Friday, June 6, 2008

Pantyhose and Flip Flops at Law Firms . . .

Another story form today's ABA Journal online caught my eye as particularly related to women. It's entitled "The Dress Code Debate: Pantyhose and Flip-Flops." It discusses briefly different firms' strategies for communicating information about their dress codes to employees, noting that it can be awkward to do this on a one-on-one basis. One suggestion is to send a phone message to all employees. According to the story, the "script advises employees to avoid revealing, scruffy or tight-fitting clothing or attire that would be worn to the gym or beach." Reading that part led me to the realization that this is not only about female attire, but increasingly about the attire of male employees, too.

But then there is the pantyhose part, which I think it's fair to say is about women. The story indicates that the Wall Street Journal has taken up the "great debate over whether women need to wear pantyhose to work. The newspaper writes that bare legs are common even on conservative Wall Street and at business events." It goes on to quote Jim Holt, president of Mid-American Credit Union, who changed his company's "hose-are-required policy just last week," explaining "I didn't want to be so old-fashioned that people would be like, 'Do you require corsets, too?'"

It reminded me of one of my early law firm experiences, at a large Kansas City firm in 1988, where I was a summer associate. I recall being aware that a very athletic, tanned female summer associate from Harvard had been told that she should wear pantyhose because, obviously, she had not been doing so. My sense was that the rest of the women at the firm were already wearing pantyhose -- including me -- even in the hot and humid Kansas City summer. Until I was aware of this woman, it had never occurred to me that one might NOT wear pantyhose; it was just part of a woman's uniform. So I appreciated what I saw as this woman's little rebellion, although my recollection is that she did begin wearing pantyhose once the issue was brought to her attention. The rebellion, if that is what it was, ended quietly.

Later, when I worked on the East coast, I was aware of lots of women not wearing panty hose and, for that matter, not wearing make up. How liberating! Ditto when I practiced in The Hague and London. How silly pantyhose came to be in those settings, where European women never thought of wearing them -- unless as tights to provide warmth in the cooler months. I wonder what advice UC Davis career services gives on this point?


Anne Line Kræmmer said...

I’ve never really thought about wearing panty hose vs. not wearing panty hose before reading Professor Pruitt’s blog post. To me panty hose are only a way of keeping warm when it’s cold or a way of making your legs look more tanned. Not a way of hiding your indecently exposed legs! Personally I avoid wearing a dress or a skirt when I can. It’s just too much work! But the blog post made me think about it. A couple of days later I had a job interview at a government office here in Copenhagen and decided to wear a skirt because the weather was quite warm. And I started obsessing about whether it would be appropriate to wear panty hose or not. I decided not to, mostly because I knew that it would not make a difference here in Denmark. But if I thought it might have made a difference, I definitely would have worn panty hose. My point is that even though I would want to rebel against the idea that women have to wear panty hose, I wasn’t willing to let it influence my chances of getting the job.

MRVanegas said...

Davis Career Services strongly recommends to wear pantyhose with skirts to interviews, which means that I will be wearing a suit with pants. The advice is based on the understanding that a lady always wears proper undergarments (According to my grandmother, there are a couple of things a lady must never do, including taking her shoes off anywhere other than her home.) While I pride myself on being a lady, this is one piece of advice, which has to go the way of the corsets, pillbox hats, and white gloves!