A solicitor wonders how she can retain her personal style when asked to dress more professionally

Dear Ash,

I have my own personal style and have always tried to refrain from dressing too conservatively. I like to wear bright colours and chunky jewellery to spruce up my boring suits and I even have some small discreet tattoos. However, during my recent appraisal, I was told that I should try to dress more “professionally”. I was taken aback by this comment and I am now not sure what is deemed appropriate in the workplace. I don’t want to seem as if I am ignoring my line manager’s comments, but I do still want to retain my own personal sense of style. What should I do?

Ash replies:

The professional corporate image has very much evolved in recent years and it is no longer essential to dress in a conformed suited fashion. There is nothing wrong with adding a dash of colour in order to spruce up a boring suit. In fact women are encouraged to avoid dressing just like men, and more and more women are opting to dress in more feminine, softer styles.

However, it is important to ensure that your eclectic style still has an air of professionalism in the workplace, especially when you are dealing with clients. Unfortunately people are judged on their appearances and professional advisers are especially expected to dress in a certain manner. I would encourage you to speak to your line manager in order to come to an arrangement whereby you would agree to dress in a more formal fashion in front of clients: perhaps less chunky jewellery and agreeing to cover up tattoos. But on days when you would not have face-to-face contact with clients you could agree to dress in a less formal fashion.

Also try not to be too disheartened by your manager’s comments; style is very much a personal matter. At the very least you should be comforted by the fact that you do clearly have a sense of style (whether it is liked or not), as opposed to no style at all!

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications. co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education and Training Department. For one-to-one advice contact Education and Training Manager Katie Meanley on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieMeanley@lawscot.org.uk .

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