Dear Fashion Police: I am a lawyer in a large firm where a new dress code was recently instituted. Since a couple of people felt that our Friday business casual policy had been abused, a newly issued policy bans jeans and open-toed shoes. Our firm represents a number of high-fashion firms, as well as banks and other more conservative clients. In this day and age, I think it should be acceptable to allow open-toed shoes (so long as the pedicure obligations are met, as you have pointed out). I would not wear open-toed shoes to court, and I'm sure the other litigators feel the same way. But our clerical staff doesn't have to go to court. As for jeans, I believe they can be professional and attractive, and a morale-builder if allowed on Fridays, but of course never in court or at client meetings. What do you think?
--WANTS IT BACK THE WAY IT WAS
Dear Wants: We're not surprised management has decided to yank your dress-down privileges. Many companies have gone through the same thing, relaxing dress codes only to find that some scofflaws take advantage of their freedom, ruining it for everyone.
But there's more to it than that. A law firm, like any other company, has a reputation to maintain. That's done not just through work, but also the look of its employees. Believing that appearance doesn't count is hopelessly naive. And when those appearances begin to slip, something has to change.
Conventional wisdom also holds that when the economy tanks, businesses issue stricter dress codes. Why risk ticking off clients or customers who might be offended by even the lowliest office drone looking like a slob?
Sorry, we disagree with you that jeans and open-toed shoes should be allowed. If an office is to look truly professional, those items have to go, even for the clerical staff who never set foot in a courtroom. Are you going to designate someone to go around checking pedicures? What if someone decides to wear faded, worn jeans? Where do you draw the line?
We're not saying everyone has to wear a suit to work every day. There are plenty of less uptight styles--wide-leg pants, sweaters, long skirts--that are more casual but don't look like picnic attire. And we wouldn't be surprised if, after people started dressing better, morale was boosted even higher.
Dear Fashion Police: I am a man in my 50s and am having problems with colors. The trouble is matching shirts and jackets with pants and socks. Are there any color charts that show how to match or blend?
--COLOR MY WORLD
Dear Color: Working with color is as much an art as it is a science. Any color chart or color wheel will teach you the basics of color, and it's not a bad idea to start there. You'll get an idea of how complementary colors, ones opposite each other, make both hues pop--consider red and green or orange and blue. Related colors are next to each other on the chart and blend well since they share similar tones: blue, purple and magenta, for instance. Warm tones are in the red/orange/yellow/green families, and cool tones can be found in the blues/purples/grays. How you use the color chart to organize your wardrobe is the next step.
We suggest starting with a neutral palette for your jackets and pants. Neutrals include black, gray navy, brown, khaki, ivory and white. They mix well with each other and offset brighter colors but won't compete with them. So let's say you're wearing charcoal gray pants. Pair those with a black jacket. Since you're working with cool neutrals, you might go with a blue shirt, anything from sky to cobalt. As for socks, they match the shoes--we're thinking black. If you want to add a tie that's going to stand out, choose one with blue in it as well as complementary shades of pumpkin, terra cotta or amber.
Now let's try warmer colors. Starting with an olive jacket, we'll move down the chart a few steps and choose a mustard shirt. Still within the range, add dark brown pants (with brown shoes and socks). To stay within this palette, choose a tie that has some or all of these hues.
We hope that gives you somewhere to start. If you're still skittish about trying it yourself, go to a favorite clothing store and enlist the help of a salesman who understands color. Tell him what you need, and he'll help coordinate a couple of ensembles.
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