In the legal industry, appearances matter. The way you dress can help you command respect, inspire trust and convey a polished, professional image. Your wardrobe is a tool to win the trust of supervisors, clients, opposing counsel and judges.
You don’t need to spend your entire paycheck on looking good. Adhering to your firm’s dress code and following the simple guidelines below can help women dress to impress. For guidance on men’s dress, review these tips for workplace attire for men.
Business Attire for Women
Although many law firms have adopted casual dress policies in the past decade, the industry is trending toward more formal business attire. Exercise good taste and common sense when selecting appropriate business attire and, if you are unsure, err on the conservative side.
For interviews, court appearances, client meetings, presentations and related events, stick to a well-cut suit in conservative shades such as black, brown, gray or navy. Skirted suits were formerly the rule but now pantsuits are acceptable. Skirts should fall at or below the knee.
For less formal business events and casual work days, pantsuits and dressy coordinated separates are acceptable. Tailored jackets, tasteful sweaters and pretty blouses paired with a skirt or dress pants are always good choices. Other acceptable clothing for women includes sweaters (lightweight, turtlenecks, crew, V-neck and cardigans), vests (worn with short or long-sleeved shirts), knit tops, collared polo shirts and pants, including khakis, linen blends, silk or twills.
Both casual and business attire should be clean, pressed and wrinkle free, without holes or frayed areas.
Unacceptable Work Clothing for Women
There are certain garments that you should not wear to work or any business event and are forbidden by most law firm dress code policies. These include tight, sheer and low-cut clothing of any style, sweatshirts, t-shirts, denim of any type or color, spaghetti straps, open backs, midriff, tank tops, halter tops, stretch pants, stirrup pants, jogging or warm up suits, jeans of any color or style, casual shorts, dress shorts, miniskirts and Capri pants that end close to the knee. Also avoid neon colors, tight-fitting clothing and low-cut blouses, especially anything that shows cleavage.
A neat, well-groomed hairstyle is a must. Long and short styles are appropriate for women as long as the style is neat and professional. For longer hair, classic styles such as a low ponytail or bun look polished and professional.
Avoid: Wild, untamed or overly teased styles, hair dyed in unnatural colors such as pink or blue, excessive hair spray, hair that is below waist level and juvenile styles such as pigtails. These hair faux pas detract from your image as a respected professional.
For formal business events, closed-toe heels or dress shoes in conservative colors (black, brown, gray, tan, almond) with hosiery essential. The shoes should be in good condition.
For casual business attire, acceptable footwear includes thin to medium sole leather shoes, loafers, any updated style with a low or stacked heel and open-toed or dress sandals.
Avoid: Athletic shoes, thongs, moccasins, flip-flops, platform heels and footwear that is worn or in poor condition.
Jewelry and accessories should be tasteful and limited. Hosiery should be sheer, tan, nude or another light color.
Avoid: Excessive perfume, extremely long nails, heavy make-up, excessive, dangly or cheap jewelry, large, visible tattoos or piercings and visible underwear such as bras, bra straps, briefs or boxers.