if you have questions (that’s how I learned)!

    • Seconding Alli about noticing the plane getting moved around some in the air. I’m a good flier, but on very small planes (the kind that you island-hop on in the Caribbean) I simply can’t look out the window as we’re landing because you notice how much the plane is tilting back and forth as the pilot gets the wheels aligned with the ground. I’m sure it’s not much more than a commercial jet but it still gives me the willies!

    • Seattleite :

      I never have, even when the pilot once did ‘roller-coasters’ for us. And I *do* sometimes get carsick even when not reading. However, I’ve never been in a small plane during great turbulence (except for aforesaid rollercoasters).

    • AnonInfinity :

      Your comments make me feel better. I was a little nervous about the prospect of getting sick in front of people from my firm.

    • I get motion sick on everything and have no problems on small planes unless there’s a lot of turbulence. Small planes fly lower to the ground, which I find to be better for perception than large planes (most motion sickness is perception-based, after all). I was super worried the first few times, and brought a bag, but I’ve been on that plane lots of times with no problem.

    • If you get carsick while reading, you may have problems in a small plane, but only if the weather is bad or you fly over a forest fire (my absolute worst ever flight). You get more constant turbulence in a small plane, and I am talking a six seater.

      I am also not particularly sensitive, but I have had some pretty miserable small plane rides. The little bands you put around your wrists seem to help some.

      If you do start feeling bad, open up your air vent all the way and point it directly at your face. A can of regular (not diet) canned coca-cola may help.

      All this air blowing on you, although necessary to keep down airsickness, can be extremely cold. I actually bought a fleece blanket and left it on our firm’s small plane, so a shawl or pashmina over whatever else you are wearing is a good idea.

      If the weather is not bumpy, it’s great. Helicoptors even more so. One of the most fun amazing things I have done as a lawyer was ride in a helicoptor over Waveland, Bay St. Louis, and other areas on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

    • I get car-sick easily, and cannot read at all, but mercifully I haven’t gotten plane-sick yet. Use the same approach as you would in a car: try to keep your eyes on the horizon. You may however have a terror problem :-). I’m afraid I don’t have anything helpful to say about that.

      • I sick-up easily and find that it’s best to get onto whatever it is that going to be moving having eaten a meal 2 hours before. If I’m hungry I’ll feel sick faster, but if I’ve just eaten there is a good chance I’ll lose it.

        If you are prone to get motion-sick packing something small and starchy to eat might be a good idea.

  32. I’ve been on numerous plant site visits as an attorney. I don’t know what kind of plants y’all go to, but I wouldn’t eat off the floor of any of the ones I’ve visited! I agree on the general outfit: jeans (you want natural fiber if there’s any chance of sparks/heat); LONG sleeves regardless of the weather (some plants require it); flat shoes — I’ve never had to buy steel-toed boots, but have worn both cowboy boots and Merrell-type shoes which were fine; small jewelry; hair pulled back if long; nothing flowy or loose. You will be given hard hat, goggles, ear plugs. and take Advil w/ you — plants are hot (even in winter) and very noisy. I always have a headache after a site visit. BUT it is kind of fun in a nerdy sort of way and interesting to see how everyday products are made. Plus it’s very good professionally for you to be able to say that you know/understand what happens on the manufacturing floor. Good luck!

  33. I have visited factories before. I find that separates work best for this setting. Do not wear jeggings. Way too trendy. Factories are generally conservative places.. you don’t want to appear so trendy or done-up that you stand-out or come off as not really understanding your client’s business. You may be able to get away with basic jeans but you won’t know that til you’ve been there once or twice. For a first visit, black pants would work just fine (though not your suit pants — depending on the factory, you could run the risk of ruining them) – even black or beige chinos if they are pressed will work fine. Wear a jacket of some kind, but wear a blouse underneath that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen wearing in the workplace without a jacket. That way, if you show up to find your client contact in a polo and jeans, you can shed the jacket without a second thought. For shoes, wear loafers if you have them. A lot of factories require hard soled shoes on the factory floor, plus if you have to do any climbing or moving around, you’re better equipped in loafers than in ballet flats. Do NOT wear your fanciest jewelry even if it is your standard office attire — keep jewelry minimal and understated and be prepared to remove it if asked. Some factories prohibit jewelry on the floor. Also bring a hairbrush and maybe a nice barrette or something to pull your hair back neatly — you may be asked to wear a hard hat and the brush/barrette may help you feel more put together when you’re finished. Good luck!

  34. I’ve done a lot of factory tours, inspections and construction site visits (and I’ve flown in private planes too but not all in the same visit) and I vote for blazer, dark wash jeans, close-fitting top (crew neck thin knit sweater or silk shell or turtleneck in the winter), flat boots and sunglasses. No necklace (safer). Diamond stud or other fancy earrings (not dangling). Nothing that can flap (e.g. tie blouses, scarves) or gape in the wind (e.g. v-neck or button front blouses) on the airfield or outside. If you are having to climb into/around/through anything, not only do you not want a skirt but you don’t want to show half your b r a (is that word moderated?)

    If your hair is long, tie it back or bring something to do it with before going outside. If you are at a muddy site, tuck your pant legs into your boots. Like other posters said, be prepared to wear a hard-hat (low ponytail works best) and to shed the jacket to put on protective clothing. I love visiting clients…just like a field trip in school – a chance to learn something and possibly experience something new.

  35. I agree, no to the jeggings, not even the jeggings recommended by Kat in her “update”, unless you are 25 or under, very petite, and have a perfectly proportioned body, in which case, you will look good and appropriate in anything! Otherwise, never wear skin-tight pants to work unless you are very comfortable around and familiar with everyone you will be meeting that day. Otherwise, the first thing that people you don’t know will notice is “she’s wearing skin-tight pant,” and you will feel awkward, self-conscious, and out of place all day (in my opinion).

  36. SoCalAtty :

    I do quite a bit of construction law. When I am attending site inspections, if it is residential I will do khakis and a blazer with a short sleeved, appropriate shirt underneath (somtetimes we do several homes at once and it gets warm outside) so I can take the blazer off. I wear a pair of black Keens with them – they are black leather but with a great sole so you aren’t going to fall over, and they have a little toe protection.

    If it is something commercial, industrial, or destructive testing (my favorite), where I know dirt is a possibility, I do dark jeans and a nice polo shirt with the same Keens, or maybe a cotton/more casual blazer – like something from Eddie Bauer – depending on who the client is. Like everything else, know your client and your company.

    • SoCalAtty :

      Here is the link. I know all you fashionable people will probably hate these, but they sure do the job! http://www.zappos.com/keen-briggs-ii-black-full-grain~1?zlfid=111&recoName=zap_pdp_sub

  37. Okay, Reader D, we need more info. I work in Seattle at a big company with factories and go to them often despite being suited lawyer type so can advise quite clearly on this. However I also visit other types of factories that are different beasts and need different dress. Can you share more about which one or at least industry/type?

    Kat- not such a unique question- many companies have manufacturing facilities that require visiting at times. Surprised it would seem so unusual. Also jeggings: would personally never ever ever wear in any work setting, ever. It would stick out bizarrely at my company on a professional factory visit to the extent that people would think she might be an admin or intern or something.

    I host delegations often including high level officials from around the world and CEO types to our factories often. We send out a standard dress code. The first thing you need to do is ask for it. I make the admins call and send it multiple times because often the senior people never see it. At a minimum, you need closed-toed shoes that don’t have tow cleavage or you may not get to go in let alone go to the cool spots. People wear business suits with comfortable flat shoes. They do not need to be boots. Your hair down is fine- you won’t be that close to machinery in most cases. You may walk a lot, you may have a cart to ride in. We provide safety goggles so prepare mentally to look silly. Now for other factories/facilities I’ve been to that are different beasts, if it is primarily outside, you need a hardy parka and to think that through. If it is a messy place, you might want to wear stuff you don’t prize (eg chemical residues, aerating processes spitting out stinky stuff, poop plant, etc.) for those places, I wear machine washable outfits but still 100% professional (no jeggings).

    Jewelry- whatever- normal professional seems most logical (silver chain etc.). Overflowing diamonds would look weird next to the floor workers and with your goggles, vest if required, etc.

    True story: I once had a very high level US gov official in the factory for a visit along with a dozen others. I had ensured the dress code was sent. She didn’t get the memo and showed up in peep toes. I was in a prickly situation: the tour guide could get fired if she was let on the floor for the violation. This person had a lot of influence over our industry, so very awkward. We had to keep her carted for the most part but I managed to do so and herd her around without drawing attention to the situation. But seriously: request the dress code in advance. Don’t embarrass yourself or others.

  38. Having read through the other comments: agree it depends which factory. In many, jeans/khakis are the right choice. In my company’s, where the visit is a hosted thing (and you wouldn’t remotely be confused or blended in with a worker there, as you are clearly on a guided tour visit, you aren’t outside in the elements or touching things) professional attire is best. Definitely ask your hosts for expectations. If you wore casual clothes to mine, it might be okay, but you will feel dumb if those you are meeting with are all in suits as usual. There are often offices in the factory too, so you may then convene for meetings. No one would be offended or think you didn’t ‘know the industry’ for being dressed at the usual professional that you are. I have been to other places where that would be the case though as others say. Have fun!

    Shoes- I prefer sturdy loafers.

  39. Why wouldn’t you just wear a standard pantsuit with flats? or a pair of slacks with a blazer (I often do this when I want to look professional but don’t need to don an actual suit… some favorite combinations are charcoal grey pants with a grey/black checked jacket, brown pants with a grey jacket, or black pants with … just about any jacket). You’re walking around at a factory and sitting on a plane. Both of those things can easily be done in normal work clothes. It’s not like you’re hiking Kilimanjaro.

  40. Every factory is different so definitely contact to see if there are specific regulations the floor you’ll be on. No scarves or loose pieces of clothing, no jewelry that can get caught in any equipment and hair that is pulled back if it can be are probably good practice regardless.

    I’m a professional who works in a lab located in a factory in the Midwest, and I would be horrified to see someone show up in jeggings, even if they were not a professional. Trousers are fine.

  41. I haven’t read the hundred comments, so this may be a repeat, but having worked in a factory for a while (as an HR Manager), I’ll tell you:
    1 – they may either give you steel toed shoes or covers to go over your shoes. If not, they probably would not let you on the floor at all unless you have close toed low/no heeled shoes.
    2 – tighter clothes are good. Don’t want trailing fabric caught in a roller.
    3 – you may have to put some kind of protective stuff on your head, either a shower cap type thing or even a hardhat. So no big crazy up dos – a low ponytail, perhaps.

    You could also have your people ask their people!

  42. Everything that can be said has been said, but not by everyone, so I must weigh in. I do this type of site visiting all the time for my job, and I have to add: NO NO NO to jeggings, leggings, jeans, denim! If your office is a conservative professional environment, you do not wear any of the above on a site visit. I don’t care where it is or how you have to get there. Tailored “slacks” (Ann Taylor is good for this), blouse or fine-gauge sweater, blazer or jacket is the uniform. Pants suit is of course fine too. I cannot stress enough that jeans or leggings are so wrong, so very wrong.

    Footwear: Flat closed-toe leather shoes that will not fly off. (Some plants will not allow open-toed shoes.) I have had to climb metal staircases where heels would have been a disaster; I have had to walk from building to building through puddles (of lord knows what liquid), mud, dirt, etc.

  43. Anonymous Girl :

    I wear jeggings to work (law firm) all the time on Fridays. Even in colors.

  44. The best idea would be to contact the factory/boss and ask what the governmentally mandated OSHA standards require while touring. The few times I’ve been to factories, I was required to wear steel-toe slipons, but since I had such small feet, I had to bring my own. Also, depending on the factory and place, it may be pretty hot and have certain smells associated with it, which would dictate the type of fabrics you would wear. You’ll almost certainly have to wear pants.

  45. j.almarine :

    oh thank you so much for this post! i am an accountant and occassionally visit minesites (1-2 times/year) and i am always at a loss for what to wear! although my visits are in the frigid north (prince george, bc) during november and january so i would layer it more…

  46. I often go on site tours of farms/grain elevators/grain bins, traveling in muddy trucks, tractors, combines. I’m in small towns, rural communities – not the same as a factory tour in Seattle, but definitely not my typical office environment. I try to not stick out, but I also want to look professional and fit the image of a lawyer. I’m almost ALWAYS the sole woman on these trips, often working with semi-sexist men (it’s not uncommon for me to sit through ‘colorful’ jokes about women, or to be asked if I am going to ‘clean up’ after my male co-workers). So I would say the idea of jeggings, excess jewelry and anything overly ‘prim’ or ‘feminine’ causes eye-rolling and extra attention (not in a good way). I wear dark trouser jeans (not suit pants; dark khakis would also work well), well tailored jacket in a more casual fabric (again, not suit material), and moderately cut shirt (not a blouse, not low cut — you don’t want to flash your bra). I wear cowboy boots where appropriate, hiking boots when I’m visiting properties that will require hiking/site viewing; on the purchase list is a pair of flat heeled boots (black) with a rugged sole. Jewelry is limited to a nice watch and earring studs; if I was married, obviously a wedding band — I might think twice about wearing a bold/larger engagement ring, if it could get lost/caught in machinery. Non-flashy sunglasses (I once got ribbed by the guys for wearing my ‘LA-style’ Ray-Bans). I carry a large travel bag/purse (nylon for easy cleaning, solid straps with good interior pockets — works as briefcase), with a separate small purselette (sp?) that carries my ID, credit cards, hotel key and phone. This way I can leave my larger bag in the headquarters/truck, and not be without my necessities when out in the field. I know that this sounds dreary, but I’ve been on these trips enough to realize that anything deemed overly feminine or ‘glitzy’ (through a more conservative male perspective, not mine), often gives me an additional hurdle to overcome when trying to bond with people on these trips. Also, note that the women I usually meet on these trips are not ‘executive’ types — female attorneys are not the norm in these areas, and these women don’t know how to interact with me; my uniform often signals to them that I am expected to sit at the table with the men, to be one of the decision makers.
    Again – I want them to view me as the lawyer first, who happens to be a female. In other contexts, perhaps I’d find it insulting; in this context, I realize it’s a necessity to help me be effective and do my job.

  47. Definitely not jeggings. I have worn my normal khaki pants to travel on company’s private jets. No jeans by any mean.

  48. I am learning to fly a small plane (Cessna 172) and I wear nice jeans, flats (so I can “feel” the plane), a good quality tee, my leather jacket if its cold, cotton if not, and my Hermes scarf for my lessons! Hair tied back as it can be windy. You need to be comfy in a plane-but it is not dirty so you cd dress up a bit-hence my Hermes, which I wear just for fun. For the factory visit, it depends on the factory, but Id probably wear well tailored boot cut jeans and flats ad a decent jacket and shirt. As a passenger in a small plane I might wear my black wool dress pants that I fly commercial in, but again-what kind of factory is it?

  49. Re getting caught in the propellor-the plane doesnt start (ie turn engine and prop on) until everyone is on board and strapped in! Basic safety includes being aware of the prop at all times, but as a passenger Id assume pilot will not let you out till prop is off. You climb into small planes (ie a Cessna 172 type plane) using footholds on the wheel strut-really not much different than a high truck-no ladders or stairs. A skirt might be tricky to manage but I cd see that in some circs a skirt might be OK-Id avoid heels though. My second lesson-I took off, piloted, did manoevers-everything except land-I had my hair in a well pinned French twist and it was perfectly OK. So I say, if your French twist is secure, go for it. Hairspray helps here.

  50. Reading all of the above, Id probably go with Elle’s recommendations. The clothing she suggests wd work perfectly well for a passenger (not necessarily the pilot/co-pilot) in a small plane, and obviously be perfectly fine in a larger one, and conform to legal dress codes for site visits.

  51. Kat, I’d LOVE to see a poll about the leggings/jegging/jeans questions. All three seem appropriate for Fridays in my SF law firm but some commenters seem to think that skinny jeans in a work setting is unforgivable. I’m so intrigued by this.

  52. I do ‘tours’ like this all the time (i’m an engineer) and I strongly suggest boots and pants too. I don’t think you necessarily need to tuck them into the boots, so regular jeans/khakis are fine. Make sure they do not brush the ground at all when walking with your chosen shoes.

    Also I second the people who have said you will be given a hard hat, safety vest, and safety glasses when you enter. For that reason I always wear contacts for these type of visits, it’s just so much easier to see than glasses + goggles.

    You’ll probably have to leave your bag before you enter as well, so you’ll have to carry notebook/phone/camera in your vest or pockets.

  53. One thing that I don’t believe was mentioned is that it may be fine to bring up the subject of proper attire in a more casual phone conversation or short email. Where I work (and yes, it’s a bit sexist) if there are female visitors we make sure to note prior to the visit that you MUST have close toed shoes for a factory tour. Consideration for your client’s safety requirements shows that you have a more well rounded understanding of the nature of their business.

    Also, make sure that your shoes have soles that have a bit more grip. I make sure that I’m wearing shoes that have a rubber sole on the bottom so I’m not sliding around on a clean slick floor. Shorter heels and dress pants could be ok if the visit requires that you be more formal. It’s a tour and a visit, so they know you aren’t going to be dressed like you’re working in the factory.

    DO wear contacts if you have them. DON’T bring your own safety glasses.

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