Leather and the Office

Leather skirts: classics — or classic mistakes? I’ve noticed some great leather skirts in stores lately, some of which could very well work for some offices. But are they appropriate? Too dated?  Too sexy? Too casual?  I thought we’d take a poll.

Here’s my $.02: Leather, like animal print, can be a little wild — but also like animal print it’s a classic, and a well-fitting, quality leather skirt in a classic shape can be worn for years to come. Imagine an outfit that plays with textures — a corduroy or tweed blazer, maybe a silk top, and then suede pumps — that could be amazing for the office, and the leather skirt could be just the right touch of “rocker chic” to really elevate the outfit. I think styling is key, though — you both want to avoid looking like someone out of the 80s (say, by mixing black fishnets and huge platform heels with a leopard print top) as well as someone who is just killing time at the office until your rockstar ship comes in and you’re ushered off on your world tour. I would also say that quality is key here — if you’re going to go for a leather skirt, go for an actual leather (not pleather) that has been finished well and will stand the test of time.

Readers, what are your thoughts?

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Comments

  1. I would love to hear what others say. I have a classic, black leather skirt that I bought because it was on a fabulous sale, but I have yet to wear it because I just don’t know if I should/can. FWIW, I wear my leather jacket to the office in the fall/spring – but obviously that comes off once I’m inside my office, I don’t wear it around the office.

  2. Would I wear a leather skirt to work? No. I also wouldn’t wear a leather skirt in my time off. Leather skirts aren’t really my style – I prefer wool and denim, sometimes in bright colors.

    Could I wear a leather skirt to my office? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is yes. It’s a consulting firm that takes business casual to a pretty liberal place.

  3. I had a long leather skirt that I wore once in the winter. I dare not wear it again because 3 of the men thought I was into S&M. I told them I sit on the subway, and it was the only way to stay warm. They still wanted to engage in verboten conversation with me based on the leather.

    So I do not wear it any more. Only on weekends.

    • That’s the first thing I thought when I saw the skirt. It certainly can give you a dominatrix touch. Not good for the office.

    • karenpadi :

      Sorry, black leather would attract the creeps like no other (the Dom comment was right on target). Brown leather, yes. Black suede, yes. Black leather (other than an outdoor jacket or a pair of shoes), no.

      • Karen your so paranoid, i wear a black leather mini skirt at least once a week & no guy has ever made a comment, it’s other girls that don’t like it! As for the Dom comment that is so dated, i mean most guys wouldn’t even know what it meant or anything about it. Bottom line is guys don’t care what you wear so long as you look good, so I say if you want that skirt go get it & wear it where ever you want!

        • Sarah Dickinson :

          Emily’s right, it’s other girls who say it’s not suitable cos they’re jealous&make up complaints!
          I was told not wear a knee length filled pencil skirt for work at the central library.
          But apparently I got ‘complaints’ from members of the public that my fitted leather skirt made ‘too much noise’ as I walked up&down the aisles. And that the sound of the taught leather was distracting the readers. Yeah right* I think I know who that was as she’s always askin me how much my sheer tights are. I can only afford Pretty Polly at a fiver whereas she brags about wearing luxury gloss Wolford branded nylons.

          I just wear a shorter pin stripe skirt now with a nice lining

          Sarah x (19)

    • This has got to be a joke.
      Who is so bored with their life that they are amused by pretending to be a made up person on a website for women needing a coffee break during their day at the office. Seriously. How sad is that life?

      • Blue Velveteen Rabbit :

        AIMS, you’re not usually this snarky! I think this is a real comment–I don’t think it seems like a joke at all.

        • “3 of the men thought I was into S&M.” 3 of what men? I thought this was Ellen too. And it’s okay to wear on the weekends because only on weekdays do “the men” get crazy ideas about S&M when a woman wears leather? Except Ellen doesn’t usually spell this well.

        • In AIMS defense, Tina has had a couple of troll-y comments in other threads.

        • Tina is clearly the latest incarnation of Ellen. I assume you’ve missed all her other comments.

        • Blue Velveteen Rabbit :

          I stand corrected! Guess I missed that context!

          • Aw, I did not mean to be snarky (though your comment that I am not usually “this” snarky makes me wonder if I should re-evaluate my tone?) . . .

            Without trying too much to justify it, I just do not believe that comment could be real. Maybe there’s one misguided pervy guy in every office, but that 3 men in any office would discuss S&M with any woman based on her outfit . . . and that any corporette would refer to them as “3 of the men. . . .” and just take it as a given? I just don’t buy it. And, yes, Tina has made similar comments in other threads. And, like Ellen’s comments, all the comments have a very mocking tone to them — as if that’s what we all sound like because that’s how us gals are.

          • Aimez-Moi :

            If said reader worked in insurance, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a real comment.. I know when I worked in insurance, there was a LOT of inappropriate discussion around people’s sex lives, from both males and females, and wearing a leather skirt on a casual friday would not have been innocently construed.

      • Now I feel like an idiot.

    • I laughed out loud. It really shouldn’t be this hard to get dressed.

  4. I see the pictures you posted, and each of these outfits looks perfectly acceptable/professional/fine (though the second one is a little short). Truthfully, it’s hard to imagine me wearing a leather skirt, walking around the office, sitting in my leather chair (wouldn’t that make weird sounds? – I have no idea), without feeling like I’m trying to be a fashionista sex kitten. But if someone else wore one, I might notice but probably wouldn’t think of them as the office sex kitten.

    • Anonymous :

      I’ll admit, I totally would think of them as dressing like the office sex kitten. Also – and we can go five rounds of “well they shouldn’t be looking in the first place” – but I’m pretty sure leather skirts/pants will draw more male eyes than their wool counterparts. Not what I want at work.

  5. Do they have to be black? I think a brown/camel/coffee-colored etc. skirt could look really nice, but all the photos show black skirts.

    These all look nice, but black leather is inherently a little rocker-ish.

    • I agree- I feel like another color would be a bit more appropriate than black, for some reason, but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable wearing black.

    • I agree! I might wear a brown leather skirt to the office, but probably not a black one. Too “Desperately Seeking Susan” for my taste …

    • S in Chicago :

      I totally agree. I think texture also is important. Somehow suede seems much more appropriate to me.

      I think it’s also a look that would work best on someone of a certain age who has the gravitas to pull it off. A figure that’s not to va va voom also could be useful.

      • It’s at least partly the shine. Leather as shown above – and especially in black – is too glossy, reflecting light and drawing attention to the body (and specifically, the curves of the body). Suede won’t do that.

      • I think that suede gives off a much more casual vibe than leather. It’s also hell to clean. And it reminds me of that horror, Ultrasuede.

    • I have a camel suede skirt that I wear in the winter on more casual days. I was really tempted by some black leather skirts at the NAS but just couldn’t imagine getting enough use out of them.

    • Totally agree. Colored leather shade is more daytime office to me

  6. I feel extra conservative for saying this, but I think leather on the bottom is a no-no in an office setting. However, if I saw it tastefully styled on another woman, I wouldn’t judge and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash (other than to think she was more daring and stylish than I). I could never wear leather other than a jacket, and even then it’d be very conservatively styled.

    • Agreed – for me, if I were in the mood for a leather skirt, I’d want one that made me feel like more of a rock star (for say, a weekend concert), then have to tone it down with a long length and conservative attire. But then, to each her own!

  7. I wear a red suede skirt to work (college prof.)

  8. Anonymous :

    I understand that not everyone is working in conservative corporate environments (law firms, etc) – that being said, I can’t imagine getting dressed for work and looking for that little something to give my outfit “rocker chic”.

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing! Why would you want to add a bit of “rocker chic” to your outfit in a professional work environment? Now if I worked in a bar, that would be another story.

      • I think we’ve discussed this before, but professional women are a diverse group with varying styles – and not all of those styles run to the kind of preppy classics exemplified by Ann Taylor, Banana and J. Crew. If someone’s personal style happens to be a little bit rocker chic, and they want to throw in some details that play with that, I think that’s fine. Last year, for instance, there were a lot of motorcycle-styled wool jackets that were office appropriate for more liberal working environments. There’s edgier jewelry. There are boots that are still sleek, but might have studs or zipper details.

        Basically what I’m trying to say here is that it’s possible to be professional and dress professionally while integrating an edgier or unusual style sensibility.

        • agreed. I know many corporettes are corporate lawyers, but the media, fashion, retail, advertising, and other creative industries employ plenty of professional women who can and often in fact *should* dress with a bit more flair than is found in your typical Ann Taylor outfit.

          • Can and perhaps should? Agh. Nothing on anon commenter personally, but geez, as if getting dressed as a woman wasn’t already a social minefield of doom. Do men have to spend so much time carefully building a “look” that won’t make them instantly hated/marginalized for some reason (too sexy!) or another (insufficiently sexy!) and doesn’t require an enormous budget and reams of closet space… just to have a decent paying job? In a word, no. You gotta do what you gotta do to fit in with this screwed up society, fer sure, but it’s worth stepping back every so often and recognizing how utterly unfair and cruel it is.

          • another anon :

            Do men have to spend so much time carefully building a “look…”

            Yes, they do. I work with 99.9% men and I can assure you they are also jealous, petty, catty, shallow, and materialistic.

            It’s a human thing, not a female thing.

          • Veronica: I work in KM for a media consulting firm. A lot of the hoops corporettes in more conservative environments have to deal with are insane to me, and before reading Corporette, I would never have considered, for instance, that an exposed zipper would be overtly sexy. But yes, anon is right; just as lawyer-corporettes need to project an image of conservative professionalism, those of us in creative need to project an image of creativity and imagination through our wardrobes. I’d venture a guess, though, and say that for most it’s not really a hardship. :)

          • It wasn’t meant as a sexist comment, simply a statement of fact. Different industries / professions call for different sartorial styles, and in some of them a leather skirt might be appropriate for women. Not sure what the equivalent for men would be, but I’m not very well-versed in men’s clothing.

          • Sorry ladies, but I agree with Anon. Some industries don’t require added “sexiness” so much as more personality or personal style than the traditionally conservative ones. In a more creative industry you would ostricize yourself by dressing too buttoned up and conservatively just as quickly as you would by dressind in a more outgoing style in a very conservative office. It is simply a different cultural expectation. Appropriateness is always a question of context.

    • I love the look of the third skirt!
      And as to the vibe, I’ve mentioned before that my CEO sports black nails. Our VP has 3/4 sleeve tattoos and really large gauges in his ears. I’m hoping to make a switch from store operations to the more corporate environment in the home office team, and I actually think a bit of rocker chic will help me fit in.

  9. Maddie Ross :

    Not sure I could do a skirt, but I love the idea of a lightweight jacket. Does anyone have any good suggestions on lightweight leather coats? I found one I loved last year (it was vegan, not real leather, but awesome looking) and never pulled the trigger.

    • Anonymous :

      Nordstrom has a good one in the individualist section (item 354766). It’s soft, thinnish, and hangs beautifully!

  10. Not a fan. It’s too much leather to wear an office-appropriate length skirt made of leather. Those women all look like they’re wearing a sofa. With the exception of a leather jacket, I’d say leather clothes are a no-no no matter where or when you wear it.

  11. Teh BAAAAAAAAAAAAD. Sorry Kat, bad call on this one.

  12. IP litigation :

    Any IP litigators out there? I am coming off a clerkship and recently received an offer at a very well respected law firm in their IP litigation practice. I have never done any IP lit work and know very little about it. I have absolutely no technical background, which evidently is ok because no one in this practice group does either (the folks in the IP practice are all science/tech “geeks”, but the IP litigators are not).

    I know that I want to work in litigation, I am just not sure about IP lit because I don’t know much about it. The people whom I have spoken to in this practice group seem to love it and find the work very interesting. Would really appreciate some thoughts on whether this kind of work is interesting, if it’s relatively easy to understand the science behind the cases for someone like myself who was a poly sci undergrad, and any other thoughts you’d like to share.

    • Depends on the kind of cases and types of tasks assigned to jr. associates, imo. I worked for a few years in patent lit right out of law school. The firm staffed patent lit cases with both technical attys (who understood intricate patent details) and non-technical attys (who could relate info to a judge/jury on the level that a layperson could understand). Like you, I lack a tech degree, but with the staffing mix, the technical details were easy to understand. The cases were huge – think 20-30 attys from 5 firms, hundreds of millions of dollars at stake – great exposure for the partners. But, junior associates were generally stuck performing and overseeing discovery. There was little communication from partners about overall case strategy and how discovery fit into the plan. Very unsatisfying. On the other hand, at my next firm, I participated in a small trademark lit case (only 3 attorneys staffed), which was actually pretty fun. If you can, I’d recommend talking to some of the jr. associates to see what responsibilities they have, and if it sounds like something you want to do.

    • I actually started as an IP litigator with no technical/science background. The problem, I discovered, is that a lot of other IP jobs do want you to have that technical/science background, even if you are only doing litigation. So when it comes time to move to another job in the future, you may have painted yourself into a corner where your specialty is IP litigation, and yet you are not actually very marketable in that specialty. I personally moved into a pure litigation position after doing IP litigation for a while, but some of the people I worked with struggled to find another IP job when they wanted to transition out.

      • This is an excellent point. Also, you may not find the work particularly exciting if technology is not your thing. You will be relying on technically savvy people to develop a lot of core arguments and you will be overseeing the procedural/big picture aspects of the litigation. I like IP litigation but I have a technical background.

      • This is me exactly, and EXACTLY why I switched into general.

    • I do this type of work. Do you know if you will be doing patent or trademark litigation or a mix? While I do have tech background, I don’t think you generally need one to do a lot of the work. As the previous poster mentioned, the patent cases are generally staffed with at least tech person. I find patent work tedious, and there is little room to be creative with your arguments. As a junior person, you will work on a lot of discovery and perhaps on claim charts. I also do trademark litigation and love it. A lot more room to be creative and because the cases are generally not multimillion dollar cases, juniors get a lot more experience.

      • I’m not the OP, but I’d love to know how you got into TM litigation/prosecution. I’m really interested in this field, but from a few informational interviews and networking events, I got the impression that most firms hand over the TM stuff to the patent guys as side work. How would one go about finding a trademark-only or trademark-heavy position?

        • As I mentioned, I have a tech background, but I knew going-in that I wanted to do trademark work. My firm is an IP boutique, so I was hired because I had the tech background. My trademark practice grew organically. When I started (in 2007), patent litigation fell off a little bit due to the ecomony. Trademark litigation did not, so I was staffed on those cases. Now patent litigation work is back up, and I do a lot more of then I would like too.

          It is very true that the patent guys often do trademark work on the side (this is especially true of TM prosecution). TM litigators, though, the most of the good ones anyway, usually only do trademark work. It is really hard to keep up with the law in both practices.

          There are a couple of ways to get your foot in the door. Here are a couple that I have observed: (1) work as a TM examiner at the PTO (most firms love to hire former examiners); (2) if you are already in a firm, find a TM mentor, someone who loves the work and you – they will staff you on all of their cases; (3) during law school/summer, intern/clerk for a company or non-profit that has a large TM practice. Good luck!

    • IP litigation :

      Thank you for the wonderful advice!!! You have given me lots to think about, particularly the part about not necessarily being marketable when you are vying for other IP jobs without having a technical background. Keep the comments coming please, if others have advice to share.

      • Hi–I work on the corporate side in Silicon Valley, and I would second the “hitting a wall” point that others have made. It’s pretty well known out here that you can be a non-tech IP litigator, and that firms will keep you around for a number of years, and you can progress. But, eventually, it’s 1) hard to make partner 2) hard to lateral in-house and 3) hard to compete against someone that has similar lit experience and a tech background. I have seen this happen to many friends who are excellent litigators. Things just stall out.

        As for trademark vs. patent, my impression from friends that have triend to get into trademark is that it is a very, very difficult field to develop a practice in, or to find significant work as a junior in, at a biglaw firm. Namely, it’s just not as sexy or “expensive” as patent work, so it’s a very limited field. Not to say it’s not interesting, but rather that it’s hard to find someone willing to support a biglaw junior on trademark-only billables.

        Good luck!

      • Esquirette :

        I’m one of the techie geeks. My firm does a ton of patent and TM litigation. The teams are totally segregated within the IP department; there’s no crossing over. [What follows rambles a bit – I’m tired.]

        It seems like the majority of our TM attorneys do a mix of prosecution and litigation but litigation is bread and butter for most. Based on your comment, though, I think you’re referring to patent litigation as you don’t need any kind of technical degree to do TM. This would be your safer bet.

        Many of our patent people do both prosecution and litigation, though many also only do one. I think both are interesting but generally primarily from a technology standpoint. Patent litigation cases are generally huge, can involve multiple teams across different firms (e.g., multiple defendents) and often settle. As you move up the ranks, you’ll definitely see how a case is run but it doesn’t mean you’ll ever see the inside of a court room (just from the sheer size of teams and the fact that many partners are often involved). This has definitely been a challenge for associates moving up the ranks (particularly the more senior ones — e.g., how can someone make partner with a patent litigation practice who has never run a litigation or argued in court, etc.?). Several of our more senior litigation partners on the patent side do not have technical backgrounds (e.g., the one’s who actually go to trial) but under them, the majority of patent litigators do. All firms are different but our firm has definitely trended towards technical backgrounds only for patent litigators. In the future, I expect this to be more common generally as more and more people with technical degrees get law degrees. I’d keep this in mind wrt any future lateral moves as well (i.e., who your competition would be). In house would also likely be tough (unless you’re a TM person).

        Observances from the inside: I’ve seen senior non-techie partners ask techie associates to draft documents a general litigation associate wouldn’t bat an eye at and get blank stares followed by a big learning curve on the techie’s part. I’ve also seen senior non-techie partners wanting to pull non-techie associates in on matters because they didn’t want to deal with the techie associates who didn’t know the ins and outs of litigation. There can be a lot of dismissive attitudes from both sides of the equation — sadly, I think, the techie associates usually are the ones in the tougher position.

        • IP litigation :

          This is super helpful, thanks. I suspect that I’ll be doing a mix of patent and trademark litigation work, but that’s something that I need to probe further. I have also been assured that the firm is open to me doing more than just IP litigation (meaning, some general litigation, some appellate work, etc.).

          • Esquirette :

            That sounds like it will keep you well rounded and busy. Patent and TM litigation are generally very different. Enforcement in the TM realm is generally like swatting flies — from the mark holder’s perspective (regular monitoring and cease and desist letters, small defendents, small monetary issues), though when two major competitors square off things reach a much bigger scale. So if you have client’s with marks that people tend to copy, then the work is pretty steady and it’s more like general litigation practice, and you definitely get to court more. Patent litigation is a different beast, as I mentioned above. It will serve you well as a litigator to do any kind of litigation, so I’d be open to whatever comes your way. Good luck!

  13. Always a NYer :

    I’m pretty conservative in the way I dress but I might wear a black leather skirt to work in the fall or winter with black opaque stockings, basic black leather pumps with a cashmere sweater. That being said, my go-to jacket when the temperature drops is a brown leather bomber jacket and I routinely wear flat, black leather boots under my dress pants. I really think it’s all the way you style it, if you want to look “rocker chic” you will, but if you want to add just the right amount of edge to an everyday look you can do that as well.

    • “Right amount of edge” – that’s exactly right.

      I think leather can add an extra bit of badassery to an otherwise conservative outfit. But I wouldn’t do it.

      (I think the 3rd picture looks like Kalinda on Good Wife. She always looks put together and responsible… and badass.)

      • Lola, the third skirt is my favorite, purely because it reminds me of Kalinda.

  14. Anonymous :

    It looks a little too Rhianna-business-casual for me.

  15. Legal Mama :

    I did wear my gorgeous brown suede skirt to my law firm exactly one time. It wasn’t that it looked bad — it was that the bathroom was pretty far from my desk, so heads popped up all the way down the hall, as people looked to see what that distinctive ‘whoosh’ sound was (the sound leather makes when you walk). Never again.

    • and so anon :

      There was a secretary at a firm I worked for who wore a pleather jumpsuit. You could hear her at 100 paces. Crunch crunch crunch.

      You could smell her horrible perfume at 50. It gave me a headache.

  16. R in Boston :

    (changing the name because there is apparently another R posting now (or I have been having blackouts and posting…you never know))

    I think at a more fashion-forward office one could certainly get away with it, especially (as others have said) in a brown shade and styled with more conservative pieces. Not my personal style, but I would totally admire it in others.

  17. I think black leather is a little much for work/day; I like the idea of other-color and suede much better. Partly because black leather seems a little shiny for the workplace.

    You get a pass if you’re Archie Panjabi’s character on The Good Wife, though.

    • Editing my own comment to say: this is more about what I would feel comfortable wearing, not what I think others should wear. I would imagine there are people who could totally rock this look even in a legal setting, and totally agree with the comments pointing out that not everyone here is a lawyer/in a corporate setting. But as someone who is 1) new to law and 2) older than the average new law grad, I find it really really really hard to know WHAT to wear that’s appropriate to my profession, my age, and my status in the profession. So that makes me more cautious/self-conscious than some people would be. I don’t mean that other people shouldn’t wear the leather skirts.

  18. I have 2 black leather skirts and a gorgeous brown suede skirt and I’ve worn all of them to the office. They’re all knee-length. One of the leather skirts is from Ann Taylor and the other is from Banana Republic. I bought the suede skirt at Lord and Taylor, I think.

    This post reminded me that I’ll have to wear the suede skirt again this winter. Unfortunately, the black leather skirts are too big on me now.

  19. I agree. I am usually pretty liberal on peep toes and such but no on the the leather. If I can’t wear my shiny suit anymore, then leather definitely is inappropriate.

  20. nopity nope :

    I used to own a sand-colored leather skirt, very nicely tailored, just above the knee, snug enought to be well-fit but not so snug it was tight. I bought it thinking I could pull it off at work since it was very non-flashy and as far as leather skirts go, was conservative. Each time I put it on, I took it right off. I never got the courage (or just trusted my instinct maybe) to wear it. So, unless you are dang sure you would pull it off, I suggest you forego them as a work option.

    Side story: It was expensive and cute and I was only able to wear it once. I decided to bust it out for a Saturday night cocktail party at a partner’s house. I paired it with nice black boots and a black turtle neck (it was winter). I received genuine compliments about it all night… until I sat on a green (leather? fake leather?) couch in the partner’s game room. It stained my skirt beyond repair. I was so upset but frankly, didn’t want to tell the partner that his crappy couch ruined my skirt! His wife noticed but just laughed it off saying that they hated that couch anyway and they should probably get rid of it since it’s done that before. What?!? Thanks for the warning people.

  21. Leather skirts just aren’t a business look. Leather pants aren’t, either, for that matter. (Just like denim and corduroy, or satin, or a number of other fabrics). I don’t think leather is sexy per se, and it may be appropriate in some offices, but as a general rule it’s not.

    If you really want to wear leather and your office has a business dress code, stick to outerwear or accessories. A leather bracelet or hair band looks nice.

    • And by the way, I had a fabulous purple suede pencil skirt in 1992. Man, I loved that thing. I wore it with a purple silk blouse that had green sleeves and a red pocket.

      Won’t be repeating the trend this time around.

    • I think a leather jacket or a leather coat over a suit would be OK.

  22. I totally coveted the leather skirt Talbots had last fall, until I realized that I really wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it to work, and I wasn’t really sure I had appropriate activities to wear it to outside of work. (I live in a mountain town and people are VERY casual in their leisure time.) So, no leather skirt for me.
    I do think that regardless of the “casual” level of a workplace, there are sexy/S&M associations with leather, especially black leather, and very especially studded black leather (hey, I’ve seen it in an office – not mine, thankfully) – that you just can’t get away from. The only way I can see it working is with a long sweater that covered most of the skirt, on a tallish person with long, slim legs. Otherwise – probably disastrous.

  23. I have a tan suede skirt that comes over my knees that I don’t hesitate to wear in professional settings. It is nowhere near as close-fitting as the skirts in these pix. I also have a teeny suede mini (also tan) that I used to wear with ankle booties, cream-colored “sweater” tights and a cream-colored sweater. I’d love to loose the weight to be able to wear it again, don’t know how appropriate it’d be.

  24. I see people wearing brown suede skirts fairly frequently in the fall and winter. They always look fine to me. I don’t feel like I see black leather skirts often in professional environments at all though.

  25. Diana Barry :

    I wouldn’t wear leather in any conservative office, except as outerwear that comes off when you get into the office. But I am coveting a nice lightweight leather jacket for outerwear. I saw a gorgeous one at Cole Haan that was $650. Way too much but I lurved it. :)

  26. Leather skirts SHOULD pique my fancy, since playing with texture is one of my favorite ways to elevate my outfit. I have the same problem with leather skirts that I do with animal prints, though; no matter how well the item is constructed, it comes off to me as a tacky attempt to be sexy. I have very occasionally seen these types of things employed successfully for office wear, but it takes a very sartorial and very well-styled approach.

    One way I think I might be willing to try it is if I found a great knee-length skirt with leather paneling worked into it, as opposed to a skirt entirely made of leather. Or maybe I’ll just stick with my leather jacket and boots.

  27. This is very timely!

    This morning on my way to work I saw this fabulous older woman (late 60s) rocking a leather top. Very hard to describe, but over a form fitting tee of the same color and sort of asymetrical. It was gorgeous on her. Dark navy/black. Perfectly appropriate. I think if she was wearing a leather skirt (like some of the ones pictured) instead, she would have looked equally fabulous. So to answer the question — I don’t think leather skirts, assuming they are otherwise conservative, are per se out. But, I do think you have to “earn” the right to wear one, so to speak, and I think on a jr. associate or even most people under 55, it would be hard to pull off without going into the dreaded sex kitten/cougar category, if for no other reason than that even if the men in your office wouldn’t think, clearly, based on this thread, many of the women might. So, on the one hand, it’s not a look I would necessarily recommend. On the other, isn’t it nice that we have something to look forward to as we get older (even if you’re not into leather skirts, I think there comes a certain age where you can just be much more dramatic with your sartorial choices).

    • This. My dean (over 60) once wore a black leather skirt (with a fairly conservative/ boxy cut), with tights, flat riding boots, and a tweed blazer and looked great. More equestrian than sex kitten. But I think you have to be of a certain age & gravitas to pull off such a look with authority.

      • Curl Friend :

        I also think that there’s much more latitude in an academic setting. People are pleased when you express yourself through your clothes as long as you look half-way decent. You can even look odd; as long as it’s interesting.

    • Totally agree. I used to work for a woman partner who would occasionally rock the black leather skirt. She always looked fantastic, never inappropriate, and it really suited her dead-smart, [email protected] personality. On the other hand, I would really not be comfortable wearing one to work myself. Maybe in a decade!

  28. I am not typically inclined to comment (though I do enjoy reading the comments of others!) but leather skirts in the workplace are just not something I’m comfortable with – on myself or others. There’s no place for “rocker-chic” in my office and I feel certain that our upper management would gasp (in dismay – not delight) at the sight of a leather skirt.

    • Curl Friend :

      Once a law school friend who had interviewed with an entertainment firm out West tried to persuade me to embrace my inner rocker chick lawyer persona — he claimed he’d met with a young woman partner wearing a miniskirt up to there and who knew she was “hot” and was perfectly comfortable with it.

      That is so completely not my personality. Even if I could carry it off (which is highly doubtful), I’m not sure I’d want to. Being “hot” looks so tiring. It also sets you up as a woman not to be taken seriously. Why hand them a reason?

  29. Curl Friend :

    Maybe a leather skirt would work in a place like a very hip, entertainment law firm or in a “regular” firm on Casual Friday. I love classic leather skirts and dresses, but I’ve never seen a woman wear one in a conventional law firm.

    For somewhat more adventurous looks, I saw some great stuff at AllSaints Spitalfields earlier in the summer.
    http://www.allsaints.com/women/leather/

    But lookit, as I discussed exhaustively (and probably exhaustingly to some :-) ), I have curly hair, which to some is unprofessional. So when it comes to clothes, I tend to dress pretty conservatively in office settings.

  30. Partial threadjack:

    I’ve been learning how to sew and think that I may attempt a leather skirt in the fall. (The construction of a leather garment is very different from that of a cotton woven or wool garment.)

    I was at Mood, of Project Runway fame, and for the first time went to the floor with the leather. It was so cool. You buy an entire skin. I browsed through roll after roll of leathers. I love the smell of leather.

    • You mean, “leh-tha”. :-) I love that you’re learning to sew – I was just catching up on the new PR last night and found myself thinking that it looked like a fun, useful hobby. Heck, Miss Trinidad and Tobago just picked it up 4 months ago and now she’s on tv.

      • If Ms. T. and T. really learned to sew that well in just four months, she’s a genius. I didn’t really like the pants that much, but it was amazing that she could draft a pattern and sew a pair of pants that sort of fit. I can’t draft a pair of pants from scratch and although I have sewn two fly zippers in classes they were challenging. Thank God I prefer dresses and skirts.

        I assume that as a potential PR candidate she sewed day and night and she admitted that she had received a lot of help with her samples. But still, incredibly impressive.

        I call garment construction an “interest.” Takes too much damned time and money for me to assign it “hobby” status. :-) I’m only an advanced beginner, but yes, it can be very engrossing and rewarding. But there’s so much to it, especially once you realize that half of sewing is fitting.

    • Ah leather smell. I love that smell. It reminds me a tack room and horses.

    • Good luck with the leather sewing! I recently made a pair of leather shorts (DEFINITELY NOT for office wear, but totally my style elsewhere) out of a couple of old leather jackets and it was….taxing. I ended up hand sewing them most of the way through because i couldn’t get the tension and stitch length right. Don’t be like me. Experiment on scraps for your sanity.

  31. No No and once again No. No leather clothing in a conservative office. A leather outer-jacket is fine but no leather indoor-wear.

    • Anonymous :

      There was no condition of “conservative office” in the question or on this site.

  32. I said “other” because I think leather skirts are disgusting, material-wise.

  33. The Ralph Lauren skirt has four silver grommets running down either side with leather laces. It’s well executed, but it’s arguably kind of fetischy.

  34. another anon :

    In my casual office it would work. I’ve done it. The rest of the outfit has to stay conservative (think cashmere turtleneck and opaque tights) and the leather has to be really high quality but it can work.

  35. Any hints on taking care of leather skirts? I have one, that I have worn all of once because I can’t figure out where to wear it and because I’m afraid of staining it. It’s sand-colored and slightly A-line, and so soft my coworker didn’t initially think it was even leather (I’d changed before leaving the office to go out). She insisted she thought it was completely office-appropriate, but I remain unconvinced. We’re architects in government and work almost entirely with male engineers, and the skirt just seems a bit too fashion-y or something. Office or no, though, how do I take care of this thing??

    • Saddle soap and leather conditioning lotion or mink oil! I’ve used the Kiwi-brand saddle soap to remove denim rub-off stains on a white calfskin leather purse, and it’s pretty effective. I purchased it at Target, shoe section, but there are also plenty of options available on Amazon.com. **be sure to remove ALL saddle soap when using it; leaving some in can make it stiffer and wear quicker :( **

      Leather conditioning lotion (like what you can buy at the Coach store) or mink oil (I like the Fiebing’s brand) to keep the leather soft and moisturized over the years. Condition it probably once or twice a season.

      Be sure to first check the care instructions on the skirt, and also make sure to follow the instructions on the treatment containers! And like with most fabric/clothing treatments be sure to check for colorfastness like on the inside of a seam, or something first.

      Of course if you’re cleaning a suede item, make sure to get a SUEDE-SPECIFIC treatment!

      There’s plenty of how-tos on care of leather jackets online (e.g. eHow), and they’d work for leather skirts, too. The leather care tips I’ve [rather lengthily] included here are from my experience restoring vintage leather jackets ($50 vs $300 for a new one!) and caring for leather purses. Hope this helps!

  36. Anonymous :

    I might or might not wear one to work (not likely more for practical, dry-cleaning reasons rather than aesthetic) but don’t agree that a leather skirt has to connote ‘rocker chic.’ It’s very classic, uptown, Hermes, perfect ponytail, chunky charm bracelet, ribbed tights, deb style. My NY deb mom ‘rocked’ the skirt before there was a ‘rock chic.’

    Based on the poll results– resounding– I am really impressed by the to-each-her-own comments here. I love this group and this site.

  37. No no no no no no no no no no no. Egads!

  38. I think it can work in some offices. I have a black and a brown leather skirt that I wear to the large Commercial Bank I work in and have never gotten any negative feedback. Both skirts hit just below my knee and I keep the rest of my outfit very simple–boatneck sweater or tweed jacket with conservative shoes, earings, makeup, etc. I think the trick is to watch the length, shine, and the overall quality of the leather. Both of my skirts are just below the knee (so they’re not too short whether I’m sitting or standing),have a low luster and a good quality leather, so I don’t look like I’m getting ready to go to a club.

  39. I said “other” because it all depends on the leather, the cut, and the woman. I could probably do a matte black leather, as soft as I could find it, in a knee-length pencil skirt with, say, a tiny vent in back so I could move. I personally would not feel trampy. I would pair it with nice, neutral, unsexy garments, because there will still be Puritan types who love to police women’s bodies when said bodies are encased in burqas! But I will happily recognise that for some people, leather isn’t just a fabric. Don’t wear it if you’re not going to be comfortable enough to do your job.

  40. I bought a knee length black leather skirt several years ago but never wore it. Always thought about wearing it to work but never could get the courage to do it. Now I have lost so much weight that it doesn’t fit. Oh well.

  41. I have 2 suede skirts that are a little snug right now, but that I have previously worn to work and found entirely appropriate. They are both knee-length. One is pink, and the other is taupe. Maybe it’s the suede texture that makes them feel more OK than maybe black glossy leather, but I think that almost any fabric can be professional if the cut is right. That being said, I would only wear them to days where I am staying in the office and do not have any particularly important meetings, so knowing what’s suitable for a particular occasion is also important!

  42. I don’t really dig the skirt, but I do have leather pants I occasionally wear with ballet flats, an oversize blouse and a blazer. I am a teacher and there are probably staff who think it’s a bit too “rocker”, but I don’t really give two hoots because I like the vibe they give off. Oh, I should probably add that I teach art, photography and fashion, so maybe I can get away with stuff the math teachers can’t.

  43. Ugh – black leather pencil skirt – I had one in the 80’s! Can’t get that memory our of my head.
    I could see wearing a lighter colored suede to the office if I didn’t live in a warm climate, but nothing shiny and no black leather.

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