So much for the general stuff. But there are some things that have to be divided by gender. Big surprise — men and women have some different options regarding dress. And we might as well lead off with the one that will break some hearts …
Rule #1: No short skirts
This is important enough to repeat — NO short skirts. Yes, it matters. There are plenty of places to show off what you’ve got, but when you’re giving a presentation, you want the attention focused on your message; when you distract from that, it’s never a good thing.
Case in point: I interview a lot of judges and justices, usually when they speak at my trial and appellate CLE Boot Camps. And I always ask them for their best or worst story about attorneys presenting in court. One judge mentioned the time that a jury passed him a note after a break that asked him to direct the female attorney at counsel’s table to keep her legs crossed due to the length of her skirt. Need I say more?
So how short is short? I leave that up to common sense. But let’s just be clear: A skirt can be well below the knee and still be very attractive. There’s no good reason to flash your audience, and there are a LOT of negatives to it.
Thin line between flashy and trashy
Following Rule #1, you can figure out that other revealing or provocative clothing is a bad idea: low-cut shirts; tummy-revealing tops; skin-tight or semi-transparent tops or bottoms. You’ll want to leave them at home for the same reason as the micro skirt: You don’t want the audience looking at you nearly as much as you want them listening to you.
The same thing goes for a look that seems too “glam” for the office. For instance:
- No ridiculous nail polish colors or nails so long they scare people
- No ostentatious jewelry
- Avoid 4” spiked heels , open-toed shoes and sandals — any shoes that look like you’re headed for a night on the town or a day at the beach. Think “classy pump” and you’re safe.
Some of that may seem too stodgy, but it doesn’t have to be. These days, there are lots of top-line clothing stores catering to women going for the look we’re talking about. It doesn’t have to be boring to be professional. If you want to get real interest and energy coming your way, do it with what you have to say. It’s a much better long-term impression in any case.