Law Firm Dress Code for Women: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

These lawyer outfits work for female attorneys

Female attorney talking in trial courtroom wearing white button up blouse and grey blazer
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Appearances matter in the legal industry. The way you dress can help you command respect, inspire trust, and convey a polished, professional image. Your wardrobe is a tool you can use to win the trust of supervisors, clients, opposing counsel, and judges.

You don’t have to spend your entire paycheck on looking good. Adhering to your firm’s dress code and following some simple guidelines can help women dress to impress.

Business Attire for Women

Many law firms adopted casual dress policies in years past, but the industry is trending toward more formal business attire again. Exercise good taste and common sense when you're selecting appropriate business attire, and err on the conservative side if you're unsure.

Stick to a well-cut suit in a conservative shade such as black, brown, gray, or navy for interviews, court appearances, client meetings, presentations, and related events. Skirted suits were formerly the rule, but pantsuits are now acceptable. Skirts should fall at or below the knee.

More Casual Events

Pantsuits and dressy coordinated separates are acceptable for less formal business events and casual workdays. Tailored jackets, tasteful sweaters, and pretty blouses paired with a skirt or dress pants are always good choices.

Other acceptable clothing for women includes sweaters—lightweight, turtlenecks, crew, V-neck, and cardigans—and vests worn with short or long-sleeved shirts. Knit tops, collared polo shirts, and pants, including khakis, linen blends, silk or twills, will work, too.

Both casual and business attire should be clean, pressed, and wrinkle-free, without holes or frayed areas.

Unacceptable Work Clothing for Women

You should never wear certain garments to work or to any business event, and they're forbidden by most law firms and their dress code policies.

These include tight, sheer, and low-cut clothing of any style, as well as sweatshirts, T-shirts, denim of any type or color, spaghetti straps, open backs, midriff tops, tank tops, halter tops, stretch pants, stirrup pants, jogging or warm-up suits, casual shorts, dress shorts, miniskirts, and Capri pants that end close to the knee.

Avoid neon colors and tight-fitting clothing, especially anything that shows cleavage.

Your Hairstyle

A neat, well-groomed hairstyle is a must. Long and short styles are both appropriate for women, as long as the style is neat and professional. Classic hairdos such as a low ponytail or bun look polished and professional for longer hair.

Avoid wild, untamed or overly teased styles, and never dye your hair in unnatural colors such as pink or blue. Don't use excessive hairspray. Hair that's longer than waist-length and juvenile styles such as pigtails are out. These hairstyle faux pas detract from your image as a respected professional.

Shoes Matter, Too

Closed-toe heels or dress shoes in conservative colors such as black, brown, gray, tan, or almond are appropriate for formal business events. Hosiery is essential, and the shoes should be in good condition.

Acceptable footwear for casual business attire includes thin- to medium-sole leather shoes and loafers, or any updated style with a low or stacked heel and open-toed or dress sandals. 

Avoid athletic shoes, moccasins, flip-flops, platform heels, and any footwear that's worn or in poor condition.

Accessories

Jewelry and accessories should be tasteful and limited. Hosiery should be sheer, tan, nude, or another light color. 

Avoid excessive perfume, extremely long nails, heavy makeup, and excessive, dangly, or cheap jewelry. Large, visible tattoos or piercings, and visible underwear such as bras and bra straps are inappropriate as well.