Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Sixteen

Mar 14, 2024

This week, a handful of reader questions came in on the same two topics. I also rushed out an e-mail answer to someone who needed it in a hurry. And a friend from college had a question I think might be universal in the post-40 period.

(There were multiple questions on this topic, so I picked the one that I thought illustrated the issue best.)

Hi Abra,

My boss has asked for my help talking to some of the younger, female support staff about their attire.  Crop tops, cutouts, very deep v-necks, and a lot of crochet tops were the highlights of last summer, and he’s sure we’ll see them again.  

For context, we work in a large plaintiff’s firm that represents clients in employment law cases.  We’ve always had a business casual dress code, but the age gap between the name partners (60s), the attorneys (40s) and the paralegals (19-31) feels like a chasm.  I appreciate that he asked me instead of trying to address this himself, and I’d like to find a respectful way to talk about it.  Any thoughts?

Celia

From the question, I get the sense that you either 1) only have female support staff or 2) the men aren’t dressing in a way the partners and attorneys find problematic.  What I would say to you is that, if you have both genders on your team, the conversation needs to involve the pitfalls of both.  If the team is just women, then I would make a meeting with all of the support staff, yourself, and one other female attorney, and I would just be honest, but kind.

This is a tough task.  I think the most important thing is to talk to people in a way that doesn’t shame them.  There is an array of clothing sold as “work appropriate” that really isn’t.  So be positive and encouraging, and remember that no one is trying to dress inappropriately for work.  

I would say something like: The dress code in our office is business casual, but our clients expect attorneys and paralegals to dress a certain way because of the attorneys they see on television.  Our clients need to believe that we are competent professionals, and because humans are visual creatures, that starts with our attire. Last summer, there were some outfits with cut outs, crop tops, see through tops worn without a full tank top underneath, etc. that didn’t fit that mold.  So we’re asking everyone to be more attentive to what they wear to the office.  If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them.

I also find that it’s helpful to pull images from Pinterest of what I’m looking for and images from Forever21 or another retailer that doesn’t “get it” to show them what’s not appropriate because many people are visual learners.  If you can point to specific examples, that’s often helpful.  Try to focus on what works as well as what doesn’t.

Good luck to you.  This is a big lift.

Abra:

Can you help me find jersey blouses?  I need tops that look like work shirts but are washable and comfortable, since I feed my daughters in the morning and wind up with mysterious stains.

Love the blog. Geena

The mystery stain is a problem for all of us.  Is it raspberry?  Is it blood?  Maybe ketchup?  Ugh.  Thank heaven for stain spray.

My favorite spots for “blouses” that aren’t are Boden and Ann Taylor.  From Boden, I highly recommend this Caroline top and this Dolly short sleeve top.  Both give blouse vibes in a t-shirt package.  From AT, I like this striped top and this eyelet top.

Do you have a suggestion for shampoo for thinning hair?  

I recently tried the Bondi Boost thickening shampoo/conditioner.  They also have products for thinning hair.  I was pleased with the volume the products gave me, and my hair was really soft.  My only complaint is that they also caused acne on my shoulders, so I gave them up.  Except for that, I was really happy with them.

From a friend from college:

Do you still wear shape wear?  I need a pain free option to cover VPL and smooth out my “Mom pooch.”

Shapewear is designed to compress your flesh, so it’s tough to find a comfortable option.  I own this Maidenform slip short.  It’s not uncomfortable, but I still prefer not to wear it.  Instead, I’d rather wear a compression brief.

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  1. Meredith says:

    Good answer to the dress code question. One thing that has always struck me about office dress codes is that the guidelines for men address what they should wear (i.e. collared shirt, tie), while the guidelines for women address what they should not wear (i.e. sleeveless, too short skirts, etc). This makes it harder for the ladies to know what is allowed/acceptable!

    • Belle says:

      That’s a good point. Mine always have equal Don’ts for men and women, but in politics, a lot of guys think they can show up unshowered (blech).

  2. Cara says:

    The dress code convo is always so hard! I had one boss frame it as “if you look like you could go to the club, gym, or beach right after this, you’re not dressed for the office”.

  3. Sam says:

    I’ve been using the L’Oreal EverStrong Thickening shampoo for about 6 months and have noticed fuller hair. My sister recommended it. https://www.lorealparisusa.com/hair-care-hair-style/shampoo/everstrong-thickening-shampoo

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