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Surrender, But Don’t Give Yourself Away

Today’s guest post is from Siouxsie Law, who we’ve asked to write a few words about when to express yourself, and when to toe the line…

I am the author of Siouxsie Law — a legal blog. I am a litigator and also goth. My style does not conform to corporate standards. But it has not prevented me from attending a top-tier law school, receiving a federal clerkship, and snagging my dream firm job.  (Photo credit:  Siouxsie Law.)

What in the world is a goth lawyer doing on Corporette?

A few months ago, I blogged about the whole debate concerning seminars offered to professional women to help them learn how to dress and apply makeup.

People love to judge women by their appearance. Too feminine. Not feminine enough. Too confident. Not confident enough. Too dressed-up. Too casual. Too sexy. Too dowdy. Ugh. It is time to move on.

There is no dispute that there are fashion rules in the corporate world for women. Whether you think these rules are right or wrong, sexist or feminist, oppressive or well-intentioned, they exist and are not going anywhere any time soon. So do yourself a favor, if you choose to work in the corporate world, especially in a conservative office (e.g., BigLaw) play the game and follow the rules. Embrace the corporate uniform — dress well, put on some makeup, and wear the biggest heels you can find. Why? Because if you follow those rules and do it well, you get to bend them.

Recently, Kat challenged me to articulate when to play it safe and when to let your freak flag fly.

Play it safe sometimes.

If you read Corporette, then you already know that courtroom appearances and interviews are probably not the time to try to express yourself through fashion. This probably applies to any situation where you have a limited time to make a first impression, and where the stakes are high.

If you are interning or just starting out, take it slow and establish yourself first. If you are meeting with a client that is more conservative, respect that.

This means no crazy heels, no trend-setting nail colors, no pant suits, no crazy tights and no knee-high boots. Use your tattoo concealer (or, better yet, avoid getting tattooed in a hard-to-conceal location). Remove your piercings, except of course for single ear pierces.

Make sure you are comfortable and confident with these compromises. If you are not, it probably is better to break the rules and deal with the consequences.

Once people get to know you, loosen up.

If executed the right way, there is nothing wrong with being edgy, unique, or quirky. Mind you, I’m not advocating a race to the bottom. I don’t think law firms or corporations should look like a rave. But I don’t aspire to look like I walked off the set of L.A. Law either. Go slow and look for opportunities to express your individual style.

Casual Fridays and weekends are a great place to start.

The rhythm of the workplace slows a bit on Fridays and Saturdays. The rules of the workplace relax. Don’t fall into this trap. On Fridays and Saturdays, try to keep up your pace and style. Work harder and goth it up more (or whatever look you are going for). They will never know what hit them.

Casual Fridays can be a challenge. In some workplaces, the rules are not clearly defined. Instead of complaining about this state of affairs, take advantage of the fashion loophole. Just be sure not to go too casual.

No one really likes working on the weekends. But a lot of us have to. So, make it more interesting. It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce your knee-high boots, fishnets, and/or black nail polish to your office. Probably not all at once though, no matter how awesome that would be.

Not only is this a great chance to reveal your personality, it will make working on Saturdays a lot less soul destroying. And you might as well have everyone else notice that you are there. So, go ahead and stand out a little.

Take it slow and be consistent.

Have a style trademark — one thing or look that you wear all the time. By wearing something unconventional on a regular basis, you diminish its shock value. Plus, when you commit to a look that is a little out of the ordinary, it shows confidence and sets you apart. I, obviously, wear a lot of black. And I also take pride in my eyeglasses. For me, those are my trademarks.

Jewelry is another great place to make your mark. I know one attorney that regularly wears spooky kitty-cat brooches. But she always wears them with her St. John suits. Neither the brooches nor the suits are my personal preference, but it works for her.

If you want to push the boundaries, nail polish is another way. The consensus seems to be that only nude and pink shades are appropriate for a conservative office. But, if Justice Sotomayor can pull off red nail polish, and the First Lady can make light blue look good, then it is time to throw out those rules. I personally favor dark colors — reds, blues, purples, and of course black.

This wouldn’t be a proper goth post without discussing fishnets in the office. The rule is definitely don’t do it. But unlike Kat, it has not been more than 100 days since I last wore fishnets to the office. I guess some rules are meant to be broken. If you decide you want to break the fishnet rule, I recommend wearing Wolford’s; good luck!

Is any of this worth it?

It depends. If you are content with your style and current choices, then there is no need to push the limits. Let’s face it, you don’t set the standards as to how to dress in the workplace. So it is probably safer to follow them.

But if there is part of you that is looking to branch out, give it a try. Remember safety can come with a cost. The venerable Maureen Dowd recently noted:

Sometimes the thing that’s weird about you is the thing that’s cool about you. When you’re young, and even at times when you’re older, it’s hard to fathom this: What needs to be nurtured is the stuff that’s different, that sets you apart from the pack, rather than the stuff that helps you blend in.

Don’t be so quick to set that part of yourself aside.

Readers, what are your rules of thumb for knowing when to express yourself — and when to conform?

Comments

  1. Great post! Funny re: the fishnets — I actually found a picture of the outfit I paired them with and showed it to a friend who was like, wait, that outfit looks fine to me, even though “purple fishnets” sounds so wrong in the abstract.

    I think knowing when to conform, and when to feel free to express yourself are some of the biggest challenges women face today at the office, so thanks to Siouxsie Law for a great post!

    • Thanks so much Kat. This was a great opportunity. You run a fantastic blog. That you would take a chance on a post like this speaks highly of you and your blog.

      Your readers are amazing. I really appreciate all the positive feedback. But as for the snarky comments, I’ve placed a curse on the authors. Bwahaha. (Just kidding).

      Thanks again.

  2. divaliscious11 :

    You get to express yourself after you’ve proven yourself professionally…. Don’t judge that expression until you know where the person is on the continuum…

  3. Great post and a really interesting topic! I think as long as you’re not being obscene (think miniskirts and spaghetti straps), you can do nearly anything tastefully enough for an office (with a blazer or cardi on top if need be). I sometimes do wear nude fishnets to the office, but would never do black. I agree that who you are meeting with should definitely be taken into account. Also, I would consider whether your clothing choices are getting in the way of people noticing your abilities and talents…if not, then great!

    Then, there is the age-old adage: It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

  4. Love your point that consistency affects perception. Because I’m happiest in dresses, I wear them everywhere – from the office to the grocery store – and so friends never seem to perceive me as overdressed…I just look like myself :) Good idea to apply this approach in the workplace.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Me too. I love dresses.

    • Anonymous :

      This does not work as well in the Pacific Northwest. People always think I’m overdressed, even when I’m in a cotton sundress and sandals on the weekend. Sigh.

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks!

  6. I’m imagining Abby from NCIS… can totally get away with it because she’s so good at her job and her boss loves her. I think she’s awesome! :)

    • Ha! Abby was my first thought too! I remember an episode in which she tried to “conform” to the office dress code and was ridiculously unhappy and un-Abby-like.

  7. Gov't WoMan :

    Great post. I think the advice given holds true in many different work settings. Variety is the spice of life.

  8. Legally Brunette :

    Great post and great site! I came across Siouxise’s recent post about a skin lightening ad sponsored by Vaseline that is being aired in India. It’s generating huge controversy in the US, although “Fair and Lovely” ads (yes, that is what the product is called) like this are unfortunately all too common in India.

    My husband and I were watching a movie on the Indian channel last night and we actually came across the commercial. A light skinned Indian man is being interviewed for a prominent job by a panel of folks and at the end, he is told that he has the job. The commercial then plays back to the time when he applied the skin lightening product on his face. All of this implying, of course, that he received the job offer because he lightened his skin.

    So, so wrong on so many levels. Here’s the link to the post:

    http://siouxsielaw.com/2010/07/20/vaseline-skin-lightening-fail/

    • So, just curious. Why is lightening cream objectionable but self-tanners are not?

      • There’s a stigma attached to being dark skinned in the South Asian community and it runs deeper than merely appearing less attractive with darker skin. People actually are refused jobs and marriages due to their skin color. I’m really explaining this very superficially (and you’re free to disagree) but I personally don’t feel that it is comparable because I view the application of self tanners as more cosmetic versus trying to change the way an entire society treats you by lightening your skin.

        • Blonde Lawyer :

          Interesting, Ru. When I was in South Asia I saw the lightening creams and all the ladies walking with parasols. I had heard that light skin was a sign of class b/c it meant you were working indoors rather than in the fields. This was also why long nails meant “high class.” It meant you were not working with your hands. I’m sure you are right about it being race/ethnicity based too but I am wondering how much of it is about looking not like the “working class.”

          • I’m Indian and the colour issue is something that ages (read centuries) ago was connected with caste (and now is a part of the Indian psyche). Typically higher castes (say priests) wouldn’t work in the fields and would tend to have lighter skin.

            Reading matrimonials is the funniest thing (in a sad way). Apparently Indian ‘brown skin’ = wheat, sandalwood (considered good), honey and god knows what else. It’s never “brown”.

            The Indian sub continent is known also for its hangup with white skin (maybe also due to 200 yrs of colonial rule). I live outside India but when I travelled back for work with my white colleagues (who were junior to me), they’d be fawned on and even their bags would be taken off them while I’d be left struggling with mine (Indian mind assumes that I couldn’t POSSIBLY be the boss of the godlike fair skinned people:)

            That said, it’s no better and no worse than any other form of discrimination. Ultimately it can be argued that all cosmetics (whether skin lighteners or tanners) are aimed at making us something “new and improved” compared to what we really are.

            Different strokes for different folks.

      • legalicious07 :

        Any area colonized by white people has a color caste system that endures to this day. Everyone form Indians in India to blacks in the U.S. daily feel the effects of the white man’s quest for global and societal dominance. That statement is not intended to offend; it’s just the plain, cold truth.

  9. surrounded by lawyers :

    Thanks for including this! It’s really refreshing to read about what I *can* wear to work rather than always about what I can’t wear. For someone who really enjoys clothes in a creative sense it can feel like a rift between the “real” me and what I have to project while at work…especially stifling since I spend most of my waking hours in the office, or going to and from. Sometimes when I’m meeting someone for dinner after work I go out of my way to change just because I am so sick of looking strictly professional in public!

  10. I guess I don’t get it.
    Why do you need to express a work-inappropriate “personality” or lifestyle choice at work?
    Work is work. Personal time is personal time. If someone wants to goth out when they’re off the clock, I have no issue with that whatsoever.
    In my office, though, where we have frequent and sometimes unexpected contact with clients, a little black nail polish or fishnet stocking is a little too much. It’s not appropriate and it might alienate our clients. And in this economy, it’s much easier for me to get new employees than new clients, sorry to say.
    I’m all for people having a personality and not looking like a boring version of an Ann Taylor or Banana Republic catalog. But wearing a cute pin, colorful sweater, or some funky (but still work-appropriate shoes) is very different than bringing goth into the office. I just don’t see how that would work. Quite frankly, if I had an employee show up in black nail polish or obvious fishnets I would refer her to HR for “wardrobe counseling” and ask her to come back tomorrow without the polish or fishnets on. And if it happened again a few times, I’d probably escalate it to a disciplinary issue.
    For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. I used to work in the concert business and very much enjoy occasionally breaking out my rocker-chick cowboy boots, dirty destructed jeans, leather jacket and studded jewelry, and feeling like I’m backstage all over again. But never at work. My clients don’t need a rock chick, they need a competent consultant, and that’s who I need to be for them, at work. I can be whoever I want in my off time without bringing it into the office. I strongly recommend anyone with out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle interests like goth, biker, or punk rocker think very carefully about how much of your “outside” persona you bring to work with you. Very honestly, If I wanted to be a rock chick all the time, I could always go back into the music business. If you want a job where you can exhibit your chosen persona all the time, those jobs are out there. But not in a traditional, conservative office. Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade.

    • Gov't WoMan :

      Post says that fishnets are strictly verboten.

      Fashion frequently uses music as a reference (e.g., goth, punk, rock, country, opera). Even if you shop at “Ann Taylor or Banana Republic”, there will be pieces that are influenced by one of these trends. Some folks might want to try a monochromatic black look. I think that is the point. I don’t think the post in any way advocated bringing an evening/club look to the office.

    • Another Sarah :

      I got the idea from the post that even though she does go “goth,” I don’t think she goes to work looking like Abby from NCIS. Rather, she adds her personal touches (emphasis on the word “touch”, as opposed to “heavy-handed-ness”) to her already work-appropriate outfits. I think the OP recognizes that there’s a difference between what would be appropriate backstage and what would be appropriate in a conservative office. If black nail polish wouldn’t work in your office, then she would probably do something else small that would reflect her personality.

      FWIW, personally, I have more confidence in the people that give me services (lawyers, financial consultants, tutors, etc) who do dress like they have a personality. It says to me, “This person is SO good that their work quality shines trumps their wardrobe.” It also says that the person worked hard enough to earn the little wardrobe oddities that show their personality. To me, if you look average, you will be average.

      • surrounded by lawyers :

        Interesting idea. I would add that when I was preparing to interview for a job I REALLY wanted, my aunt–a well-established and very successful lawyer in Boston, in her fifties–heard my planned outfit and thought it was too conservative. (Gray pinstripe skirt suit with a light green silk blouse, stockings, black pumps.) She advised me to wear some slightly more unique jewelry, at least, “so they know you have some style.”

        I dunno…but I did get the job…

        • “Slightly more unique” jewelry does not equal “goth.” That’s why you got the job. Showing some “personality” is fine. Associating yourself at work with a lifestyle that many people (not me, and I am not saying this is an appropriate, correct or reasonable belief) believe is itself associated with drug use, violence, antisocial behavior and other negative things is a problem. Like it or not, people, goth dress has been associated in the media with things from as juvenile as the Twilight book/movie series and as destructive as the Columbine school shootings. While we all know that’s not what it’s about, a person wearing “goth” elements to their job has no control over what other people’s beliefs are, or how they feel when they see someone in goth attire. People’s perception is their reality and it is very likely someone will perceive anyone wearing goth clothes, accessories, personal decoration, etc. negatively. I would say the same goes for punk, rock ‘n’ roll, vampire, biker, and even cowboy elements (more so in some areas than in others). Those things are super-fun in our free time. They are not appropriate for work. I will reiterate: wearing colorful jewelry, pants instead of skirts, low-heel or colorful shoes, or any of the other “personality” pieces mentioned so far on this thread is not the same as incorporating elements of a goth or otherwise alternative-lifestyle/hobby look. I’m honestly surprised there’s confusion about this.

          • I think you might have missed the point of her article. My understanding of what she said is that we should, first and foremost, obey the corporate culture. Wear the neutral skirt suits, the hose, and the heels. Once you’ve established yourself as a competent worker then and ONLY THEN can you start figure out the time/manner/place that bending the rules is appropriate.
            Jury trial? Interview? Big meeting with a client? Lord no. But if I’m holed up in the office prepping for a trial with no client meetings or witness interviews, is anyone really going to be horribly offended if I wear black nail polish or a funky accessory?
            Rock on, Siouxsie Law.

          • I think you might be overreading into the word “goth.” Black nailpolish with an otherwise totally square outfit might not fly at your workplace, but nor is anybody who is not insane going to look at it and say “SATAN WORSHIPING VAMPIRE!” or whatever the reactionary, TV news fueled association with the goth subculture is this week. It’s merely an element that can go into creating a more particular look rather than that look in itself.

      • Sorry, but black fishnets are not a “personal touch.” All balck, or a velvert choker, or dark nail polish, are persona’ touches. Black fishnets are flat out inappropriate for the majority of law firms. Name me a BigLaw firm where black fishnets would be acceptable!

    • Amy, I think you were distracted by the poster’s saying that her style is goth and then glossed over what she was actually saying. Wearing black nail polish with otherwise perfectly business-appropriate clothing is hardly “gothing-out,” and this is precisely what the poster suggested.
      In fact you both seem to be suggesting the same thing–adding a little bit of you into your corporate wardrobe.

  11. I agree re: introducing things slowly and also making unconventional choices ‘your own.’ I almost always wear (1) pantsuits and (2) ballet flats – I only own 1 skirt suit! I also often wear unconventional nail polish – today it is the essie summer lavender color – but keep my nails short, and no one cares enough to comment.

    • Ballerina Girl :

      Me, too! I think pant suits are very nice and just as professional. It didn’t occur to me that they were less professional until I heard about certain judges preferring women to wear skirts (don’t get me started on that).

      I hate the tyranny of heels–I’m at work, not going on a date. I hate the idea that I’m supposed to damage my already-damaged feet for my job. Why aren’t professional-looking flats just as acceptable as heels? (I’m jumping on this b/c the post says something about wearing the highest heels you can find.)

      • I agree. I have a damaged knee and am not allowed to wear heels over 1.5″ for more than a few minutes here and there (my doctor said if I am driving to dinner, valet parking, and driving home, higher heels are ok, but never more than that). I hate to think that people will think I put less effort into how I look or that I’m less professional simply because I’m taking care of my injury.

  12. Interesting, makes me think different is not only ok but really can be construed as positive. I guess knowing the balance in situations is always going to be important perhaps as much as being different ?

  13. On the one hand, as a (semi-reformed) goth myself, I have a certain sense of “amen”. I will never be comfortable trapped in an all beige world. I love branching out, I love my funky shoes, my wide black belts… And I love that I am currently out of the corporate environment and in graduate school, where I have a huge amount of sartorial flexibility.

    However. This is risky ground to tread on, and there are two problems that need to be considered. I suspect that Siousxie Law has already mastered these issues, since she’s clearly kicking ass. However, I am currently watching an office train wreck of exactly this nature (someone else’s office), so clearly not everyone gets it.

    One is that, no matter how YOU see your outfit, certain areas of fashion are inherently sexualized for much of the population. You may think the knee-high boots, waist cinching corset or fishnets are really cute and perfectly innocent, but your office mates may wonder why you’ve chosen to dress like a dominatrix for hire. And knowing which office mates have what social context attached to that garment is impossible until you actually wear it. You will have a much easier time wearing clothing with ethnic connotations than you will delving into goth, punk, or leather, simply because there are more taboos linked in with the clothing for these sub-cultures.

    The other related problem that I see come up a lot in office contexts is identity politics, and this is where the ground gets really shaky. We live in a world that should embrace, nay, revel in difference… Except that forcing those differences on other people can result in more office drama than anyone has the right to incur. If your clothing makes other people uncomfortable, that is a problem with them, right? Their own prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and prudery… It certainly is. Is it in society’s best interest that prejudice be stamped out and replaced with acceptance? Yes. Is the office the right place to stage your crusade? NO. A thousand times no. Do not use your clothing as a platform for political band-standing in the office. It doesn’t help you, your career, or your office mates. If your clothing makes your office mates uncomfortable, then be respectful of that. There’s a wide range of ways to express your affinity for a sub-culture. If the fishnets won’t fly, then consider a leather bracelet. Or an earcuff. Or just a discreet ring with a skull figured on it. Express your identity, do. But be gracious and sensitive. Be aware that alienating your coworkers, no matter how righteous you feel, is a terrible idea.

  14. I loved reading this, and the responses thus far. Very interesting. :-)

    I like to dress in that “boring” old Talbots, BR and Ann Taylor, but its cool to read the perspective of someone who doesn’t.

    And Corporette – its toe the line, as opposed to tow :-) hehe

    • AnneCatherine :

      Phew because after reading this and the responses I thought I was maybe the only one who actually“like[d] to dress in that “boring” old Talbots, BR and Ann Taylor,” so glad to see I’m not as lame as I felt at first : ) . I have never felt stifled by work clothes or style/lack of edginess, so it’s hard for me to imagine but clearly it’s a common feeling. Interesting.

      I went to law school, and was friends with, a girl who dressed goth/alternative. Some people would actually get angry at her/her existence (I went to sort of a snobby school, I guess?) and even question me as to why I was friends with her, or refer to her derisively in conversation. It’s a look that seems to incite strong feelings, so I guess I’d just say, be mindful of that.

    • Chicago K :

      I like dress boring too and never really thought of it that way until a punkish dressing friend made a comment about how Banana Republic has clothes that are so “boring.”

      I like to look feminine and classic. To me, boring is following every trend and wearing the same thing as everyone else out there. What’s creative about skinny jeans, a boyfriend cardigan and ballet flats if that’s what 90% of 20 something hipsters are wearing on any given Saturday?

      • Chicago K :

        Argh. Some day, I am going to get lucky and be able to write an entire post without stopping to do 8 million other things. And then, it will not have ANY TYPOS. I promise! Sorry for the typos, you can probably figure out what I am saying, I just wanted to make a note as I seem to come across as not being able to put a sentance together. Oy.

    • I’m really enjoying the discussion as well. It’s so nice to see how diverse Corporettes really are.

    • I prefer to say ‘classic’ or ‘elegant’ rather than boring. :)

  15. Ah….. Nice post with solid advice. Tend to your profession first, but honor your individuality. Well said.

  16. This was interesting, informative and thought provoking. Loved this blog! I totally agree with being true to yourself. This has made me rethink my pink/red nail polish choice for a wedding to black or blue streak. Thanks for this eye opening blog.

  17. LOVE THIS POST! It’s so nice to see a woman who has embraced her authentic self and been able to balance that with her chosen career field.

    • I agree. I read this as not giving up what makes you unique. Sure you may have to tone it down, but that doesn’t mean to be a drone. I think some commenters are too focused on whether or not they would wear what she wears (without even knowing exactly what that is). In my experience, clients want to hire someone with a personality. There are plenty of drones. Of course, your work must be impeccable. But better to be someone with a personality who does good work than someone indistinguishable from the crowd who does good work. Clothing is one of many ways to let that personality show through.

      • @Robin I agree with every word of your comment! Uniqueness will take you to the highest mountain tops. You guys should take a look at Seth Godin’s blog to see where being unique can take you!

  18. Loving this post purely for putting a great song in my head! Today I am wearing a BR button down and pants, with my green, white & yellow Naughty Monkey shoes (which I always get compliments on) lamenting how i’ll have to retire them when I start a law job. This gives me hope there may be a place for funky shoes in the distant future.

    • Forestgirl :

      There may be some places where those shoes won’t fly, but many places you could probably wear them right away! And even if you were being careful, the “distant future” is probably closer than you think.

  19. Anonymous :

    Good article. Interesting views. Enjoyed your presentation.

  20. Excellent post. A great reminder that we don’t make the rules, but we choose how we follow them and need to be aware of the consequences (good and bad) of breaking them.

  21. Anonymous :

    Could someone explain to me what being “goth” is about? I have to say that my only “knowledge” of it is the negative connotations mentioned earlier. I’d like to hear from those who describe themselves as “goth” so I can better understand whether being “goth” is a fashion point of view, a lifestyle choice, etc. This post really made me feel clueless!

    • I’m with you, I’ve never understood goth either. Is it something you decide to be, and then you “are goth”? Is it about nonconformity (because that seems funny to me if being goth is about certain attributes)? What is the point of wearing black lipstick and nail polish and dark eye-makeup and big boots and attracting attention from non-goth people? Seriously, I just don’t get the point (not trying to be snarky).

    • I’m not goth, but from asking people who are goth, it originated as a subculture with the rise of the gothic novels in the 18th and 19th centuries. It carries over the emphasis on morbidity and the occult into fashion, and that’s how people dress all in black, some wear pancake makeup to look pale, etc. Goth that everyone thought wasn’t would be some of what Alexander McQueen designed. Goths, in my experience, aren’t violent people, and they’re kinda angry that they get blamed for a lot of stuff that shouldn’t rightly be attributed to the subculture.

      Goth =/= heavy metal or deathmetal, FWIW.

    • What is goth? This is a really tough question; and I am by no means the best person to answer it.

      I highly recommend Jillian Venters’ book and website “Gothic Charm School.” This is a link to her video addressing this topic. Check it out. http://gothic-charm-school.com/charm/?p=238

      The way I see it, goths tend to share a common perspective on the world. This perspective is found in all sorts of music, fashion and art. But beyond that goths are really diverse.

    • I worked with a woman who was “goth” (she was absolutely lovely, by the way, to all those with pre-conceived notions). She was an art history phd candidate and studied gothic art–I think she just loved everything about it and fully incorporated the style into her life. I never thought of it as dark or sinister, but rather an expression of her appreciation for the period and its aesthetic.

  22. Not convinced :

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy this. I would like to see some pictures of Siouxsie or Susie or whatever her name is actually pulling off this supposed balance she reached between Goth and appropriate office fashion. There are none here and none that I can see on her blog, although I acknowledge that I did not look through every single post. To give her post credibility she just rattles off her resume (top tier lawschool, “prestigious” federal clerkship, and Biglaw). Of course that doesn’t indicate she dresses well. Although she may not get comments from co-workers about her goth style choices, that does not mean it is accepted. I can’t say I’ve ever seen purple, blue or black nailpolish in a professional setting in my northeast coast city, and I can’t imagine someone pulling it off. One of the male attorneys in my office has an eyebrow ring, and although he otherwise dresses normally and professionally and he takes it off for court appearances, it just looks juvenile and silly on a 30 year old. I would say the same thing about funky nail polish colors, fishnets and those clear plastic eyeglasses Siouxsie linked to.

    • Not convinced :

      BTW- Siouxsie called her federal clerkship “prestigious” on her biography page of her blog, not here. Mea culpa.

    • Forestgirl :

      I would also like to see pictures. And maybe the picture of Kat in the purple fishnets!!! :-)

    • oh come now, she didn’t say she was showing up all “boots first, then corset” at the office, she said she’s wearing black skirt suits with black pumps, occasionally with fishnets or black nail polish on fridays. witchy woman, or new yorker? its a fine line, but i don’t think anything in this post indicates she’s wound up on the wrong side of it.

      i too would like to see pics, but there’s tension b/w pics and anonymous blogging. perhaps instead one of those lookboard polyvore things so many shopping bloggers do?

      • Forestgirl :

        Maybe she could have a friend try on the outfit or a similar outfit for demonstration purposes only? It isn’t that I didn’t like the post, I’d just love to see a woman wearing an actual example.

      • Thanks for understanding the difficulty of posting pics while remaining anonymous. Maybe I’ll be invited back for another blog post on which I can elaborate on the corporate goth look using my own photos.

      • By her description (lots of black suits and trademark eyeglasses) I would say she leans more toward “edgy” New Yorker and not Goth. I think she only brings in the black nails on weekend hours. LOL

    • This is a seriously snarky and quite frankly, rude, response. I’ll take black nail polish over bad manners any day.

      Does it matter if this particular poster dresses well as long as you can picture someone dressing well and incorporating a bit of personality (ie: black nail polish)? And no, I haven’t seen black nail polish of late, though I have seen lots of dark grey as it is apparently very trendy lately (and I too work in big law in NYC). I honestly don’t think people would pay much mind to black nail polish.

      • Chicago K :

        charcoal gray nail polish was a huge trend here – perhaps a year ago in the fall. I actually think if your nails are short and well manicured, the polish is neat and not chipped, that it looks just fine. Lots of dark colors can look good this way – including brown, dark reds and dark blues (also very trendy, possibly still is). It’s all about the season (winter or fall) and your nails being short and looking nice. Black could possibly fit into this too. I would take this over long nails, glitter, gem stones, “nail art” or bright colors any day.

      • Not convinced :

        You are confusing disagreement with rudeness. Funky nailpolish colors may seem appropriate to you. To me they look juvenile. An attorney who practiced before the federal court where I clerked routinely wore nude colored fishnets, and court employees gave her the nickname “Fishnet Lady.” If the original poster included pictures of herself appropriately combining goth elements with an office wardrobe, I would eat my words. I just can’t picture it working.

        • I am absolutely not confusing disagreement with rudeness. To refer to anyone as “or whatever her name is” is rude. As is saying “to give her post credibility she just rattles off her resume.” I think it may be you who is confusing the two as you seem unable to disagree without being rude.

          And as an update: today a very fashionable lawyer sitting across from me was wearing black nail polish on her very short, well-manicured nails. She looked fabulous, professional, and well-groomed and I’d bet money no one noticed her nail polish other than me and I only did because of this post.

          • Not convinced :

            Yes, I called her out on using a cheesy spelling of her name as her pseudonym. Reciting your resume does not indicate that you dress well.

            BTW- Notice what you said about the “fabulous” lawyer’s nail polish. It was okay, because no one would notice. To me, black nailpolish is something a teenager would wear, not a professional.

          • Not convinced :

            To be clear, yes, I distaste it when lawyers do as Siouxsie did here, and try to give credibility to their opinions in non-legal subjects by citing their legal resumes. No, I am not saying this out of jealousy, because I have the same resume. You will not hear me say, “I am a hotshot lawyer, so heed my advice on how to plan your wedding, cook a five star meal, do your makeup, rebuild your car engine, etc.”

  23. Great post, and I agree with many of the comments … once you’ve established yourself professionally it’s okay to add “touches” of personality (although YMMV depending on your workplace – know your corporate culture).

    On the fishnet note, one way to add that little “touch” without it being over the top are fishnet knee-highs worn with pants. Just a little bit of the fishnet peeking out from the hem adds just that bit of personality without screaming tramp. HUE makes a great one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000U8FQNI?ie=UTF8&tag=momwhoworks-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000U8FQNI

  24. Interesting, on one hand this blog often features skirts IMO too short to be professional for my office (though we have one or two people who do it). On the other hand – I can’t imagine anyone at my office blinking at black polish on a Friday (short nails), we have partners in chipped red polish after all.

    Also, pants and flats IMO way more conservative than skirt with pumps which IMO sexy.

  25. Housecounsel :

    As a Banana/ J. Crew/Ann Taylor devotee, I guess I don’t get goth or the need to rebel through my appearance. It just seems like a different kind of conformity – “I am rocker chic” – to paint your nails black. If people remember my appearance at all, I just want them to think “appropriate” and maybe even “sharp.”

    I remember wanting to get some wacky haircut in early high school, and arguing to my parents that I wanted to stand out. My mother told me it was much better to stand out for your accomplishments than to stand out for your haircut. I didn’t get it then, but I sure do now.

    • “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.”
      – Coco Chanel

  26. Some of this would give me a bad impression maybe resulting in me not promoting the person as I might be concerned about sending them out to represent my company. I like bringing individual style into the workplace WITHIN the usual rules- ie not too much skin; not to much flash etc. Color, brooches, fit, fabrics, shoes, scarves, these are things to play with. But black nails or fishnet tights would be a no in my book. As would other rule- breakers- cleavage, too tight/high skirts, etc. Basically anything that distracts or could offend. I”m sure it depends on the work place but I work at a huge company in international business so it is wise to be minimally appropriate.

  27. I loved this post. I’m a lawyer, I do litigation and I wear fishnet and nail polish almost everyday. I think it helps that I’ve been kicking round this office since the 90s and and am a Natural Born Biller.

  28. Maybe I’m old and crusty, but I don’t know if the Goth look can really successfully infiltrate conservative law offices. Besides, isn’t Goth an attitude as well as a fashion statement?

  29. Makeup Junkie :

    this was a fantastic post, thank you so much! I wear pretty boring clothes, but I am all about makeup and nails.

  30. I believe the quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet says it very well –
    “This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    Conformity and proper attire are laudable but some clients want attorneys who are openly risk takers in attire and in their approach client representation. Can’t we move on from powdered wigs and robes?

  31. “Have a style trademark — one thing or look that you wear all the time. By wearing something unconventional on a regular basis, you diminish its shock value. ”
    SO TRUE. No one even notices all the talon and bird skull jewelry I wear anymore!

  32. Awesome post.

  33. P.S. During my corporate days, I expressed myself with high-fashion suits, red lipstick, and very high heels. I must say, I did get some shit for it but don’t regret it.

  34. Great post!

  35. Well this post is certainly interesting. I worked in the teaching profession for many years. There were fashion rules for the teachers and it depended upon whether you were preschool,elementary middle school or high school. I saw many women dress very well and appropriate. I also saw many who didn’t.The ones who didn’t liked the attention they sparked. The reactions were always varied but it depended upon the principle of the school. I decided that I didn’t want negative attention so I adopted the ‘uniform’ approach. I wore what other people wore. If the principle was into scarves I wore scarves. If she was into jewelery I wore jewelery. I got appointed to many committees because I was a competent teacher but also because I followed the “rules” . This approach worked for me and I didn’t feel stifled or boring at all. Now that I am retired I can wear what I want and I’m not sure what a Goth middle aged woman would wear but I see many avaunt guard women in NYC and in other blogs. I am not sure I just want all of that attention.

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  37. I assume you are referring to the US and I am surprised the dress code is so strict. I work in a law firm in Venice and as far as I can see everything’s fine as long as it’s tasteful and looks good. I personally checked there were several female lawyers (not in my office, at trials) with black nail polish or non-goth black clothes, so much I assume is normal as long as you can make it pass as fashion and not as an attempt to provoke. I personally got away with a black non-tacky choker, paired with an elegant white shirt and black waistcoast – it looked peculiar but mot threatening. On the other hand I avoid spikes or over sexualized items, but as long as you keep it soft nobody wpuld read too much into it unless they want.
    PS once I had small silver earrings shaped as spiders. My boss noted them and I promised to take them off with elderly clients… from the tone it sounded more like taking note of a quirk than a reproach. PPS I have not seem skirt suits on young ladies for quite a while and I gather nobody misses them for how ugly they are.

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