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Leather Up

Vivia Chen

November 8, 2011

McQ-2I go into a funk when daylight saving time ends. I dread the fact that it will soon be pitch-black by five o'clock, and I dread the bone-chilling weather that's on the way. No, I do not rhapsodize about autumn.

So what's the salve to this dreariness? Changing wardrobes. It's shallow, but it does cheer me up (slightly) that I can break out those cute jackets, wool skirts, and suede boots I've packed away.

This fall, I'm infatuated with leather fashions. I've spied some really fetching leather skirts--like those by Alexander McQueen (at right), Marc Jacobs, Robert Rodriguez, and Michael Kors (below left). To me, they are sleek and gorgeous. Definitely not tawdry.

So let's cut to the chase: Can you wear leather skirts, pants, or jackets to the office? Will it make you look chic and authoritative? Or will you just look like a Hells Angel reject?

According to my little board of fashion directors (junior and senior lawyers), wearing a conspicuous swath of leather is risky behavior—definitely not part of the dress-for-success playbook.

"Too dangerous," says a Fortune 100 counsel. "Sends the wrong message. Like you're into S&M." Adds another lawyer: "It always looks cheap."

Even an exquisitely tailored leather jacket is too much, say these lawyers, unless you practice—what else?—entertainment law, which seems to be the catch-all for all sorts of deviant behavior. Even then, warns a lawyer in L.A., you better be a "big-time entertainment lawyer with big-time entertainment clients."

As for leather pants or a leather suit ensemble, don't even joke about it! "I can't imagine leather pants at work ever being okay," says a fashion-forward Am Law 100 associate. "And a leather suit seems like a bad idea—like a denim suit."

Okay, leather pants and leather suits might be too much of a statement, but what's wrong with a leather skirt or jacket? If lawyers at high-powered firms like Quinn Emanuel are wearing flip-flops, is it really that scandalous to wrap yourself in some sumptuous leather?

Michael_kors-2My cohort at Corporette, Kat Griffin, thinks corporate wardrobes could use a little jazzing up--and leather garments might do the trick. A classic little leather skirt, she writes in Corporette, "could be just the right touch of 'rocker chic' to really elevate the outfit."

Personally, I think we can all use a bit of "rocker chic." But that's a minority opinion. In Corporette's poll, 51 percent of almost 1,300 readers say no to leather skirts at work. One reader said it would "attract creeps." Another worried about the "weird sounds" of a leather skirt rubbing against the leather chair in her office.

Ah, lawyers--you are such style wimps! You will use any excuse to wear the same drab old thing.

Isn't it time to make a bold move?  I say, go ahead and break out that gorgeous leather skirt or jacket. Who knows, it might give you that aura of authority you've been missing.

Other fashion posts: All Dolled Up, Tattoo You, Swimming Pool, High Heels, Fashionistas, Cardigan Chic, Ladies Who Wedge, Little Toe Peep, (Over)Dressed for Success. For complete list, look under "Fashion/Style/Etiquette" in the categories box.

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected].






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I don't work in a law firm or a bank so I have a lot more leeway on what to wear. I have worked in government and IT firms as a writer and I wear really elegantly designed leather jackets instead of blazers. I've worn a leather maxi skirt and only got compliments. I haven't tried leather pants, altho I don't see what's the big deal. If you pair them with nice conservative boots, a nice sweater and are tastefully made up and well groomed, I can't see how this can be perceived as unprofessional.

I wear a leather jacket to my office often. Of course,most days I work by myself, in a van down by the river. Actually, given that many BigLaw associates are feeling the tongue of the lash this time of year if their billables are down perhaps garbing in leather provides some
protection. Professor Dan

when I read your article, I remembered when my mom wears leather skirts in her office..still rockin'..:)

If a woman wears a leather skirt to the office, its pretty clear to me she is mainly there to get laid, not work.

Then she'll wonder why no one takes her seriously, and gripe about partnership statistics.

Interesting thoughts in this Vivia. I'm definitely not a lawyer who is a style wimp - I don't wear suits but all of my work garments are tailored. So having said that, I would concur - leather just doesn't look good in the office.

But if it's free dress day, you can bet I would happily wear a Rick Owens leather jacket - there's nothing cheap, inappropriate or tacky about his coats!

I have a knee length leather skirt sewn to look like it has pleats. I was SO hoping to wear it to the office this year since leather skirts are indeed all the rage. But clearly it's not meant to be. I probably should have guessed - I wore a fuschia Marc Jacobs wool tunic last winter and it generated a three hour email frenzy amongst the secretaries on my floor (my secretary kindly informed me).

I don't see what's wrong with a tasteful suede or leather jacket, but I definitely would not wear leather pants or a skirt to the office.

Well, I'm not wearing a leather skirt to the office... wait, I am a man; and, this article was intended for me!

Go figure as to why there're a myriad of articles on here decrying the disenfranchised feelings that, the female readership may be experiencing.


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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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