Breaking NewsLaw.com and associated brands will be offline for scheduled maintenance Friday Feb. 26 9 PM US EST to Saturday Feb. 27 6 AM EST. We apologize for the inconvenience.

 
X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Several years into her professional career, Marie Wilson acknowledges that her wardrobe has lost its zest. Wilson, general counsel at Packeteer Inc., glances down at her sleek, navy blue Kasper suit, accented with white pearls, and says, “It’s elegant, but drab.” Elaine Lee, a patent counsel at Altera Corp., has a different sort of fashion problem. She works with a lot of engineers and rarely wears a suit to the office. When she does, communication falters. “Ah, you’re a lawyer, I don’t want to talk to you,” they tell her. Wilson and Lee were among about 30 other Silicon Valley in-house attorneys who recently � and rather eagerly � sought out advice from Anthea Tolomei, a fashion consultant. “The image is the main focus today,” announced Tolomei while fielding questions during a small fashion show in Palo Alto that was organized recently by the Bay Area chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. Alas, she added, the advent of today’s “business casual” style has thrown many women into sartorial confusion. Tolomei, of course, had some tips for her mostly female audience on how to spruce up their professional wardrobe. Some of it comes down to balancing the casual dress of the corporate culture with the crisp professionalism befitting an in-house attorney. Dressing according to body types, wearing colors that compliment skin tone, eyes and hair, and mixing and matching fabrics are just some of the basics. Tolomei also emphasizes concepts such as “low-fat dressing,” saying weight loss can be instantly achieved by selecting the right ensemble � clothes, for example, that draw attention away from the widest parts of a person’s body. She also suggested taking dress cues from supervisors “unless they’re clueless” themselves. For many in-house lawyers, one of the chief fashion objectives is how to achieve a look that is professional and carries an air of authority but that also says “talk to me.” That can be a challenge, lawyers say, particularly when they’re trying to talk to engineers and even CEOs who may be showing up to work in shorts or other very casual apparel. “There’s a fine line between looking enough like [the engineers] so they are comfortable enough to tell you things” and being authoritative, says Nola Mae McBain, an associate patent counsel at Xerox Corp. “If you don’t [look enough like them] you miss things.” McBain says she struggles to strike a balance between the relaxed style typical of her West Coast office and a much more traditional � and conservative � dress code that prevails in Xerox’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. “My GC wears a pinstripe suit and a tie with diagonal stripes,” says McBain. Describing her own wardrobe as “schizophrenic,” McBain pressed Tolomei for advice on how to integrate her Palo Alto wardrobe into her bi-coastal work life. Tolomei’s response? Go for a mixed-dressing approach. A sophisticated business suit, for example, can be transformed into something more casual, but still sufficiently businesslike, by replacing the suit pants with, say, a pair made out of denim. Wilson, who confessed to having a closet that contains “too much black, blue and white,” walked away from the fashion show feeling a bit refreshed. In particular, she was smiling over Tolomei’s “block dressing” concept of combining bold-colored tank tops with an equally bright-hued blazer. Says Wilson: “I feel like I have permission to go back to my hot-pink tops that I wore in my more casual days.” Petra Pasternak covers in-house news at The Recorder in San Francisco.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.