Dress codes passé?

August 7, 2009
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From managing editor Elizabeth Brockett:

The topic of dress codes recently came up in our office again because of a notice we received about a conference to assist in creating and enforcing a dress code. One section touted “Solutions to your toughest appearance policy challenges” with questions such as: Must you allow men to have long hair if women can? Can the employer dictate styles of dress, hair, jewelry? Can you force a woman to wear a skirt or dress to work?

I used to think if people just used their common sense they’d be fine regardless of the situation. I’ve since learned that some people don’t have any common sense. I admit I’m a little old school … not because I believe there should be strict dress codes, which I do not, but because of my upbringing and my age. My grandmother used to talk about the formal dinners she’d attend with my grandfather, who was a U.S. Navy commander: Women wore beautiful dresses or gowns and gloves and the men in full uniform. But even when they’d entertain at home, the women wore dresses … even during cookouts! And my mom was in the Navy back when they taught them to be ladies first and foremost.

When I was in first and second grades, girls were not allowed to wear pants to our public school. I have never, ever understood the reasoning behind that; even as a child I thought the person who made that rule should try standing on the playground during winter in Northern Indiana in a dress or skirt with only knee socks or tights on your legs. It was literally painful.

Require women to wear dresses or skirts … and always with hosiery (another debate)? Only if men always keep their top button buttoned, their tie tight, and never remove their suit jacket, and they must wear sock garters so there are no slouchy socks. Then we’ll talk.

Lawyers usually do wear suits when meeting clients or appearing in court. Has that changed much, and should it? A partner at a large national firm was quoted earlier this year as saying high-powered lawyers always wear suits because people want their attorneys to look like high-powered lawyers. Really? I doubt the person at legal aid cares, although the multi-million-dollar corporation might. So, should the situation dictate the dress? Perhaps it does because I've read that lawyers -- employed or otherwise -- are dressing up more in recent months, wanting to look good for the boss or potential boss.

The only trend I’ve seen that bothers me is seeing women wearing suits with flip-flops. It’s one thing if you’re walking to your car or running an errand, but to look nice and polished … and then wear the plastic/rubber flip-flop sandals. It’s just a bad look. I’m not bothered by women not wearing hosiery (guys, try on a pair of hose and wear them when it’s 85 degrees), but flip-flops?

Dress codes can help guide people because different firms and corporations have different cultures. Dress for work also depends on the profession and even the region of the country or world, but I believe most people need to take their cues from their workplace superiors.

So, what is the state of law firm dress and how has it changed for the better or worse?
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  • I believe flip-flops should be totally forbidden in the workplace. They have NO place outside of the beach or slouching at home. I do believe that common sense has totally gone out the window, too. Very well written opinion and I wholeheartedly agree with you!

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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