The Intern with the $9,000 Handbag

hermes to workWe got an interesting e-mail from reader N:

I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.

We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.

First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building.  We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.

In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse.  But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters. (We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact.) [Read more...]

Reader Mail: How to Wear Silk Scarves?

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Tonal Hydrangea Silk Scarf
Today’s reader mail is all about scarves… (Pictured: Tonal Hydrangea Silk Scarf, on sale at Brooks Brothers for $95.20 (was $238).)

I’ve got two silk scarves I bought because I fell in love with them, and one black tie. I never wear them, because I’ve no idea how one is supposed to wear it! Besides, can a woman in her early 20s even pull off that look without looking like an in-flight attendant? If yes, are they supposed to go on the neck under the shirt (I’ve seen that look a few times), over the shirt and under its collar? Does one knot them or just let them hang down, if one knots them – does it matter how?

We used to work with a woman who always wore the most beautiful Hermes scarves — her wardrobe was primarily black, white, and gray, and the scarves were a rich addition of colors and patterns. She had one that had elements of a beautiful, almost hot pink, and it was incredibly flattering on her, particularly so close to her face — but because it was just a scarf, and amidst other colors, no one ever would have said that the scarf was too pink or girly or feminine. We asked her about her scarves once, and she confided to us that she wore them because she found tags at the nape of her neck to be itchy. Her scarves absolutely worked for her — and although she was at a senior level, we think the fact that they worked had more to do with her body type: tall and slender. (Specifically, she would wear them with a collared jacket and collar-less sweater or tee, worn between her jacket’s collar and her tee’s collar — they were unknotted and, while we think they were generally square scarves, she wore them folded into an oblong shape.) [Read more...]