Editor’s weekly: what not to wear

If it weren’t for the inevitable fashion nightmares that come to the fore during the hottest months of the year summer would be my favourite season.

As temperatures soar the principal concern for most women will be baring their legs for the first time. But there is arguably a bigger couture headache, which impacts professionals from both sexes – the dress down conundrum.

Dressing down is a US invention that saw its heyday during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. During this period, investment banks, accountants and law firms introduced ‘dress down’ Fridays, while some even allowed staff to ditch their suits altogether.

Today dress down policies vary from firm to firm. For instance, magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith both have dress down Fridays but during the summer months Herbert Smith extends this to every day of the week. Linklaters meanwhile operates a “flexible dress code” policy throughout the year, which gives staff the choice of wearing traditional or casual business clothing.

The difficulty with dress down is determining what is and isn’t appropriate to wear to work when the mercury rises. Indeed, to be perfectly honest I don’t think anybody really knows what business casual means.

So although it sounds boring it’s safer to err on the side of caution and to avoid wearing the following (after all you don’t want to be treated like a naughty school boy and be sent home to change into something more sensible):

  • denim or ripped clothes;

  • tracksuit bottoms or anything else you would consider wearing to the gym;

  • spandex, lycra or any other fabric that is body-hugging or tight-fitting;

  • baggy, oversized or extremely low-rise trousers (watch out for underwear popping out above the waist of your trousers when you sit down);

  • shorts and mini-skirts;

  • strappy or low-cut tops;

  • T-shirts with distracting slogans or pictures;

  • leggings;

  • trainers, flip-flops or sandals; and
  • hats, caps or any other form of headgear.

Indeed, I think Clare Harris associate director of resourcing at Lovells summed the above up very nicely: “Whilst it may sound boring – wear something smart and reasonably conservative. It’s certainly not a fashion show and nobody will be making assessments about how many different outfits you wear.”


PS – if you’re a student at the universities of Bristol and Exeter then why not come along to BPP Law School’s commercial awareness workshop (I’m one of the guest speakers) at the Bristol Hotel next Wednesday. To register your attendance, please email charishalley@bpp.com.