Swearing Off Talking About Appearances

You heard it here first:  I will no longer be talking (or blogging) about other women's professional attire.  In roughly 10 years of professional life I've received "constructive criticism" from other women about every conceivable aspect of my appearance: shoes, makeup, pants, skirt, name, voice, handshake, walk, posture, jewelry, bag, you name it. And for the most part I've taken it in stride, knowing the advice-givers were well-meaning, more experienced, and in a position to make or break various opportunities for me. This, despite the care and pride in my wardrobe and the fact that the advice is often conflicting.

I've also "paid it forward," passing along the advice through this blog. I've contributed to discussions on this site about what to wear to an interview, whether or not to wear makeup, and just how girly is too girly when it comes to picking out a suit.

Then this morning, I read the latest on Careerist, a blog I really enjoy, and finally had enough. We have made news, nay a whole profession, out of gossiping about one another's clothes. And it's ridiculous. And it's sexist. Men are not chatting in the bathroom about the total impropriety of a female litigant's open-toed shoes, much less the shade of opposing counsel's tie. The stress and consequence of attaining a "professional" appearance is an evil of our own making. It's a game that cannot be won - believe me.  And only we have the power to diffuse it's potency by ceasing to allow it to dominate conversations about professional women.

Law students and recent graduates will continue to need general advice about what to wear and when to wear it. But it ends there. From now on, I only comment on a woman's appearance to complement her.


Kate Sherwood

Great post. The sad thing is so many times we think positive things about people, but we don’t tell them—and it could have made an impact on their day.


I agree that the conversation goes on and on to a level of nuance and personal preference.  I do think that there are certain rules that would apply to men and to women in terms of professional attire (and maybe that is the distinction—that the rule be gender neutral?)  For example, don’t wear shorts to court.  Don’t wear something to work that you’d wear to a nightclub.  Don’t dress in a way that is distracting (i.e. huge gold chain for men or eight layers of necklaces for women).

Ashley Dawn Rutherford Esq.

I do agree that there are some hard and fast rules. But, I think most of the time, it is just a judgment call. From what I have read, the East Coast, the Midwest, and the West Coast differ on what is considered appropriate attire for women in the workplace. However, I do always make an effort to complement other women.


Count me in.  I’ve seen the most “unprofessional” dressers perform brilliantly.  Everyone has their own style and they will figure out what works for them.  

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