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If Megyn Can Bare It, Why Not You?

Vivia Chen

July 29, 2016


It's hot and stinky out there and Donald Trump could be our next president, but let's focus on what's really the burning issue of the day: What to wear to the office? More precisely, how much skin we ladies can expose and still maintain a professional demeanor.

That is the seasonal dilemma. In the past, I've analyzed whether you can wear open toe shoes, flipflops or very short skirts. This time, I'm traveling to the northern parts of your human body: Arms and shoulders.

Frankly, I thought we've moved beyond exposed arms as an issue. But a recent Wall Street Journal article points out that "women are sometimes criticized if they are deemed too old or their arms too flabby," resulting in feelings of inadequacy. That might be true, but my impression is that increasingly women aren't heeding those criticisms. For instance, at a recent Debevoise & Plimpton women's event at The Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center, I'd say that about 50 percent of the women in attendance wore sleeveless outfits. And they looked fabulous, including the ones over 50. (Query: Are the women at Debevoise unusually toned?)

So if bare arms are now acceptable at the office, could skimpy tops be far behind? Fox News superstar reporter (and former Jones Day associate) Megyn Kelly recently slid down that slippery slope. While covering the Republican National Convention, she wore a black tank top with spaghetti straps (photo above).

The reaction: Shock and condemnation. Folks went crazy on Twitter, calling her a "whore" or looking like someone “trolling for a drink at the hotel bar.” Others suggested that she simply forgot to put on a dress over her undergarments.

Was Kelly's tank top really that scandalous? As I recall there were some crazy outfits at the RNC, like delegates wearing elephant headdresses and loud shirts made out of American or Texas flags. So what's wrong with Megyn wearing a simple little top?

Well, apparently, she breached the rule about dressing for the job. One viewer tweeted that she looked "inappropriate," adding that "professional journalists need to dress professionally." (I found this amusing because it assumes journalists look "professional," whereas most that I know look rather disheveled, albeit not sexy.)

There are those who have no problems with what she wore. "Sexy, smart Megyn Kelly has got 'it,' so she can flaunt it," says a former lawyer at Sony. "She's not like the rest of us, mere mortals."

Kelly's revealing top might be fine for TV news reporters, especially the foxy Fox variety, but it probably wouldn't cut it in law firms. The rule of thumb is that "you should be able to wear your regular bra without it showing," says corporate fashion blogger Kat Griffin, the creator of Corporette. A former Cahill Gordon associate, Griffin suggests more "finished" sleeveless tops, rather than shells or camisoles. "Kelly broke both of those rules," says Griffin.

But all this chest beating about naked arms and bare shoulders might be much to do about nothing, says Lois Herzeca, the co chair of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher's fashion practice: "It's generally so well air conditioned in offices that most women wear apparel with sleeves or wear sweaters anyway."

 Contact Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @lawcareerist.



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She may have been late and not been able to change. So, she said, "Screw it. Here I am!"

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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: VChen@alm.com

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