The Hill Life: Professional Fashion Facepalms

Over the past two weeks, I have seen and heard about a number of faux pas that need to be addressed. Because it seems that at the start of every new season, Capitol Hill goes through a growing phase that has staffers, new and old alike, making amateur fashion mistakes.

Number One: If you are wearing a wool coat on your body, you may not wear flip-flops on your feet. Not only does it look ridiculous, but if you’re cold enough to need a wool coat, and it didn’t occur to you to cover up your little toes, you deserve the hypothermia.

Number Two: If you buy a skirt that is slit in the back (most pencil skirts have a back vent), the vent shoul be no longer than six inches. Why? Because if you are climbing up stairs/riding an escalator while wearing a skirt that is slit too high, everyone behind you, is going to get a very good view of London and France.

So before you buy the skirt, check the vent.

Number Two-B: Wear underwear. See number two.

Number Three: Leggings are not pants. Say it with me, “Leggings are not pants.” If you are at all confused about whether or not you are wearing pants, Google the “Am I wearing pants” flowchart. (I would typically link, but I’m typing this on an iPad and the app doesn’t have all the features that I’m used to. Also, there may be more typos than usual–touch screens and trains don’t mix.)

But all kidding aside, I see a concernIng number of women wearing leggings to the office and NOT wearing a top that covers their tush. This is NOT acceptable. If I can see any amount of cheek, you are not dressed professionally. And if I can see camel toe, you should probably seek employment elsewhere as this says frightening things about your judgment and maturity.

And on a related note, of the hundreds of staffers who I’ve seen wearing leggings as pants, I have seen exactly two who had the asses for it. No matter how toned your rear, this look is not workplace appropriate. So either cover your rump, or buy some pants.

Number Four: Hipsters, your high tops with skinny jeans, your neon grafitti tees and your flimsy, plastic bracelets are not workplace appropriate. I saw a girl on Friday with no less than 50 Silly Bandz on her wrist, and she wasn’t an intern. Unless you work for Rep. DeLauro, who we all know is a f***ing hipster (Google it.), try to remember that this is Capitol Hill not Brooklyn.

Number Five: Last, but by no means least, let’s talk about proper high heel maintenance. Particularly, women who don’t replace the plastic caps on the tips of their heels.

I always know when a woman needs to replace her heel caps because of the sound on the marble floors. It’s a hollow, metalic clicking instead of the high-pitched clacking that a properly maintained high heel should make. So if you’re walking down the hall and you hear a sound something akin to using a flint to start a fire, inspect your heels. If you can see any part of the spike, it’s time to spend the five dollars and have the caps replaced.


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  1. Virginia says:

    THANK YOU for addressing my #1 clothing pet peeve, “leggings as pants.” Can someone please explain to me (and I'm genuinely interested) how people think they look good with a stretchy, unforgiving fabric on the bottom combined with a shorter sweater/shirt/jacket that doesn't cover their rear end? Judging by the amount of times I have seen this combination in airports and on the streets of DC it has somehow become socially acceptable not to wear proper clothing on your lower-half, and it's scary. (oh, and 8 times out of 10 this outfit is worn with uggs). I know leggings are comfortable – and that's why everyone should feel free to wear them with tunics and sweaters that cover the rear end. Otherwise, wear some jeans for heaven's sake. End rant.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  2. D says:

    THANK YOU! The wool coat/flip flop thing drives me crazy. Maybe because I'm from the NE and wool coats in October are just not necessary, but also because it looks ridiculous.

    Also, the shoe clacking is not only annoying, but dangerous – that little metal stub will slip out from underneath you on a marble floor SO fast. As I learned when I fell flat on my butt in the Rayburn building.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  3. SB says:

    Number 2-C: Make sure that your Spanx are not longer than that slit in the back. Not pretty.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  4. E says:

    Someone please tell me if these count as Recess-acceptable pants (J Crew says it's a pant in the name, damnit, BUT the model is also really tall so they seem very legging like on her but mine scrunch slightly at the bottom):

    I had this debate with myself last week, but I really like them, so I'm nervous!! Haha.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  5. Virginia says:

    To E: If those pants fit you as tightly as they do the model, I am going to say no, unless you wear them as you would wear leggings with a longer top to cover up everything that shouldn't be stared at by your male co-workers. And the zipper in the back only draws attention to things your male co-workers shouldn't be staring at. There are similar cropped pants out there made of different material that would be more appropriate.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  6. Beth says:

    E, I have a similar pair of “pants/leggings” from BCBG (sans back zipper). I generally err on the side of a tunic or long sweater with them as I think the lean more to “leggings” than “pants” even though they are a heavier weight than most cotton leggings. And I think that when in doubt, they're probably leggings… But, that said, does the fun zipper and detailing on the back make your pair more “pant like”?

    Here is the flow chart Belle mentioned, I think I've also seen a similar one to determine if you're wearing a dress, hehe!

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  7. Amy says:

    Number 2-D: If your skirt has two pieces of thread making an X on the vent to keep it closed during shipping, snip the pieces of thread and remove them completely BEFORE wearing your skirt! This goes for vents in the back of jackets too!

    Thanks, Belle!

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  8. missy says:

    Amen on all of this, but, ugh, the heel caps! There's no excuse for a professional outfit and cheap-looking or poorly-maintained shoes. My advice is to save up for high-quality heels that go with everything and to find a good cobbler. I made an uncharacteristic splurge on and have been wearing a pair of simple black Louboutin pumps almost daily for the past three+ years and they still look almost brand new. It's worth it, ladies.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  9. Katherine says:

    Related to 2D – remove the label that says “cashmere blend” or whatever from your coat sleeve. WTH is with people who leave those on??

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  10. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    Belle, I almost emailed you yesterday because I saw a terrible “back slit” offender. i could almost see the girl's underwear as she walked. I seriously considered saying something to her, but had no idea how to do it.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  11. CynthiaW says:

    E: Not pants! Sorry – those are leggins, even if they're looser on you. I can see them being acceptable if worn with a long sweater or tunic that covers your rear, but I really wouldn't consider them to be work appropriate anywhere.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  12. R says:

    Amy: THANK YOU! This drives me crazy.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  13. Anon says:

    I second Amy and Katherine on 2D–cutting the thread that keeps the vent closed and cutting the 100% cashmere/wool/whatever label. It's remarkable how many professionally dressed women don't know this! I can understand if you come from a background where people don't wear dress clothes. But hey, that's the point of a tutorial like this one.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  14. Megan Kristel says:

    This is amazing. I swear you read my mind. “Leggings are NOT Pants!” AMEN!

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  15. L says:

    Are ankle-length leggings with flats still ok to wear? To work? (presumably there is a dress or longer tunic on top, btw). Somewhere I read that it's out, and that gap of skin at the ankle should be covered with a boot.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  16. Nancy says:

    My question is: Where are you able to get $5 heel cap replacements? I end up spending $20 everytime I do it…

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  17. Ana says:

    I have all of these pet peeves myself! I Your writing is clever and concise, which makes it laugh-out-loud funny. And, if I may be so bold as to add another rule to your list… Horse hair. Women who think longer hair is always better and end up with a sad, low ponytail and no volume or style. I'm not saying everyone should have a bob like me, but if you can't take care of your long hair, maybe you should go the bob route!

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  18. CrankyFashionChick says:

    Where are all you people hanging out? I love you! Let's all go for drinks! Except for the people who want to wear leggings. I hate them as much as I hate flip flops. Which should never be worn anywhere there's not a pool, sand or a shower stall.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  19. Jenna says:

    I JUST made a comment ab the flip/flops coat issue the other day. Drives me crazy!

    Related: we are extremely blessed w our weather right now (Chicago, high 70s all week); however, 75 in October is not the same as 75 in June. Yes, I'm looking at you girl with the sleeveless dress and flip flops on.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  20. BC says:

    For E – I really liked the pants you posted from J. Crew, but opted against them because they definitely look like leggings on. I instead went with the Minnie pant here: I do always pair it with a longer cardigan when I wear them, though. I love the Minnie pants – they're really comfortable. I pair them with heels instead of flats to dress them up a bit, but I definitely don't wear them when we're in session. They seem a little dressed down for it.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  21. amy b.s. says:

    honestly, when did it become popular to wear leggings as pants with a shirt that maybe comes to your hips? it reminds me of christmas last year and a few of my relatives. i was horrified. and don't even get me started on jeggings!

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  22. aw says:

    Speaking of skirts with slits, why why WHY are so many women wearing their slits in the front? Is this a new thing I missed the memo on? I'm taken aback every time I see it (four times now, once in Dupont, twice at work, and once in Ballston). It's not flattering.

    October 5, 2011/Reply
  23. Erin says:

    The leggings-aren't-pants point could have been made without bodysnarking those women whose rears you don't judge to be legging-worthy. I'm just sayin'…

    October 6, 2011/Reply
  24. W says:

    Well said.

    October 6, 2011/Reply
  25. The New Diplomat's Wife says:

    i am with you on all of these – i can't count the amount of times i've asked “where are her pants?” and regularly have the “you know you can replace those at a cobbler” conversation. well said.

    October 6, 2011/Reply
  26. Montana says:

    Yes, thank you for addressing this – camel toe at 730 am on the metro is too much for me. People need to stop wearing leggings and TIGHTS as pants!

    October 7, 2011/Reply
  27. Meredith says:

    Hilarious. And so true. Just to help you out a little:

    October 22, 2011/Reply