Cleavage Wrinkles Should Not Be A Problem In The Office

Writing a blog like this, I tend to see just about every news article that mentions a paralegal in any way. In many cases there is no direct connection between the story and any topic considered part of this blog. My first take on a story in the New York Timestoday was that it was one of those stories. The title of the story is “Fighting Cleavage Wrinkels:”

Fighting Cleavage Wrinkles
Published: August 9, 2011

BACK when Lisa Barr wore a size 34B bra, she didn’t know from cleavage wrinkles. But soon after she got breast implants in 1999, augmenting her measurements to a 36C, she started waking up with thick lines on her chest where one breast had fallen against the other as she slept on her side.

The problem is more serious that it may initially sound:

The skin just below the neck can reveal a woman’s age and skin-care history just as easily as her hands can.

My point here is simply this: While it is a problem it should not be one at work, because professional dress will generally cover cleavage. Here are some other thoughts on professional dress:

The legal profession, unlike the medical profession, is not characterized by a particular uniform, but certain modes of dress are considered appropriate for the professional and others are not. A professional image is important not only for others, but also for you. The way you look sends a message to clients, attorneys and you. Any sort of uniform helps you make the transition from normal life to work life. A business suit or comparable dress enhances your own perception of yourself as a professional.

The general rule is that you want to be noticed for the quality of your work rather than because of the high quality of the work you do and for what you add to the legal team, not for what you wear. Keep the following in mind:

  • A professional appearance is neither “hot” nor “cool.” You may be fortunate enough to meet your soul-mate or your next date at work, but avoid dressing as though you are looking for them.
  • Professional dress is not short, tight, clinging or revealing. Professional dress looks good, not sexy (although looking good can be sexy if you have the right attitude.)
  • Professional dress, except for shoes, belt and coats, is not leather.
  • Professional dress is not flashy.
  • Dress appropriately for the circumstances. Office wear and court wear may or may not be the same depending on your office. Take the time to find out. Take cues from how your attorney and other professionals in the office dress. If you are in Montana, cowboy boots may be fine; probably not in Baltimore.
  • Wash and iron your clothes. Shine your shoes.
  • Coordinate your clothing, jewelry and shoes.
  • You are part of the legal team and part of gaining the client’s business, trust and confidence. You are not likely to do that if you dress inappropriately or look like a slob.
  • When in doubt, ask.
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  • Stacey says:

    I just wrote an article on this very issue. People will spend an extraordinary amount of time researching frivolous electronics, etc. before making purchases, but when it comes to professional dress code, particularly those in the legal arena and conservative corporate sectors, many of these same individuals wing it until they are corrected by a superior or embarrassed by office gossip about their attire. You are so right — “When in doubt, ask.”

  • Caryn Ann says:

    In some industries there is little to no personal client contact, and the office allows a very casual or flamboyant dress code, what is the problem then with fitting in to the culture? I personally think it is stupid to judge competency on attire.

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    It is true that in some industries there is little to no personal client contact, but this is not some industry. It the the legal profession. While competency should not be judged solely on attire, both competency and appearance are part of professionalism, so both affect the judgment of professionalism. In the end, what is professional dress will indeed vary with the culture of the workplace. If in-house counsel dresses casually, then it may be appropriate for the in-house paralegal to also dress casually, etc., which is why my advice ends with “When in doubt, ask.” It is difficult to imagine any professional situation, however, in which “sexy” or “hot” is professional attire.

  • Ellen Wright says:

    Well, Mr. Mongue,

    I’ve seen a product advertised that goes by “Butt Spackle” for the cleavage in the posterior region. I assume that it could be applied to the anterior as well. Perhaps the balliffs could start keeping a supply in the courtroom for emergency applications?

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