Monday, April 9, 2012

Business At-tired: Dressing for Law School

This article is not for anyone who knows what it means to be “on trend.” If you have a closet full of statement tights, platform wedges, European cut suits, or a Brooks card, just stop reading. You belong in an advanced class and you will wreck the curve for the rest of us.

Now that they are gone, let's all complain about them. Because law school isn't hard enough, we need to worry about which cuff links go with a bolero tie. (The answer is why are you wearing a bolero tie?) Don’t worry. Determining what attire is expected at a “business casual” function is only slightly harder then the Objective Theory of Contracts.

It would be so much easier to just refuse to engage in this nonsense and wear comfortable clothes to class, like other graduate students. Have you seen what the med students wear? Are those pajamas? Of course the more you dress for comfort, the greater the risk that you will be wearing yoga pants covered in peanut butter on the day your impeccably dressed professor mentions, seemingly directly to you, that your attire affects how others perceive your ideas.

Since you are a clever law student, maybe you consider dressing from the waist up. Unfortunately, there isn’t a teleportation device connecting your bedroom to your classroom. Walking around town dressed in a suit jacket and sweatpants makes people think you had an accident and had to use the "school pants" from the guidance office, which is probably not the look you had in mind.

If you are like me, you start with good intentions. You limit your clothing selection to items whose odor won’t distract your classmates. Despite your lack of options, you dismiss the idea of wearing an old Halloween costume. You choose a shirt without noticeable holes, stains or slogans asserting where the best crabs can be found. Then you arrive at school and realize you are wearing two different socks that don't "power clash." Luckily, your pant cuffs are pooling around your ankles, so you thank Perkius, the patron saint of caffeine, that you started drinking coffee early enough to stunt you growth and maintain a 5th grade inseam. On with the day!

This is no way to live, people. We deserve better. It's not that hard to create your own "Garanimals for Law Students" (look it up, it’s a funny reference).

  1. First, pick a store where you feel comfortable and where there is a wide range of styles. In order of over-priced mark-up, you could look at Banana Republic, Express, Macy’s or Kohl’s. There are plenty more. You want a store with a credit card. Open an account. You will not run a balance, ever. The purpose of the card is to get coupons, because, after your first purchase, you will never pay retail again.
  2. With your newly minted consumer relationship secured, purchase three pairs of pants in black, grey and tan. Dress pants are more versatile than khakis, and you are less likely to be mistaken for a trade show presenter. If the pants are too long, have them tailored. For $10, you can spare yourself the embarrassment of tripping in a parking lot and busting your lip. Don’t make my mistake.
  3. Next, buy three tops. You can be creative with color because your pants are neutral. However, you can’t buy three of the same style. I’ve tried it. At my first job, I was known as the “3/4 length sleeve girl.” As usual, my co-workers were more critical than creative. Pick a cotton top, a collared shirt and a light sweater.
  4. Buy comfortable shoes and thin, dark, identical socks. Do not wear your athletic socks with professional shoes. The moment you cross your legs and we see that flash of white, everything your say will be underscored in our heads by “Beat It.”  
  5. Carve out a space in your closet for the six articles of clothing. Hang them. I don’t care what you do with your jeans or your ironic t-shirts, but these pieces get hangers. If you change out of your school clothes when you come home, you don’t have to launder them as often. It’s not like you should be breaking much of  a sweat in class, assuming you have done the reading.

That’s it. You can decide when to add to your wardrobe. If you get a great coupon, you should buy a suit, if you don’t already have one, but suit shopping is a topic for next class. As you add, keep in mind that the goal is to mix and match without much thought, so purchase prints and wild colors judiciously. If you remember simple, clean and tailored, you will never experience decision paralysis and come to class in Zubaz shorts. Save them for the weekends.

Liz Clark Rinehart is a 1E who is in no way affiliated with the poorly edited and overly snarky advice column, This article was originally set to be printed in the Spring 2012 issue of The Raven, but then The Raven wasn't printed.


  1. The "school pants." HAHA. Good advice here, though. I really don't like spending money on clothes that aren't denim or perfectly worn t-shirts. Fine, so I'm not a grown up.

    1. Haha! If you put a sport jacket over those t-shirts and jeans, you have my husband's work "uniform." I like dressing up, but it is the first thing to go the moment I'm stressed, so I have to have an emergency wardrobe that is thought-proof or I show up in pajamas. I've never been good at finding a middle ground.


I love comments. They make me feel like I'm not talking to myself. I try to reply to all of them, eventually.