Monday, May 19, 2008

Skirts

In a professional environment, what image do skirts convey to you? I'm not talking about miniskirts or other inappropriate attire, but the knee-length pencil skirt type.

At my law school, they encourage women to wear skirts in interviews and other high pressure situations. For oral arguments, for example, the predominate dress among women was a skirt and blouse with a jacket. This isn't a post about fashion; I'm simply wondering what the rest of you think about skirts in certain situations.

In my head, I associate skirts with flirting, which would make me uncomfortable in an interview or oral arguments. For those situations, I want to look competent and professional, and I want my clothes to cause as little distraction as possible. I wore a pantsuit for oral arguments and for interviews. According to Professor Althouse, Hillary Clinton never wore a skirt during her entire campaign.

So, what do you associate skirts with? If you're a woman, do you wear them in professional situations? Does it matter how important the situation is? For example, if you're particularly nervous about something, would it make you more or less likely to wear a skirt? If you're interviewing or hearing arguments, do you even notice whether or not a woman is wearing a skirt?

7 comments:

Jade said...

I think it really depends on how and where you were raised. For example, I was raised in the Midwest and was taught that a skirt suit is essential for a formal interview or big presentation, and I feel comfortable dressing that way in those situations.

Lynn said...

I also always wear a skirt for any interview or important meetings or conferences and stuff like that. It feels more formal and professional, I think, even if it's a pencil skirt and shows some curves and legs.

Anonymous said...

You should look professional in a job interview. In other words, wear a skirt suit. Nothing too tight, though. Setting forth your best, most professional, and conservative appearance shows that you take the job and your station seriously. If you absolutely want to have a personality and be more modern and wear a pants suit, go ahead and take that risk. I'm sure you'll find a nice job in advertising, entertainment, the artworld, or public relations somewhere.

Yes, you'll see many women attorneys in law firms wearing pants suits everyday at any given firm. You, however, do not work at that firm yet, and so you have not yet earned that luxury.

signed,
associate who interviews summer associate candidates and pays attention to appearance

Anonymous said...

I've done second interviews in a pants suit. I never dared to do oral argument or a first interview in a pants suit, though.

Either way, the cut must be impeccable. A flirty skirt is far worse than a pants suit.

GrayStar said...

Growing up in Alabama and now living in Mississippi....skirts are a way of life for the true southern belle. I don't see them as flirty if they are an appropriate length. For our oral arguments we were all encouraged to wear skirts. In fact they told us that many judges in the South still require women to wear skirts in their courtrooms. It sounds backwards I know but doesn't surprise me. I grew up in a house where I was not allowed to wear pants to church and other functions like teas and debutant events. While I have no problem with the pants suit things do work differently in the South....

Anonymous said...

Well, personally I think that women wearing skirts or dresses is archaic. I feel stunning and confident in a pant suit and I feel awkward in a skirt. The reality is that I probably look equally as good in either outfit; but if I need to portray confidence, the pant suit wins. Unless I am interviewing for a job as a pantyhose model, why does my perspective employer need to see my legs?

Caitlin said...

I don't wear suits because I'm in the medical field, but I generally prefer to wear skirts when I'm in the clinic setting. I don't have any association of flirting or competence or anything with them; personally, if you're dressed in something that fits well (ie not too tight or too loose) and is business appropriate or professional, then you're good to go, skirt or pants.

But then, I also grew up in Southern California wearing shorts and flip flops all day long, so pants feel constricting. It's also really hard to find ones that fit and I tend to feel hot and uncomfortable in them.

We don't tend to have as much of a bias though, either in my field or in Southern California. My advice, especially in the South, is to wear what's expected of you at first and once you establish yourself as hard-working, reliable, intelligent, and responsible, then you can wear whatever you want. Then, when you run your own firm, you can tell your female associates and interviewees that pants are acceptable.

Can't teach an old dog new tricks, as they say.