Clothes to Keep at the Office

Just another day at the office, originally uploaded to Flickr by Kees van Mansom.

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on what clothes to keep at the office, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on comfortable workwear for late nights at the office.

One of my favorite series of posts that we’ve done on Corporette was always the series on stocking your office — what clothes should you keep at the office? What toiletries gadgets? In this edition, we’ll talk clothes to keep at the office– and readers, I want you to weigh in! What clothes have you found indispensable for keeping at the office? (Pictured: Just another day at the office, originally uploaded to Flickr by Kees van Mansom.) 

1. A suit. The goal of the suit is to be able to look proper if you have to run to court at the last minute, or if you have an impromptu call to meet with the CEO. Note that if you’re going to keep a skirt suit, you might want to make sure you’ve got pantyhose and possibly a razor blade, as well. Make sure that you’ve got an appropriate top to wear under the suit, as well as appropriate undergarments (i.e., don’t wear a sheer white blouse with a black polka dot bra). The suit-on-your-door also comes in handy to have another outfit on hand in the event of a severe food mishap such as a yogurt spill.  (Do note: I have actually had to bust out my suit, when a VIP I was working with unexpectedly called to see if I wanted to talk over lunch.)

2. Extra panties (preferably ones that don’t show any visible panty-lines). Yes, it’s kind of gross to say, but… if you have to pull an all-nighter… if you need to change into a skirt suit with pantyhose and had been wearing boyshorts… if you actually make it to the gym and need to change into a fresh pair… there are lots of different reasons to keep an extra thong or seamless pair tucked discreetly into a gym bag or in a Ziploc baggy in your desk drawer. (Why a Ziploc baggy? After a while your desk drawers will get gross. I don’t know what happens in there — it isn’t as if ketchup packets implode — but they just get a bit gross. Take my advice and protect your drawers from your drawers.)

3. A wrap. Some days the A/C is going full blast and there is nothing you can do but wrap yourself up in a shawl. Unlike a sweater, it’s generally something you can add to any kind of outfit — a suit looks good with a wrap thrown over it, as does a dress, or even a casual sweater and pants outfit.  (We’ve rounded up some of the multitude of uses for a wrap previously…)

4. Gym clothes. Dare to dream! There might be some down time and you can actually make it to the gym. (I suggest packing a separate gym bag to keep at the office, but that’s me…) If your company has an “office shower” that you may end up using at some point, definitely include flip flops in your supplies.

5. Sneakers. These will come in handy if you make it to the gym… but they’ll also come in handy on the off chance you need to leave the office on foot. (God forbid another 9/11 should happen… but it’s best to be prepared.) Don’t forget athletic socks.

6. An extra pair of pumps. I’ll be honest here — I always kept a lot of shoes in my office, sometimes devoting a file drawer (or <cough> two) to shoe storage. This may not be you!  But, if nothing else, bring in an extra pair of pumps that matches your spare suit.

Women: Simple drawstring pants - black
7. Comfortable pants. For some reason, that last minute call to pull an all-nighter always seems to come on the days that you’re wearing a skirt and pantyhose… not the most comfortable garb to hang out in for the hours to come. (Also, the work involved in an all-nighter may involve going through dusty file rooms, or require you to sit on the ground to review the paperwork.) Have some comfy pants on hand to change into — make them a classic black pant, such as these simple drawstring pants from Gap, above ($24.50), and you’ll always be fit to be seen in them. (Your gym clothes might fit the bill here.) Women: Simple drawstring pants – black

8. Extra nude pantyhose. If you don’t already keep a pair at the office for your suit, you may want to keep a pair for general usage. Buy it at the drugstore and shove it in the back of your drawer.  At worst it’s $3 you’ve spent for no reason — but pantyhose can be a lifesaver in a pinch.

9. A black blazer. Blazers make great separates, and can be thrown on top of anything from a jersey dress to a casual sweater if you need to look more professional in a hurry.

10. A winter hat. This is admittedly an extreme suggestion, but I’ve been thankful to have a hat in my desk drawer many times. There are two situations where this can be helpful: 1) (Primarily in New York): You thought you’d have to work until late in the evening, and dressed for the day prepared to be driven home. But work lightens up and suddenly you can go out with friends, or subway it home — but it’s absolutely freezing outside. Add a hat to your outfit and you’ll be surprised how warm you are — after all, 80 percent of your heat escapes through your head. 2) The A/C is unbelievably freezing and you’re sitting in your office all day shivering. Add a hat — yes, you look silly, but as long as your door is shut, who’s the wiser? Again, it’ll warm you up considerably, but is easy enough to take off if you need to run to the bathroom or to a meeting.

Readers, what clothes do you keep at the office? What would you add to (or delete) from this list?


  1. Big Law Blues :

    I keep about a zillion shoes here, extra hose, two sweaters, and a scarf/wrap. I used to keep a suit but I really never needed it (junior associate, big law, non-litigation). I had a long conversation once about keeping sweat pants for after work, but my friend and I agreed that it seemed to sad to accept being here and maybe the promise of sweatpants at home would help us work faster and get home earlier. Not sure how that turned out… I’m also surrounded by stores so if I ever really needed something (extra underwear, etc.) I could just buy it in an emergency.

    And now to the threadjack. I need some advice, please. I’m just under a year in to my job and I’m starting to become a little depressed. I’m hoping this is just transitional – I never had a ‘real’ job before and so I’m not used to not having scheduled vacations, or having that feeling of accomplishment and moving on to the next step (like finishing a year of school). I’m just losing myself in the the stress and same-ness of it all, plus we’ve been VERY busy the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to see friends or get to the gym and I’m sleeping less, both because of lack of time and stress. It doesn’t matter how much make up I put on, I still look tired. I’m irritable to my boyfriend. There’s also some family drama and I’ve been trying to diet but sometimes wind up eating my feelings. I just sort of feel like the opposite of Charlie Sheen – I just feel like I”m losing. I was wondering how you ladies adjusted to this type of lifestyle, and any coping mechanisms you may have when you don’ t have the time to exercise/see friends/take part in other typical stress-reducers. I genuinely believe this is a phase and not something bigger, but I still just don’t know how to get through it. Any advice appreciated…

    • I’m sure other ladies will have bigger-picture advice, but my favorite thing to do after emerging from deal-closing crunch-time (well, aside from *fun* stress relievers) is to take an hour to go through my stacks of paper and files from the deal, purge the useless / no notes on them documents, and send the whole pile of cr*p to records storage. Very therapeutic (to me at least), bringing back the feeling of putting away my books for classes after I’d just finished the final. I still remember coming home from the last day of the Bar and staring at the BarBri stuff on my desk in disbelief that I didn’t have to keep looking at it – into the closet it went until results came out!

    • Recently Downgraded :

      This may not be the bright ray of sunshine you are looking for, but I’ve been there rather recently and my conclusion: resolve. I’ve finally resolved that this is good as its going to get. I moved to small firm this year and its almost the same (with 60% of the paycheck). I chose to be a lawyer and now I resolve to be the best one I can whether the experience is good, bad, or unbearable. It’s hard to be appreciative, but I try to remember that I’m lucky to have a job at all (nonetheless one in the practice of law) and at least I have a place to live and food to eat even if I rarely see my home for more than a few hours sleep and often have to skip meals. I’ve resolved that family, friends, and the now-gone SO that I miss very much will never understand what it means to be responsible for someone else’s problems and that the client’s needs always come before your own (sometimes including health, happiness, vacation, and weekends) and that I can never expect them to. Without that resolve,

      • Recently Downgraded :

        I’d never get get out of bed and make it into the office, especially on weekends and days I was hoping to have off. Good luck finding whatever it takes to keep you going – at least the busy days go by faster than the ones where you’re hunting for work.

      • Oh man, Recently Downgraded, that sounds terrible. I’d keep up that attitude until you can get out of that job, but get out if you want to. You don’t have to martyr yourself if you hate being a lawyer.

        The client’s needs are important–but they’re not as important as your health or happiness. Any employer that makes you feel that way is not an employer that you stay with. There’s a way to do great work and serve your client well without ruining your life. I’ve found it in the non-profit world.

        • Recently Downgraded- This is totally unsolicited, but I can sense real pain and despondancy in your posts. Have you considered talking to a therapist about all this??? It’s not going to make a crappy situation better, but it can give you tools to deal with the day to day, and maybe even come up with a game plan to help change your situation. You deserve to be happy. You don’t necessarily have to love your job, but maybe find a way to have something outside your job that makes you happy. I understand the hours are awful now, but maybe talking to someone could help you formulate a long term path forward.

        • Left coaster :

          So agreed with Batgirl. I am a lawyer as well, and I have also found a way to live happily and do good work for my clients. No job is worth sacrificing your well-being, and no reasonable job should ever demand that of you. I agree with formulating a short-term game plan for dealing with the here and now, but there’s no reason not to try to get out of this situation.

        • I think some of these comments reflect a certain privilege. Not to say that Recently Downgraded doesn’t sound despondent – particularly over the loss of her SO that she’s previously mentioned – but many people have to work just as hard at physical labor in hazardous conditions to pay their bills. They get through it with the same resolve that Recently Downgraded mentions. Having the ability to move jobs or seek therapy is a privilege, and without knowing all the details of her situation, it sounds like she’s doing the best she can with the life she has right now.

          • Recently Downgraded :

            E – I appreciate your defense and I admit that my realism crosses the line to pessimism, but I don’t think I’m alone here – much of my generation of professionals is in the same crunch. I feel like the past few years have obliterated all of the work-life balance strides made in the legal industry (probably others too) in the past 2 decades and this blog has made me feel better that I’m not alone in feeling stretched but obliged. I came to that resolve when I realized that I gave up everything else to be a lawyer and if I don’t have that, I don’t have anything.
            Therapy is tricky as it translates to a pre-existing condition that disqualifies you from health coverage. And other than starting over again at minimum wage in a new industry, I don’t see a job change being possible anytime soon. I could do a lot worse than the firm I’m in and I do feel guilty about not being happy there.
            In the meantime, I try to find a few moments of happiness admiring the pretty things on this site that I could never afford and relating to other poster’s horror stories. I’ve never worn much jewelry or any other novelties, but I’ve been inspired by fellow posts to try accessorizing more once I find another second job and start shopping again.

          • RD, based on your posts here over the past few weeks, it really sounds like you are WAY past realism tinged with pessimism and into deep, deep depression. You should not be routinely skipping meals, cutting yourself off from friends and family, and feeling miserable all the time. There is a difference between a low patch at work and a serious, long-term feeling of total dispair.

            I know that not everyone has the option to leave the job they hate or to seek therapy, but there are usually a lot more options out there than you can see where you are in the middle of a really bad time. I would really, really encourage you to see a therapist — if you’re in a not-tiny city, there are usually lower cost options (universities, non-profit counselling agencies, religiously-affiliated organizations — even if you’re not religious, all but the most conservative charities that offer counseling are welcoming and largely non-proselytizing). And I think you’ll find that the pre-existing condition issue is not as big a hurdle as you think — absolutely talk to any therapist about your concerns on that front, but it’s incredibly unlikely that talk therapy would have any effect on your eligibility for insurance (or at worst, would just mean that you’re not covered for further therapy, which is no worse than the status quo).

            You do not need to resign yourself to a life of misery. Asking for help when you need it is an act of bravery.

          • @ Recently Downgraded – Most employer-provided health insurance does not exclude preexisting conditions. Also, if you are not planning to leave your job and therefore change insurances soon, I don’t know why you’d be concerned about it. Would you decide not to go to a medical doctor because you were afraid you’d be diagnosed with something that could later be considered a preexisting condition? At any rate, although I do think most people would benefit from therapy, therapy isn’t the only option. Perhaps you could try meeting with a career coach or spiritual advisor. You could also discuss your feelings with your primary care physician and see whether she recommends therapy.

            As far as feeling guilty about not being happy goes – don’t feel guilty. Your job’s a job. It pays the bills. Your only obligations to it are to be diligent and earn your pay. So be diligent from 9-5 or 8-6, and find a hobby to pursue from 7-9. You have obligations to yourself, too, you know.

        • I think she is a troll. No one who works a high-powered BigLaw job makes that many typos.

          • I am sorry to have offended you with my typos and posts in general and I will refrain from using this forum in the future as I have apparently worn out my welcome. Do note though that being forced to dictate (typing is not billable) in biglaw for a few years is what killed my typing skills. It is not necessary to challenge someone’s professional qualifications though you may disagree with her position. I see in today’s topic on meals and some of the early comments that my perspective is not isolated. I was looking to share a realistic perspective on the state of things for many in my “lost generation” when relevant and I do appreciate the kind words I have received on here. The women on this site are an incredible resource on fashion and much more.

    • I find that giving myself permission to take a break sometimes really helps. Otherwise, I take an hour or so off here or there, but the whole time I feel guilty about not doing the work I brought home. It’s easier to just say, “I will put EVERYTHING away, sit down, and watch tv for two hours.” So relaxing.

      Also, set goals for yourself, and celebrate when you meet them. Billable hour goals sound so silly but it adds such a sense of accomplishment to something you will be doing anyway.

    • I think you have two challenges here – transitioning from school to work, and getting through a stressful period.

      For transitioning from school to work, it does get easier. When I was first out of law school, it was a complete shock to be stuck in an office all day, every day. It takes a while to get used to the daily grind of going to work without any apparent end in sight. You will get used to it, though, and you’ll get more efficient about fitting what you want to do into your days. Just be sure to use your vacation days and plan a trip somewhere fun.

      The second part — getting through a busy time — is more difficult. I’m in the middle of an endless trial and it seems like forever since I’ve had a completely free day. I’ve coped with it by giving myself a break on some things (for example, not beating myself up if I don’t manage to exercise that day), letting all of my friends know that I’m in trial so that I don’t feel guilty if I can’t make a social engagement, and using whatever free time I have to do things that make me happy (in my case, spending lots of time with my S.O.). Fit some nice things into your workday, like listening to music that you like or treating yourself to some good tea, and just get through the short-term insanity.

    • Schedule a vaction on the calendar, even if it has to be ridiculously far in advance (I’m dreaming of February right now–Sad, huh?). Do the same for some time with friends. If you’re truly feeling overwhelmed, see if someone will be up for a Sun afternoon Target run together. Just having something on the calendar that you’re looking forward to can make all the difference in the world.

      If it’s an immediate need to recharge during the day, make a list of what needs to be done and celebrate each cross-off. Bonus points if you can reward getting all the a.m. things done with a 20 min. walk. You’ll come back feeling ready to attack the p.m. things a bit more.

    • I don’t know if this is possible in your job, I when I started working right out of school I would schedule a personal day in the middle of the week that I could look forward to (or other time I knew it would be somewhat convenient… its never perfect though). I once took a “sick of working” sick day because I could feel the stress starting to effect my health and happiness. It felt good to break up the routine, and I used the time to treat myself to some things I hadn’t gotten around to – cleaning I had been putting off, shopping I wanted to do, cooking a big relaxing dinner, whatever makes you feel better about you. It was refreshing to go back the next day and I always felt a little more like “myself” and a little less like a drone.

    • You need a change of pace. For some, it is a vacation, for others, it is a new assignment, and for still others, a new homelife, including new sheets, pillow cases and shams. Whenever I get down, I buy new sheets and that changes everything.

    • As overwhelmed as you feel, could it be that you may either have a hard time saying no or a hard time delegating things you are not responsible for?
      Take a good look at what things your colleagues do and what they don’t do.

      To have a feeling of accomplishment, it helps to have a clear goal of what you are lookin to get out of your current assignment. Several goals are also okay. Now, when you are asked to do things that do not fit your goals at all, these may be especially good to say no to :-)

      For physical health and looking untired, it helps to try to sneak in some exercise and fresh air. A talk with a colleague can be done during a short walk, lunch can be eaten on a bench nearby. If you walk to work from the station, try to walk past a few trees, even if it takes 3 extra minutes. Vitamins helps with tired feelings and anti-aging creams, even when young, help with tired looks. I like hyaluronic acid in my cream. My face is free of lines, but I look more cheerful and awake when I use it.

      I agree with what was said about scheduling vacation. The more in advanced they are planned, the more people tend to respect them, so it pays to plan for spring, now.

  2. Add: Small umbrella (one lives in my desk drawer for those hit-or-miss rainy commutes home, where I hate to lug my “real” umbrella from home on the chance that I’ll need it later. Of course, the trick is remembering to stick it right back in your tote after it dries off at home to take back to its drawer.).

  3. I love these ideas!

    I have a small box in one of my drawers containing various first aid/emergency items (although it does need replenishing), such as painkillers, plasters, berocca (Vitamin c-boost tablets), sewing kit (I have needed this on a couple of occasions!), spare nude tights, clear nail varnish (in case it’s only a small ladder), chewing gum, toothbrush and toothpaste and anticeptic cream.

    I always have hand cream in the office, and I try to have snacks like cup-a-soup, almonds, tinned fruit etc. that keeps for emergencies.

    I like the idea of comfortable pants! I usually always commute in flats and I actually now have a spare pair of flats under my desk. I work at floor 25+ and fire drills definitely require flats!

    • karenpadi :

      I’ll second these! I would add mascara and neutral lip stick (I don’t usually wear make-up), a clothes roller for cat hair, multiple briefcases/totes, lysol wipes, and a year’s supply of feminine products (my office doesn’t stock the bathroom).

      I have a “cold” office and so I have a space heater and humidifier. I use the humidifier before cranking up the space heater and it usually does the trick.

  4. I was just thinking about bringing in my black blazer this morning!

    I like to have a handful of those trouser stockings/knee high things to wear with pants and heels. My feet tend to sweat and breaking in new pumps is much easier with those.

    Also, I’m considering putting some slippers under my desk so when I know I’m going to be chained to my assignment for awhile, my feet can break free of shoes. Might be better than having them dangle down on the (probably yucky) carpeted floor on their own…

    • That is a great idea re the slippers! Cold feet in the winter are the worst. I keep a fleece blanket under my desk currently that I bury them in when it’s freezing in here.

      Also – I just bought a pair of fingerless arm warmers. They’re black cashmere thick cable-knit sweaters for your forearms and hands, but leave you free to type. I realize they will look a little silly for those who wander into my office, but (1) generally those people who come into my office are friends, (2) I’m thinking that long-sleeved winter gear will hide them except for the hand parts, and (3) at the point when my hands become so cold that I can barely move my fingers to type, I really doubt I will much care about whether someone else thinks they look silly. I tried mittens with the fold-back fingers last year but was thwarted by the covered thumb. Psyched to have found the arm warmers …

      Otherwise, just a black cardigan and a few pairs of shoes in here. Discontinued the suit/blazer hanging on the back of the door years ago.

      • SF Bay Associate :

        An east coast friend of mine got as a present these fingerless gloves which are heated via a USB plug somehow. You plug in the cord, the gloves warm up, you unplug the USB, and put the gloves on to warm your freezing little fingers. If I could figure out where it came from, I might buy a pair for myself.

    • Anonymous :

      My toes are always cold so I have fuzzy socks.

  5. Threadjack for you Philly corporettes. I’m staying at the Palomar near Rittenhouse Square tonight. Suggestions on where to eat dinner that doesn’t require getting dressed up (I’m in jeans) or major bucks?

    • There are so many walkable places in that area. Check out some of the local taverns, like Fado.

    • since it’s SO beautiful here today, I recommend somewhere with outside seating for the breeze and the people watching. You can keep the tab reasonable at Parc (on Rittenhouse, ~3 blocks away) depending on what you order; they also have overhead heaters if the evening turns chill.

      There are lots of little BYOB type places all over the place (many with a few outside tables). If you’re interested, name your favorite cuisine (greek? indian? italian? other mediterranean?) and I’ll check back later to follow up. You would just need to get a bottle beforehand if you want wine with dinner – liquor stores near your hotel are at 17th and JFK (2 blocks north) or 19th and Chestnut (2 blocks west).

      • You guys are awesome! How’s Tria (my internet filter is blocking me from checking out their menu)? Parc looks like a decent option. As for me, love sushi and Vietnamese, although I haven’t had Greek in a long time… that could be good. What I go for is tasty food, cozy setting (although I’m a patio lover), and a good glass of wine.

        • Totally Numa sushi if you want sushi in the Rittenhouse square area. (108 S. 18th Street). Honestly on a Monday most places around Philly you can get by with jeans and a nice shirt and shoes.

          Kanella is a little farther away (and across the street from my condo!) and it has great Greek, but it’s a BYO, so pick up a bottle before you go.

          Tria is more snacky-but has great wine and cheese selection. They don’t actually have a hot full kitchen at any of their locations, so it’s mostly sandwiches, salads, cheese, nibblies. But all of it is delicious.

          Another favorite of mine is 20th and Sansom at Tinto, a chef Garces restaurant. Basque Spanish tapas, great wine list, Iron Chef. Need I say more. If you go, and love lamb, they have one of the best lamb tapas I have ever had in a little shot glass filled with this creamy sauce. Amazing.

          • This is far too late to help Herbie tonight, but Tinto! Is! Amazing! Tapas heaven.


  6. Anon for this :

    All this recent talk of long hair being unprofessional has me thinking. I’m in my mid 20s and have waist-length brunette hair. Most of the time I just clip back the hair around my crown and leave it long. Sometimes I’ll clip it all up but not always.

    My question is this – I love my long hair and have no plans to cut it. Will this be a hindrance for me or am I overthinking this? Can a confident woman with long-flowing hair be taken serious in businss? (I’ll also add that I’m 6′ tall)


    • As long as you wear it up, then I don’t see a problem. A simple chignon or bun will do the trick. It’s really not professional to wear waist-length hair to the office though…

      • I agree – if you don’t want to cut it, then I think you should wear it up. IMHO, unless you are someone who clearly keeps it long for religious or cultural reasons, your coworkers might be distracted by it and find it unprofessional. Even if you dont want to chop it off, be sure to get regular trims so that the ends aren’t rough and uneven and it looks neat and styled.

    • There was an entire post on this a while ago so those comments might be helpful to you as well. I think the overall consensus here (and I agree) is that “long” hair should not be longer than your bra strap in the back, but it’s fine if you wear it all up all the time (bun, etc). If you can almost sit on it, I think it’s way too long to be worn down in a professional office.

    • Recently Downgraded :

      When I was in biglaw, several of the very successful associates had mid-back or longer length blond hair and they always wore it down, even in their firm photos. It was not a problem for them, there and I suppose none of them was the odd one out with several like that.

    • another anon :

      I think how good/healthy your hair looks makes a big difference. In my experience, hair is waist length does not so look so great a lot of the time, because of the breakage, split ends, etc. that often happen when you have hair that long. If that is you, then yes, it’s probably not very professional. If on the other hand, you have shampoo commercial healthy hair, I think the length is less of an issue.

      • This was going to be my comment – it depends on the health of your hair. If it’s that long and has breakage/split ends/stringy/looks dry/uneven, then I would consider simply wearing it up all the time. If, however, your hair looks healthy and you keep it well trimmed and maintained, then more power to you (and let us know your hair secrets!).

    • I have long dark hair (I’m latina), and I love my long flowy hair. It falls just past my bra strap. Most days I wear it up, but I wear it down on occasion. In fact *gasp* I wore it down to an interview last week! I’m such a rebel. I love my hair, and it makes me feel confident, and more than just a lawyer in a uniform.

      For what its worth, I got a call back within a few hours.

    • I agree with commenters who say it depends on how nice and healthy it looks. I have a few coworkers with waist-length hair. One always wears it down, and it’s healthy and shiny with minimal split ends. She always looks polished. One always wears it in a low bun in the office, and she also always looks polished. The other two don’t seem to maintain their hair well or style it, and both consistently look like a hot mess (neither of them is a particularly polished dresser, either).

      Incidentally, all the women have curly or wavy hair and the most polished-looking one is middle eastern and has what most people would refer to as “ethnic” hair, so it’s not a matter of their hair types being different. I think they’re all taken seriously, but the two who look like a hot mess have to work a lot harder at it.

      • does anyone else immediately think about Elinor from The Practice when we start talking about long hair in the office? or is it just me?

    • About this time last year, I was at a hearing in a full courtroom and the opposing attorney had extremely long hair (not quite Crystal Gayle-length, but definitely butt-length). After the hearing and after watching this woman really struggle to manage her hair while putting on her coat, almost the entire courtroom started whispering; even the judge stopped everything to watch and shook her head sadly when the woman left the courtroom.

      Of course, I don’t know for sure that the whispers were about this woman’s hair, but I do know that other attorneys were talking about it in the attorneys’ room (this woman was not a regular at our city’s courthouse but was from a nearby city).

      Although I do think it is easier for a tall woman to look professional with longer hair down because it doesn’t “overwhelm” her as much, I would rather be known for my lawyering skills before the judge, not for my hair struggles. I would probably keep my hair long but keep it under control.

    • I’m not in Law which seems to be the vast majority here and as a result this may well be irrelevant to you but to add a Finance/IT/Sales perspective from Europe – it’s never been a problem for me. It’s healthy, pitch black -not even the non-threatening, tame brown kind- and it’s a bit past bra clasp with a bit of fringe and slightly wavy. I wear it down many days when just in the home office and think nothing of its position when travelling with assistants or even my CEO or board members but have it up for any meeting with a client or for BoD meets. Then again I take great pleasure in being one of the very few women in the industry at VP level and treading the non-conformist line in terms of what I wear and how I style and while I spent a lot of time in my 20s striving to conform and always look like the big boys I’ve relaxed now in my 30s and find that having a touch of feminine and even sexy is far more of a feminist act than conforming and jumping into pant suits every day.

  7. I don’t keep any clothes in my office, never have. I used to keep a tweed man’s sport jacket in the office for clients who might suddenly have to go to court, but I don’t have that type of practice any more.

    I think it’s gross to be shaving legs in or around the office. I also deplore the idea of keeping a bunch of shoes in the office. Would a man do that? No!!!

    Each day, I dress for that day’s events. (All clothes laid out the night before, with accessories and jewelry.) When in doubt, “overdress”. I have never been stuck with the wrong clothes, not once.

    • I’ve had two male boss who kept multiple shoes in the office (that I knew of) and I’ve known many professional men who kept extra suits, shirts, ties etc. I don’t think this is as exclusively female as you might imagine. I’ve even worked in three offices were all workstations included some sort of mini closet with hanging bar.

      • Yup, my (male) mentor keeps three suits, two coats, a hat, and two pairs of shoes in his office at all times.

    • And men’s shoes aren’t as merciless as women’s shoes.

    • I can think off the top of my head of four male associates and partners that keep a change of clothes in their office. I don’t know about shoes…but men aren’t walking on 3-4 inch heels all day and in the event of an evacuation, can pretty simply just run down the stairs. I haven’t had to shave my legs in the office (yet), but due to a few accidental spills, mishaps, or just plain wardrobe malfunctions, I have been happy to have an extra cardi/jacket/blouse at hand.

    • I think you have to be a minority on the shoes issue. Particularly in NYC, if you wore your nice shoes to work every day, your feet would be destroyed, and so would your shoes. Most women I know have shoes for commuting and change into shoes for the office. A fair number of men I know do the same.

    • A senior exec I used to work with had an armoire and standing mirror in one area of his (large) office because he found he often had to change into more formal clothing for various dinners and events. So, no, this is not a female only thing.

    • Anonymous :

      Alrighty then!

    • “Each day, I dress for that day’s events.”

      That would be nice if:
      a) you always know exactly what that day’s events entail, and
      b) there are never any surprises.

      Sadly, in my line of work, my days are rarely so scheduled in advance, and surprises are the norm, so it’s best to be prepared.

    • Anonymous :

      Am I the only one who thinks Nevadan is a very subtle troll? Her posts always seem so off to me.

    • I have quite a few male partners who keep a suit in their office. My practice generally does not involve needing to wear a suit, but sometimes it comes up. Many of us also have running shoes/gym clothes at the office.

      I wouldn’t shave my leg IN my office, that’s why we have showers in the bathroom.

      I’d be curious to know about your practice, if it’s so predictable that you can always “dress for that day’s events.” I have a transactional-only practice, and I still can’t manage that.

      • Recently Downgraded :

        Super jealous of your office shower. Would love to have access to one for running and freshening up during all-nighters. Would also love for the guys who run in the afternoon and come back to have access to one.

      • I work for government and there’s really no need to bring an extra set of clothing. Everything is scheduled at least the night before, and even if it isn’t, I live close enough to work that I can go home and change if I need to. My office is very small and there wouldn’t be any room to save a change of clothes (other than workout clothing) even if I wanted to. At this point all I have is a pair of rain boots and a windbreaker for downpours along with a sewing kit.

        RD- we have only one shower in the entire office complex. I went to check it out with a coworker one day and there’s no way I’d ever use them. Luckily we have a Y right down the road, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people didn’t go there instead.

  8. Texas Attorney :

    I have been a litigator for more than 20 years now and I have never had to go to the courthouse at the last minute. Who are all these attorneys making these last minute courthouse runs? With that said, the only thing I keep in my office that I use is my office sweater. The blue blazer I have for “emergencies” has not been used in so long it is hopelessly out of fashion. I also have a box of toiletries and things like that. If I ever do have to change, I live a few minutes from the office so I just go home.

    • Criminal defense attorney here. Always last minute calls from people who want us to handle their case that afternoon. And I commute an hour in, so there’s no going home for something to change into. So, we always wear suits to the office, but we are also instructed to have a back up, just in case.

      And in my firm, you never know when you’ll get pulled into a client meeting, or mediation. The rest of the firm is business casual, but for depos, mediations, hearings, and court runs, suits are required.

      I’ve only been doing this for a year, but I can count at least a dozen instances of either myself, or my mentor partner being called over to the courthouse by the judge (once randomly over lunch, the judge called and said, “Partner, be here in 15 minutes, I need to speak with you”). A dozen times is enough to make sure I always wear a suit, and always have a backup.

      • Did not mean to imply the dozen times were all by the judge, that was just one instance. The rest were instances of “you now have a 2:00 at the courthouse” or “they’ve moved your hearing up to today instead of next week” etc.

      • Texas Attorney :

        See, there is another good reason I would not be suited (ha, no pun intended) for criminal defense work. I don’t like wearing suits every day and reserve them for going to court and meetings. It would make me very grumpy to wear suits every day just in case something exciting happens. I prefer to toil away in business casual and wear suits for hearings and court appearances for which I get plenty of notice!

        • Agreed! I’d very much like to wear a wider variety of clothing than just suits. But sometimes, it does make it a bit easier to look “put together,” otherwise, I may end up entirely too frumpy for office wear anyways!

    • Recently Downgraded :

      Anything that has to be walked through the chamber judge’s chambers that day, including TRO’s and other urgent motions. Docketing in my local court of general jurisdiction is 2 months behind, so anything that needs to be done this year needs to be walked through. Also, there is always the possibility of covering for a colleague.

    • Ekaterin Nile :

      I’ve been unexpectedly asked to go to a meeting a business formal client. I was happy to have my “emergency” black pantsuit hanging behind my door that day. I also had a skirt zipper completely rip out one day, but that’s another story…

      • Ekaterin Nile :

        Er, that should be “a meeting at a business formal client.” Anyway, you get the idea.

        • “Lady Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson Vorkosigan”

          Dang. Say that three times fast.

          (You made me look this up and now I have some reading to seek out.)

    • At least a couple times a year, I file for or have to defend a TRO. If I’m lucky, I have an overnight lead in. If not, I am running to court in the afternoon on a day when I thought I wasn’t going to leave the office. I think it just depends on your practice.

    • TRO’s spring to mind. Although I worked for a female partner who would purposely not wear a suit the day she was going to get a TRO, just to underline the “emergency” nature of it and that she just didn’t have time to suit up. It often worked…

    • I am sort of notoriously overdressed, so if I head out ot a last minute meeting (not an attorney) I am often the only one appropriately dressed!

      But I still think it’s a great idea to have a couple of items at your desk. I could really stock a drug store with all the toiletries and vitamins and pain pills and kleenex I keep in my office drawers.

      And if you live in earthquake country like I do, please stash a pair of flats or athletic shoes somewhere in your office. If there is a major earthquake, you *will* be required to evacuate and you *will* be required to use the 17 flights of stairs rather than the elevator. Ask me how I know.

      • I once had to use the stairs for a fire drill right after foot surgery. Many flights. It was awful. But if I were wearing heels and had to go down 17 flights of stairs, I would carry the shoes and go down the stairs barefoot or in stockings. Why not?

        I do think TRO practice is an interesting exception. TRO’s are actually pretty rare and most lawyers are not seeking or defending them.

        By the way, I am not a “subtle troll” (not that I know what that means) but I probably have been in law practicemany more years than most of you. This may result in my expressing a viewpoint that is a bit different from those which some of you hold.

        Note, too, I am working in a part of the country which is a bit out of the ordinary in most people’s eyes.

        If my being “different” is a problem, just skip my posts – there are many others to read.

    • Same here. My extra jacket is in case of spills. I was having lunch with a friend a few months ago, and the waiter knocked over a martini and it spilled all over her. You can’t go back to the office smelling like gin! Better to have an extra suit around just in case.

  9. After several different jobs I’ve learned from my mistakes and now I usually have “healthy” supply of stuff: extra suit (I have an older black pantsuit that has become my office suit), knit top for said suit (or something that won’t wrinkle), at least one shawl and one cardigan (but because I am *always* cold/in cold offices usually I’ve got more than one of each), extra hose and knee highs, and many pairs of shoes because I always keep heels at work and use flats to commute (I’m talking minimum a big drawer).

    In additional to the clothes stuff, I keep an extra umbrella (most useful thing, period), contacts solution and case, toothbrush/floss/toothpaste, band-aids, clear nail polish and nail file, face wash towelette thingy, and extra hair band. Also snack food that won’t go bad.

    I realize this might put me in the position of being an officer hoarder, but I’ve needed each one of these things at least once and often more times in the past. Some (dental care stuff) I use everyday. And as for the inevitable build-up: I’m not a fan of schlepping stuff on my NYC commute.

    • another hoarder :

      This makes me feel better; based on others’ responses, I was starting to think I was making myself a bit too at home at the office.
      In addition to many of the items on your list, I’ve got a sewing kit, shout wipes (like AMNY I don’t like to take things back and forth in my tote), 1 spare contact just in case, 1 5-hr energy just in case, hand santizer gel, suntan lotion, bug spray (for walking outside), an old but versitle blue shell for potential spills, and Kiehl’s Formula 133 grooming aid for bad hair days.

    • I have tons of stuff like that in my big drawer – shout wipes, static electricity spray, non-perishable food, tea, band-aids, cold medicines, pain relievers, tissues with lotion, nail clippers, etc etc. I just kept the comment limited to the topic of clothes in the office. On previous posts people have run through a whole litany of items that they keep on hand – I don’t think y’all sound like hoarders!

    • Liz (Europe) :

      Office hoarder? I have a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, umbrella, extra bag, first-aid (including gloves!), disinfecting towels, and make-up in my handbag. Permanently. Plus a ton of other stuff.

  10. Wraps are a MUST have. They also can be used to cover food stains and to fancy up an outfit, or cover a wardrobe malfunction. I also always have a clutch for last minute social invites. My biggest must have is actually not clothing or accessory related: food. The biggest emergency is not having anything to eat, and not having any time to forage for food. Protein bars are necessity for me.

  11. Lightbulb :

    I just finished reading this book, Men Who Can’t Love by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol in an attempt to understand what was happening with my current relationship and all I can say is WOW. It is very right on. Anyone else read this book? The thing I gained most from the book is that there is/was nothing wrong with me at all. Very liberating. Anyone have an experience with a commitmentphobic man who was able to get over his fear? Not sure that I’m holding out for this to happen, but I’m curious in others’ stories.

    • Oh, you’re clearly a not a troll at all. Thanks for sharing what is definitely a 100% impartial opinion regarding this book.

  12. Liz (Europe) :

    In terms of clothing – a black suit, a collared shirt, pumps, a black shortsleeve t-shirt, a shawl, two longsleeve t-shirts in gray and black, and warm socks as well as tights. I always get cold feet at the office, sitting at the desk. Sometimes I also keep an extra knit pullover.
    And I, too, have some extra underwear at the office, in a box in a bag in a locked cabinet (just to make sure no one ever finds it). Auntie flo’ isn’t usually punctual and often comes unannounced, y’know what I mean?
    One of our secretaries says me and my lawyer colleagues are hamsters about clothing. I think it’s a professional deformation of some sort, born from need.

    • Liz (Europe) :

      Oh and I just realized not everyone may have the luxury of a parking space at the office, or may not be commuting by car – but I also keep some stuff in the car: a blanket, towels, sport attire, and usually all kinds of food and drinks.

  13. In addition to the above: Fashion tape for unanticipated gaping or hem issues, Dryel stain remover, and a foldable tote. Reisenthel shoppers – the ones that come with a little bag to stuff themselves into – hold legal files.

    • Yes! Hollywood Tape, stain remover, and foldable totes are exactly my office extras.

  14. Scientist who commutes by bike checking in. I keep closed toe shoes, socks, extra jeans, a belt, 2 cardigans and a wrap as well as running clothes/shoes in a drawer at my desk. I keep a fruit/nut mix around for energy and some allergy medication just in case.

  15. Anonymous :


    Any advice for internal interviews? Would wearing a full suit in a business casual enviornment be too much? I’ve only been at this firm for 3 months but was just told I am interviewing for an unknown position.

    • Recently Downgraded :

      If you are competing against outsiders, then all out interview suit. Otherwise, I would look for something in the middle – separates including a jacket, a bold accessory, or a suit that would normally be too interesting for interviewing to avoid that funeral look in the business casual environment.
      Will they be kind enough to shed some more light on this position before your interview so you can prepare? I hope so and best of luck.

  16. prof w/bike :

    If you live in a city and commute without a car, you definitely need back-up materials at work. Because I bike to work, I always worry about forgetting something important (nylons & heels especially), so I keep lots of back up materials in the office (including a warm shirt and sweatpants in case the temperature changes before I bike home).

    I keep 5-6 pairs of shoes in my office, back up nylons and tights, 2-3 sweaters, a rain jacket and umbrella, & one back up dress.

    • Completely agree. All of my dress shoes and trouser socks, plus an umbrella and sunscreen, live permanently at the office. I don’t want to have to carry that stuff with me on a 30-minute walk every morning!

  17. Elizabeth :

    I also keep a small clutch wallet/purse in my desk, so that if I want to run out and get lunch (or the rare after dinner cocktail), I don’t have to carry my overloaded purse.

    My friend in law school taught me that all you really need to take with you is MILK. M-oney, I-D, L-ipstick, and a K-ey. Of course, now the PDA/Blackberry/iPhone also gets thrown in the mix, but still a lot lighter than my usual shoulder bag.

  18. MissJackson :

    Pretty much my entire shoe collection lives in my office. I seriously have an entire shoe rack under my desk. (Only downside is needing to remember to carry a pair home if I’m going straight to a depo or going to a formal event over the weekend).

    I also have several cardigans and jackets because my office temperature is really unpredictable.

    I keep an entire “emergency overnight kit” too. It includes: towel, soap, shampoo, razor, deodorant, contact case and solution + a pair of glasses, yoga pants and a cotton tshirt, and underware. Plus I have an emergency suit (which I would wear after an all-nighter). I also keep a pair of nude hose and a pair of black tights.

    I really don’t care if this is a ton of personal stuff to have in my office (in addition to clothing I have plenty of first aid, snacks, safety pins, tide stick, etc, etc) because although I’ve only had to use it a couple of times it made those really really bad moments so much more bearable.

    I do, however, occasionally have nightmares about being fired/layed off and immediately escorted out of the building — if that ever actually happened, the firm would have to spend a fortune shipping me all of my crap!

  19. I’ve been at my firm job for about a month now and I have the same nightmare about losing my job and having to schlep my shoes, emergency food, eye care, umbrella, suit, etc. home. (I also have paper bags folded neatly away in case I ever need them.)

    My favorite partner has a secret closet where he keeps his shoes and suits.

    I’m still needing to get: lint remover, stain remover.

    Oh, and gym pants came in handy dandy during week 3 when I ended up staying almost overnight.

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  21. Cats Ahoy! :

    I use for sample-size items for travel, my office, and my gym bag. Their selection is a million times better than what you can find at the drug store.

  22. workin late :

    I keep cleansing pads for my oily face. A nail clipper / file within reach at all times (helps to avoid snagging hose). Have an iPod speaker dock set up, with a CD player and CDs in case I leave iPod at home. Ginger tea. Tums. Peanut butter and Theraflu (daytime). Enough shoes to clothe a small army. Jacket and small heater for emergencies (heaters are prohibited but it can get bitterly cold). Instant high fiber oatmeal. Contact solution. Purell. Pantyhose. Spare headphones in case I break my main set (walking home in silence is the worst). And Excedrine, which always seems to need replenishing…

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