By Ashley Rutherford • July 24, 2010•Writers in Residence
I have to confess. I despise casual/jeans Fridays. Casual Fridays are a recipe for disaster for law students, lawyers, and administrative staff alike. And, Jeans Fridays are even worse. This column is dedicated to mastering casual and/or jeans Friday on a budget.
In a recent poll, the blog Corporette asked “Can you Give Unsolicited Advice to Interns?” The central theme throughout most of the responses was “casual” in a business environment is different than “casual” in a social environment. Bottom line: it is important to know your audience. As to whether a more senior employee will tell you whether you are dressed inappropriately, well, that seemed to be debatable. But, honestly, do you want to have a sit down behind closed doors with your employer regarding your unprofessional casual Friday clothing?
Additionally, Emily Post defines business casual as a “skirt, khakis, slacks, open collar shirt, knit shirt, or sweater.” Emily Post specifically excludes “spaghetti straps and décolleté”. Sport casual is defined as “khakis or clean pressed jeans, a plain tee-shirt, polo shirt, or button-down shirt.” And, beach casual is defined as “a sundress, khakis, and shorts, an open collar shirt, knit shirt, or polo shirt.” According to several articles that I have read on career websites, “Casual Friday” is essentially business casual. Additionally, “Jeans Friday” is business casual while substituting nice jeans for a skirt or slacks. Despite many of the don’ts that I have observed throughout the city on our favorite week day, Jeans Friday is not a day at the beach or a wear your gym clothes to work day.
Regardless of whether you are interning at your dream position or you are simply biding time and hoping for an outstanding reference, these simple pieces exude class, elegance, and show intelligence. Although these pieces may not guarantee you a full time position, they could certainly prevent you from not being considered based on your inappropriate Friday dress.
Dressing For Success: Prove that you are Worth your Paycheck
(1) Trouser Jeans – For those lucky (or unlucky) enough to enjoy “Jeans Fridays”, Trouser jeans are a wardrobe staple. Additionally, they can be jazzed up with a sleek, sexy top for an evening out on the town.
The following tips can help you find an amazing pair of trousers that can last your years. First, find the right style! We are all built differently. Some of us are hot hourglasses, others are pretty pears. Find the right jean shape for you. You would rather purchase one pair of amazing trouser jeans that make you look lovely, than have five pairs that never fit quite right. Second, do not buy trouser jeans that are too short. If you are between a “regular” and a “tall” length, purchase the “tall” and have them hemmed. Third, if you are unable to wear mass marketed jeans (I’m raising my hand!), consider going to an outlet like Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth or TJ Maxx. Often, you can purchase designer jeans at a huge discount. Last, consider purchasing your work jeans one size larger than your “going out” jeans. Even if you are built like Kim Kardashian and spend all of your spare time working out to perfect your bum, your work jeans should not be too tight or fitted.
Savvy Tips for the Shopper-At-Law: If you absolutely cannot afford a pair of trouser jeans, it is acceptable to wear a very dark wash straight leg or slightly bootcut jean if paired CORRECTLY, meaning paired with other business casual pieces. This means, no fading, no holes, no low cut, and no skinny jeans.
(2) A Suit – Why a suit for business casual? You can wear a suit jacket with a pair of trousers, a skirt, or a fabulous trouser jean. Breaking a suit up is a perfect way to save money and utilize other pieces from your wardrobe. A jacket with jeans also illustrates to others that you recognize the environment that you work in, a professional environment. A jacket exudes confidence and respect. And, because it is Friday, you can even jazz it up with an amazing piece of jewelry.
Savvy Tips for the Shopper-At-Law: If you see a suit jacket that has a unique or colorful pattern, or a feminine shape on clearance consider purchasing, even if you are unable to purchase the pants/skirt. You can use the blazer on Casual Fridays to throw over your casual dress, or pair it with a nice dress pant or dark jeans for a bold but professional look. (For example: my favorite jacket is a light green. I wear it on Jeans Fridays with a nice scarf, trouser jeans, and a pair of taupe heels.)
(3) Peep toe shoes in your favorite color – I admit it. I love color. And when done correctly, a pop of color, such as a vibrant scarf, a chunky necklace, or a bright shoe, can make an ordinary outfit extraordinary. On Casual Friday, put your best foot forward! Peep toe shoes in gray, green, red, and even deep purple can be used to accent your trousers, your plain skirts, or your dark jeans.
Savvy Tips for the Shopper-At-Law: Check the clearance racks in July. All of the spring peep toes will be on sale, and, so long as they are a darker color, you can wear them through October.
The Dos and Don’ts of Casual Fridays
The following are too casual for the office. Always.
Flip Flops – I do not care if they are heeled, leather, jeweled, or wedged. Flip flops are never appropriate office attire.
Visible Tattoos – Some may disagree with this. That is okay. We all have our own opinions. If you have a beautiful tattoo, great! But, consider covering it up at the office.
Skirts above the knee – Some women may be able to get away with this. Other women might simply believe that they can get away with this. Which are you? I’m not willing to risk it. Save the mid thigh skirts for a Friday night. What if you have a meeting and there is not a table in front of you? Can you be certain that in a mid-thigh skirt that the co-worker facing you cannot see your polka-dotted panties?
Shirts that Show too Much – Put on your dress or top. Stand in front of a mirror. Bend forward. Can you see cleavage? If so, even if the shirt looks appropriate when you are standing up, do not wear it. You never know when you will be talking to your boss and you drop your pen.
Light Cotton Sundresses – If you would wear it at the beach, leave it at home on a work day. There is nothing worse than seeing a woman’s panty line because she is wearing a sundress that is too thin.
Last, always remember: do not wear it just because the other law clerks do. Do not violate a rule just because the senior female attorney does it. Be yourself, but be a conservative version of yourself.