Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Feb 25, 2005 12:55 pm CST
It’s no secret that lawyers are confused about what to wear to work–just look around the office. Even USA Today has declared the attire of today’s professionals is in crisis mode.
And how could it not be? With law firms and other professional businesses vacillating between formal, business casual and casual Fridays, confusion is inevitable. “I think that most people really do not understand what it means to dress professionally,” says Life Audit professional attire expert Mark O. Gill.
Gill, who holds wardrobe seminars for law firms, says lawyers don’t recognize how their sartorial choices affect their image. To command respect and authority, he advises attorneys to err on the side of classic clothing.
Gill says women should build on the classic five-piece suit of a blazer, knee-length jacket, skirt, pants and shift dress. Men should build on classic suits, dress trousers and sport jackets. Make sure the fabrics, styles and colors are up to date and appropriate for the office.
Black suits top Gill’s “don’t” list. “Never, ever wear black. It’s a rigid, aggressive, nonverbal form of communication to your clients and peers,” he says. Plus black shows dirt and wrinkles, discolors, and needs to be paired with the exact same shade and fabric of black.
Instead, he advises making a switch to charcoal grays, pinstripes, chocolate or muted browns, and navy blues. And if it must be black, make sure it’s never basic: Break it up with tweed or herringbone patterns.
Gill advises saving clingy jersey knits, jeans, clunky shoes and stiletto heels for places they belong. And here’s a hint: It isn’t the office.
The Chicago-based wardrobe consultant and handbag designer began his career at Banana Republic, where within one year he became the company’s top salesperson worldwide. He also works with businesses to teach their workers what to wear. Gill’s work recently was featured in the pages of Oprah’s O magazine.