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:

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What to Wear to Workout – In Front of Coworkers

what to work out in in front of coworkersReader M has an interesting question that brings us back to that old classic: what do you wear to workout or exercise in front of coworkers?

I am an articling student at a mid sized law firm and I have a “law day fun run” coming up, hosted by the law society. It just occurred to me that my running outfit (mini skort and a skin tight tank top) might not send the right impression even though it’s what I actually wear when I go running. I have seen male lawyers biking and running in skintight and/or revealing outfits before but I am not sure if I can get away with that as a female lawyer.

What should I wear?

I offered my advice on what to wear to the corporate gym way way back in 2008, and I’m curious to hear what readers today have to say about it. More and more companies are offering on-premises gyms for their staffers’ use, and even if they don’t, many people go to the gyms located near the office, where odds are high that you’ll see coworkers. (Pictured: Printed Chase Skort, available at Athleta for $54.) [Read more...]

Resort Chic — for a Business Meeting in the Bahamas

what to wear to a business meeting in the BahamasReader L has a question about what to wear for a business meeting in the Bahamas…

Unlike many of your readers, I am not a lawyer but am an MBA grad working in Investor Relations. After a couple of years of trudging through the economy, the management team has decided to have our small strategic planning meeting in the Bahamas next month (yay!); however, I am at a loss when it comes to attire. The information provided says “resort chic”. I’m assuming that means clothing which does not consist of a printed hibiscus sprawling across ones chest. Can you give me some suggestions where I can go to find classy resort wear? Thanks a bunch. I’ll toast a fruity drink to you!

Well, I’ll do anything to have a fruity drink toasted to me. :) Honestly, though: why do companies keep doing these kinds of awkward retreats, without specific advice for women? The men who attend this meeting will show up in khaki pants and a button-front shirt and be A-OK; if they’re more formal some may have a linen blazer with them, whereas others may wear shorts with untucked button-front shirts (with the sleeves rolled up, of course). Either way you slice it, the margin of error will be fairly small for the men. Whereas for women — when one says “resort chic” my imagination runs from the casual hippie clothing like a maxi dress to the more high-fashion model look of someone 6′ tall wearing short-shorts, 4″ heels, and perhaps an expensive blouse, loaded up with jewelry and a sour expression. Or, of course, a great bikini… but none of those choices really seem ideal for your situation, because you don’t want to confuse vacation with a business meeting  (Pictured: Bahamas Gazebo, originally uploaded to Flickr by bryce_edwards.) [Read more...]

Too Casual for a Weekend in the Office?

Working on the weekend, originally uploaded to Flickr by jfranklin.Today’s reader K asks a great question…

I’m a junior associate at a large corporate law firm, and I’ve been working a lot of weekends. During the week, I’m one of the more formally dressed people on my floor (there’s a fairly wide range). However, I walk about an hour to work as my exercise on the weekends, so I’m usually wearing sweats and a hoodie while I’m working on Saturday and Sunday. Personally, I figure that if I’m coming in off business hours, I can wear whatever I want as long as it’s clean and fairly neat. I have never run into a partner, and I usually just keep my door shut anyways. However, I have run into associates while going to grab food/coffee etc, and I’m wondering whether it’s inappropriate to let them see me in my truly casual clothes. Should I be wearing jeans, or something at least a little more fashionable?

I wrote a post on what to wear on a working weekend a long, long time ago that got some flack when it was picked up by Above the Law — I believe one of the AtL commenters said if they were working on the weekend, they felt they could come in wearing tighty-whities and roller skates for all the senior management had to say about it.  [Read more...]

What to Wear for a Month in Court

Today’s reader mail comes from a reader who will be second-chairing a federal trial that is expected to last for more than a month…

First, do you think I should wear skirt suits every day or can I wear pant suits and save the skirt suits for days that I may actually get to examine a witness?

Second, how many suits do you think I need to keep on hand so that it doesn’t look like I am wearing the same suits over and over again?  Any suggestions for making the same suit look different other than wearing different accessories?

And finally, any suggestions on where to find nice looking suits in petite sizes without spending an arm and a leg since I will not need that many suits after the trial is finished.

A good friend of ours did mock trial in law school (and did very well), and passed along her (esteemed) coach’s advice:  wear skirt suits and be sure to cross/uncross your legs often if the other side is making a good point, and wear a lot of perfume.  See?  Golden advice.  Whoever says sexism is alive and well is just crazy.

In all seriousness, though, wardrobe during trial is one of those times where the guys really do have it easier, because we guarantee you that they’ll wear, at max, three suits and five ties throughout the entire trial and not give a second thought to it.  For you, though, we recommend sticking to dark suits, which, practically speaking, means we’d limit ourselves to three or four suits.  One black, one navy, and maybe one in brown or gray.  (If you’re prickly about your accessories matching, go with all black accessories and choose the gray suit.)  Where possible, we’d get both the skirt and the pants to the set — J.Crew, Banana, Ann Taylor, or Theory all make separates (and, we think, petites).  (For the petites question, we’ll be lazy here and link to our old post on professional dressing for petites for reference, as well as the blogs Petite Asian Girl ExtraPetite and Alterations Needed, both of which we have recently discovered and been meaning to point readers towards.)

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Reader mail: On holiday parties

Reader L writes in today with a question on holiday parties…

We’ve been invited to a Holiday Party, being hosted by the VP at my husband’s company. This is the first time that I’ll be meeting anyone that he works with (he just started at this location in July), and I’m very anxious to make a good impression (the VP is the highest-ranked person in the building). The party is at their home, and I have no idea what to wear – the invitation didn’t say! Do you have any advice for an outfit that would be appropriate for this occasion?

First:  Happy Holidays! Second, we really feel for you, because this situation could be extremely awkward.  The dress code could be anywhere from “festive sweater with jeans” to “festive jacket with work attire” to “LBD” to (if the company is very large, the VP is very swanky, and only executives are invited) something even more than LBD.  First, if your husband has any female friends in his company (either colleagues, or the significant other of a colleague), bug him until he asks one of them (unless you are also friends with them, in which case, ask yourself).  Another option might be to call the VP’s secretary directly (do not call the VP).  Express your excitement for the invitation, and ask about the dress code for women.  If you really feel awkward about asking the secretary, ask a question about directions or something innocuous like that and then slide the question in near the end.  A “safe” bet might be to wear a black shift dress, black hose and pumps, and a festive red or orange jacket or structured sweater — think velvet, silk shantung, etc. (We would suggest avoiding embroidered sequins — you can always tuck a sparkly brooch or necklace in your pocket, and “trade up” or down as necessary once you’ve arrived and assessed the situation.)  (Update: see our more recent roundup of festive blazers here.)  [Read more...]