When Can You Buy an Expensive Handbag?

when-can-you-buy-an-expensive-handbagWe’ve talked about how a $9,000 handbag might be a bit much for an intern — but Reader E wonders when in your career women can buy expensive briefcases and work totes.  How soon is too soon?

I was wondering if you could do a post about expensive handbags for work. Kind of like the Hermes post, but a little bit of a different situation. I’m graduating law school this spring and will be working in a large law firm in the Fall. I want to purchase the Celine mini luggage bag with money I made as a summer associate, but I’m wondering if it’s inappropriate, since the bag costs around $2700. I’d get it in the plain black color. I don’t think it’s nearly as recognizable as the Birkin you discussed (I doubt most people know what it is), but it IS an expensive purchase for someone just starting their career. What do you think for a new associate? The only logo is a small imprint of Celine Paris on the front of the bag.

Great question.  To review: back in 2010, a reader wrote in to ask whether she could carry her Hermes Birkin bag around her law internship.  Considering she was still in school (and didn’t have the job yet), a Birkin bag — which generally costs about the price of a small car — seemed a bit much.  Specifically, back then I worried that the message the intern was sending was that she was rich, and not working for the money.  Since that email, I’ve come up with a rule of thumb:  if you haven’t made enough in paychecks to both pay your rent and buy the bag, you probably shouldn’t bring the bag to work.  So Reader E — who’s already made the money — would be well within my little rule of thumb.  (Pictured:  Celine – Luggage.  N.B.: Overstock has a few Celine Luggage bags on sale for as low as $1960.)

But I think there are other important differences between Reader E and the Birkin-toting intern: [Read more…]

‘Geek Chic’ Glasses and the Office

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - ArrivalsCan you wear hipster/geek chic eyeglasses to the office — especially if you’re young?

I’m hoping for your input on a quandary I’m having. I’m starting my first real job this summer so trying to build an adult wardrobe now. I am nearsighted and strongly prefer glasses to contacts for everyday wear. I love my (only) current pair; they’re big and plastic and perfect for me. But can I pull off “geek chic” in a professional (though not very conservative) environment, especially as a 21 year-old intern?

As a fellow glasses wearer, I’m curious to hear what the readers say here.  I think that ‘geek chic’ glasses can be great — I’ve even recommended them to a reader who was wondering how to to make her look edgier.  However, there is a sliding scale with these things.  The wackier the glasses are, the more that people will remember (and form opinions about you) based on your glasses, at least at first.  In other words: if a particular boss thinks you look like a bit odd/hipster/weird/[insert negative word here], you are probably not going to get a lot of work with that person.  You may say, “fine, I wouldn’t want to work with someone that stodgy anyway!,” and an outward statement about your personality can be a great way to whittle down who you work with.  (Glasses are in a different ballpark than heavily tattooed arms, but you may want to check out that discussion as well.)    That said… you don’t want to be so limited that only a few people in the office want to work with you — so if your office is filled with more “stodgy” types than not, you need to exercise caution.  (And just in terms of style, I personally prefer not to have a certain pair of glasses be my trademark, but that’s just my $.02.)  (Pictured above: I was sort of surprised to see Jenna Lyons wear what I would classify as geek-chic eyeglasses to an Oscars party, but if they become your trademark look then I suppose it’s weirder not to wear them.)

So here would be my approach:  wear multiple pairs of glasses.  [Read more…]

Is Ombre Hair Professional?

ombre-hair-for-workIs ombre hair appropriate for the office? When does any hair color become “unprofessional”? Reader P wrote in with a great question, and perhaps might lead us to an interesting discussion of when hair dyes and colors cross the line:

I was wondering if you could do a post on whether ombre hair is professional. I graduated from law school last May and am currently interviewing for positions. I have this “fellowship” through my school for now (used for rankings), but am looking for a full time real job. I have long black hair and am thinking about getting the ombre look with either medium to dark brown on the ends or perhaps auburn. What do you think of this look? Is it acceptable in the professional setting or does it seem to casual? Here are some images of what I’m thinking of: here and here.

Every time I think we’ve covered hair as completely as it can be covered, another question comes up.  We’ve talked about platinum blond hair at the office, as well as gray hair at the office, but not other hair dyes and colors.  So let’s discuss. [Read more…]

Can A Water Bottle Be Unprofessional?

Can something as simple as a water bottle be unprofessional? Are there business etiquette rules for drinking water in the office?  Reader M wonders.

Are there any tips for choosing professional-looking water bottles? This is perhaps a mundane question, but with an extremely youthful face, long hair, and a newly-minted JD, I’m trying very hard to avoid any hint of ‘intern.’ I occasionally worry that my current metal bottle — complete with the name of my law school — really serves as a visual reminder that I just got out of school (it often ends up on my desk). On the other hand, I’m proud of my alma mater. Is the answer to trade it in for something completely nondescript? Are certain types more common among professionals? Are designs/logos that reflect some aspect of one’s personality completely out? Thanks for any thoughts you may be able to share!

Hmmn. First, congratulations to M for trying to get her daily water. Fancy water bottles have a lot in their favor — you avoid some suspect chemicals from plastic water bottles (such as BPAs), and they’re easier to clean and reuse. And I’ll admit, in my law firm days I used a simple stainless steel water bottle to carry water to and fro my office (similar to this one from REI). (I always drank out of a plastic cup — easier to throw away, less to clean — so the water bottle was really just my pitcher.  One pitcher filled about three plastic cups of water, so it did help me cut down on trips to the office kitchen for water.)

Now: was I unprofessional to use a water bottle?  Is M being unprofessional by using a water bottle with her law school logo?  I honestly can’t imagine how, just by carrying a water bottle, it’s unprofessional.  [Read more…]

How To Buy Quality Pieces Without Looking Old

Armani jacketCan younger women buy quality suiting pieces like Armani and St. John’s, without looking old?  Reader J has an excellent question:

I recently bought this Armani Collezioni jacket on an impulse. The price was too good to pass. But after I got home and tried it on a few more times, I start to wonder if this jacket would make me look too old if I pair it with a black skirt or a pair of black pants. I’m in my mid 30s and I thought this jacket could add 10 years if I appear all in black. What do you think? What should I wear with it to show the fine detail of the Armani design without adding 10 years to my age? I’d really appreciate your advice.

What a great question.  I think some pieces — particularly higher-necked, conservative pieces — can tend towards looking a bit “older”.  Here are a few tips off the top of my head for how to look your age, but I’m really curious to see what the readers say: [Read more…]

Can Older Women Have Long Hair and Still Be Professional?

Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.Long hair on older women: the perennial question.  Despite our extensive oeuvre of hair-related questions here, I don’t think we’ve done this one* (and it was hotly protested among commenters in response to The Careerist’s recent diatribe against Hillary Clinton’s long hair, as well as among her own readers.  (Although looking back, we have done the “should I cut my hair for my first job” variation on the question.)

Let me begin by saying I’m biased: at 35, I have probably the longest hair I’ve had in a long time.  This is for a few reasons, I suppose:  first, the last time I did a major cut (donating 9″ to charity after my wedding), it kind of grew into a triangle shape, and now both my husband and my hairdresser protest heartily whenever I try to cut it anywhere near the top of my shoulders.  Second, it’s growing like a weed right now (which will probably change when we finish weaning). Furthermore, I look back on pictures from my early 20s to mid 20s, when my hair was at its all time shortest, and feel a sense of disconnect with that person.  So I think I’m kind of solidly in the camp of “I’m going to wear my hair long until I can’t.” (Pictured above: Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.)   [Read more…]