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Corporate Dressing

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#1 Hini

Posted 08 December 2017 - 11:50 AM

I am a partner in a law firm. Two of us partners are women and we have 6 female lawyers.

None of our female lawyers dress professionally or appropriately all the time. Some of the time they do. Most of the time it does not pass muster. We do not have a 'dress code'.

The female partners dress well. We don't wear suits often, but do wear blazers, shirts, tailored shift dresses etc. Pantyhose sometimes.

The young lawyers wear skirts that are too short, flimsy tops, too tight tops and skin tight pants and I have never seen a shirt amongst them. Or a blazer for that matter. We try and lead by example but they are not getting it. We don't want to have to introduce a policy or speak to any of them individually for fear of embarrassing them. They are young and we suspect they just are not aware of how to get it right all the time.

We don't expect suits and we understand they probably won't wear pantyhose under any circumstances but the inappropriate clothing is too frequent and we need to address it. Our lawyers are often client facing and image is important.

We are thinking of getting in an image consultant to do a session with the whole firm to try and get the message across but can anyone offer any other suggestions?

They are all under 30.

#2 Karlee99

Posted 08 December 2017 - 11:57 AM

Introduce a uniform?

#3 Hini

Posted 08 December 2017 - 11:59 AM

A uniform would be very odd. Possibly ridiculous.

I'd rather avoid a policy or rules. I want to encourage/teach them how to get it right themselves.

#4 ECsMum

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:02 PM

If image is so important then you need to introduce a policy or uniforms.  Times have changed - dress standards have changed.   The quality of work and performance should be more important than what someone is wearing.

#5 Pearson

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:03 PM

Introduce the policy of dressing corporate. Supply them with examples.
Supply a uniform if required?
Speak to them individually, way less embarassing than a group meeting.
Surely this would be covered in law school?
Bring in an image consultant?
Encourage both male and female to attend so it is not directed specifically at people.

#6 Moukmouk

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:04 PM

I think you need a dress code. I know it seems silly to have to do it, but if you don't have a dress code then they do have the right to wear whatever they want.
I remember when friends started in big firms in the late 90s there were extremely strict dress codes - black, grey or navy suits, heels, pantyhose etc.
Law is pretty conservative. I'm surprised they don't "get it" without been told, but millenials.......
Do the young male lawyers wear suits?
The image consultant sounds good

#7 just someone

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:05 PM


Edited by just someone, 14 January 2018 - 01:54 PM.

#8 Schmig

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:06 PM

I don't understand why a dress policy is an issue. I work in IT and we have one. I am also married to a lawyer and they have a strict one everyone is required to meet. If people can't dress appropriately it is surely better to put it in a policy as part of an annual policy update/review? We are required to review and re-sign all our company policies annually.

#9 Fourteenyears

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:07 PM

Broad guidelines?  Staff training day with external consultant (on something generic like image management, but containing the message about dress codes).

Is it possible that they are dressing the way that clients under 30 would be expecting them to dress, and that your view of appropriate is old fashioned?   Are they paid OK?  It's bloody hard these days to get something that isn't flimsy and is tailored without spending a fair whack.

Edited by Twelveyears, 08 December 2017 - 12:07 PM.

#10 IamOzgirl

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:07 PM

Hi Hini - i work in your environment (much bigger firm global) and we recently had a reminder of our dress code go out. it was not received well.

We also had a personal branding coach come in - also not received well.

So i am not helping - however i just wanted to say your company is not alone in having this problem.

Its very hard at the moment as we want to tell women (and men) to be comfortable and embrace individuality and personal brand - however yes sometimes it is just not professional.

#11 Lady Gray

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:07 PM

I'm a lawyer and never wear a suit. To be honest, I feel conflicted about 'corporate dressing', I feel like the quality of my work trumps what I wear.

I'm on mat leave now but when working I wore fitted trousers and a top, I definitely wore skirts and dresses above the knee and sheer blouses (but with a camisole underneath them).  I haven't worn a suit in years and I definitely don't wear pantyhose.

I am part of the executive management team which is also made up of several other women under 40.  We had a women's leadership summit a few years ago wear one of the afternoon dedicated to corporate dressing.  Let's just say it didn't go over well.  It seemed very old fashioned and the subtext seem to be that we needed to avoid dressing so as to distract the men in the office.

ETA:  women's suits are so expensive which is why I no longer wear them.  Personally, I find it extremely annoying to spend money on an expensive work wordrobe when men can get away with wearing the same suit every day.

Edited by Lady Gray, 08 December 2017 - 12:09 PM.

#12 lozoodle

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:10 PM

Things are really relaxed these days I find. I work in one of the global law firms and gosh we dress like crap some days... currently i'm sitting here in thongs and a t shirt. You get all sorts around here. As a whole though, relaxed definitely seems more and more the norm....

I guess the main thing is how are they when they are having client meetings / off to court?

Edited by lozoodle, 08 December 2017 - 12:14 PM.

#13 -Belinda-

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:13 PM

Think you need a policy/dress code. Ask them (or a couple of them) to develop it, working alongside an image consultant or one of the partners. Ask them for assistance in planning implementation. Have "casual Fridays" when there are no face to face meetings. Add a clothing allowance to their salary.

#14 Hini

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:19 PM

We definitely don't expect suits and pantyhose. I don't do suits myself anymore. Just tailored separates.

We're a corporate firm. And attire for court is often not at the right standard.

Ozgirl that's interesting. That's my fear. I don't want to offend them. Leading by example isn't working.

I think a consultant for the whole firm might be the answer.

#15 Hini

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:20 PM

And they're all paid well enough to be able to get some Zara separates etc. suits are definitely crazy expensive. I invested in two when I started 13 years ago but I do understand things have changed.

#16 AmicusCuriae

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:30 PM

I am also a lawyer and spend a fair bit of time at Court. I mostly wear wrap dresses or similar and always a jacket for Court. That’s pretty standard wear in my firm and area of law.  More comfortable than a suit, but we look professional and like some effort has been made.

I recall a young lawyers’ seminar when I started in private practice where some fairly blunt advice was given by a senior practitioner about making sure the Court could work out who the client is and who the lawyer is by our clothing.  No cleavage, make sure you can bend over in your dress, no strappy sandals and always wear a jacket in Court.  I’m not that much older than the lawyers you’re speaking of so not sure why they don’t seem to get it? I think sometimes a dress code and some specific ‘pointers’ are more helpful than trying to tread lightly and having no one take it in.  

Sadly it is much easier for men-not very hard to throw on a tie and jacket and show up to Court.   Almost no one wears a tie and jacket when we’re in the office though.

#17 22Fruitmincepies

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:33 PM

Are suits for women more expensive than for men? DH has at least a suit for each day of the week (his workplace expects ties and cuff links for men), and his suits are very expensive.

Could you speak to them individually in more of a mentoring capacity - so a more casual chat about a bunch of stuff that just happens to include a bit about dress expectations if they want more responsibility etc.

#18 teaspoon

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:35 PM

Rather than create a stand-alone dress code, embed what you want to see in a broader "Who we are" "What we do" and "How we do it" kind of manifesto.

We partner with our clients to out-pace the competition, we value life-long learning, being smart and looking the part...

Kind of thing

#19 SplashingRainbows

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:36 PM

Here’s a different way of looking at it.

You have a policy already.  You just haven’t communicated it to them directly by way of written policy. That’s not really fair either - although done with good intentions.

It’s your brand - it’s absolutely ok to direct a reasonable standard of dress appropriate to the position.

Do you have firm brand guidelines or values etc that can be linked to personal presentation to help them understand why it’s important?

Best practice would be to discuss the policy verbally when offering the position, and following up with written handbook provided with all firm policies on day 1. That’s something you can implement for new hires.

It is really hard to change culture when it’s established, but it can be done. They may whinge - that probably says more about them than you.

Personally I would start with a reasonable dress code policy (written) addressing both men and women as that ensures beyond the current ‘group’. An image consultants message doesn’t get communicated to new hires so would need to be repeated regularly.

#20 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 08 December 2017 - 12:57 PM

I'm a lawyer and dress too casually sometimes.

Mainly due to not fitting into my nice clothes and failing to cope with that situation for financial and emotional reasons.

But I get it together for court/meetings/presentations.

I think someone has bite the bullet and be blunt with them - either a consultant or yourselves.  

What I'd do is have a women's professional development retreat day lead by you and the other woman partner.

Get in presenters on:

Business development
Negotiation and Advocacy
etc etc

Then hit them with the presenter on image with a power point of what you want and don't want.  

Finish with drinks and war stories about the old days where you had to wear a skirt all the time.

#21 Rowenas necklace

Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:21 PM

A simple dress code is better than trying to subtly hint to everyone as to what the guidelines are.

Trousers or knee-length skirts, shirts or blouses that are not sheer, blazers, jumpers or smart cardigans, neat hair, clean, polished shoes.

There's still plenty of room in that for all employees (men and women) to have their own style, while also meeting the organisation's requirements for smart dressing.

#22 Prancer is coming

Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:27 PM

I am not a lawyer, but I work in a job with a dress code and a compulsory uniform was introduced a few years ago.  It is amazing that even with a uniform, people can make it look unprofessional pretty easily!  The sleeveless shift dress meant to have a shirt under it looks no where near as professional when no shirt is worn under it, or 3/4 tights are worn under it.

My point is no matter how strict the dress code is, people will still dress in the way they want.

#23 Grrrumbles

Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:34 PM

Law degree but I work in Government. I used to wear suits but can never find anything that fits and doesn’t have dry clean only pants so I now wear separates.

Have you thought about picking a store or label that both meets your expectations but would appeal to their fashion sense and negotiating a special discount.

I agree that lawyers can’t be expected to wear a uniform and people would probably assume they were a receptionist if they did.

But in relation to dress length and see through fabrics that could definitely be mentioned individually when it happens. Tightness is a trickier issue.

Should never be in reference to “distraction to men”, professional image is the only grounds.

#24 NannyPlumPudding

Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:42 PM

At my old corporate law firms this is what was expected of all female employees (I will do the males as well)

- Tailored dark pants - didn't have to be expensive but had to be clean, and fit nicely.

- No bare shoulders - i.e. no spaghetti strap singlets.  The thick bonds style singlets were fine

- skirts - i always wore above the knee skirts but never mini skirts.  Everyone I ever worked with seemed to know what a "tailored black work skirt" was, again not expensive, target and portmans were my go to!

- button up shirts - I hated the damn things, synthetic fabric and I always had sweat patches.  So I wore button up sheer blouses with singlets underneath, or plain cotton t shirts.

- shoes - should be covered shoes, but especially while pregnant I wore sandals and thongs as swelling made other shoes impossible. No massive 10inch heels, it's not professional to waddle around.

- dresses - not bodycon! Nice, flattering and modest.  I wore a lot of a-line style dresses in bright colours. If it's casual friday and they have drinks after work they can bring a change of clothes!

The Males at one firm had to wear plain coloured suits and ties, polished shoes and just boring.

The males at the next firm didn't have to wear ties, but were expected to dress professionally.  My boss wore chinos, tailored coloured shirt, nice shoes (casual fridays meant these were vans or something similar) and hair cut regularly.

We actually had more conversations with one of the male lawyers for not cutting or washing his hair.  It was oily, gross and flopped in front of his face while he was in with clients.

#25 EmmDasher

Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:50 PM

haha I'm a member of the profession and in the offending age bracket.

I used to dress somewhat as described in the OP (not as bad but I'm sure I had my moments). I had a personal epiphany about the way I was presenting myself. It was brought on by having children, reassessing my wardrobe and becoming suddenly time poor. Apparently with age and experience, comes wisdom!

My firm does a corporate dressing and etiquette session for every grad group that starts.

I think a corporate deal with a local tailor would go a long way to helping aswell because so much corporate clothing for women just does not fit properly. Tailoring can be very expensive! Men can get custom made shirts and suits made to their exact measurements for a pittance online but there just isn't strong options like that for women and its very frustrating.

That being said:
I will never wear pantyhose.
I loathe business shirts and wear them as little as possible.
I will generally only wear blazers to the start of a meeting unless I'm genuinely cold.

I am always perplexed how people manage to wear business shirts, long pants and jackets in mid-summer without melting. Not to mention people who can wear a business shirt all day and not end up a ball of wrinkly fabric. I think people that can end up at work in business shirts without creases up the body and through the elbows probably employ the dark arts :shrug:

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