What Women Wear

BY PAMELA FOOHEY

What do Harvard Law women wear to their on-campus interviews? I admit, I’ve had suit envy all week. I naturally assumed there was a law firm interview uniform in law school, just as there had been an investment bank interview uniform in business school. When I interviewed for my i-banking job coming out of undergrad, I wore a navy blue skirt suit with a white collared shirt and black two inch pumps. I was not alone. Sure, there were a few defectors, but they were few and far between, and were usually interviewing for that lone marketing position. Imagine my surprise when I saw grey suits, tan suits, pinstriped suits, textured suits, and even a purple suit wandering around campus last week.

Is there more than one uniform for law firm interviews? Is there no uniform at all, besides “wear a suit”? Or are the variations I saw this week little more than aberrations that happened to wander onto campus just as I was passing through? Is there any hope that women can just wear the suit they feel most comfortable in to their interviews, without constantly second guessing their decision? Does it really matter if most of the women wearing the law school interview uniform are interviewing with large firms along with everyone else?

In my search for answers to these questions, I surveyed 2L and 3L Harvard Law women. As with most Record surveys, the results are in no way scientific and reflect only the opinions of those 2L and 3Ls that chose to participate, meaning only those that were bored in class or who I guilted into responding. Accordingly, the results cannot be assumed to represent the Harvard Law female study body as a whole. In fact, the results are probably worthless, but it’s still fun to know what a small percentage of others wear.

One of the biggest decisions a woman faces is whether to wear a pant suit, or, as in my case, to cave and dust off the skirt suit in hopes of invoking the conservative image and everything else that goes along with a skirt suit. Others may not view this as such a monumental decision, especially those who do not have a deep-seated aversion to skirts. Others may not care, as one respondent put it: “If they don’t like my pants, they can bite me.” Another respondent commented that “pants are more practical” because of the hike to hotels, even though she has a skirt suit she really likes. Overall, 32% of those surveyed opted for a pant suit, while the remaining 68% wear a skirt suit. Skirt suit wins.

The next decision is what color suit to wear. Despite the opportunity for variation, 62% of those surveyed wear a black suit. As one respondent opined, she wears black “because I’m boring.” Another respondent said she wears a black suit, but wishes it were grey. Grey came in at second place with 24%, navy blue picked up 10%, and brown brought up the rear with 5%. Not all that adventurous.

Harvard Law women may not be great at varying the color of their suits, but they get another shot. Not all suits are solid. They come with pinstripes of all colors, pinstripes made out of dots, subtle texturing, and not-so-subtle textured patterns. Despite this fact, 75% of respondents wear a solid suit. Moreover, of the 62% of respondents wearing black suits, only 5% of those black suits have pinstripes or are textured. Harvard Law women, as a whole, wear solid black suits. There was one respondent who wears a grey suit with a textured brownish pattern. I congratulate her.

Once the suit itself is decided, then it is time to accessorize. First on the agenda is what to put underneath the suit: collared shirt, sleeveless shell, short-sleeved shell, or longer-sleeved sweater are the usual suspects. 57% of respondents opt for the traditional collared shirt. Most likely due to the hot weather, most of the remainder (40%) wear a sleeveless or short-sleeved shell. There seems to be a bit of variety appearing. Further reflecting this diversity, the color of these collared shirts range from white, to light blue, to pink. That’s right, pink-we are Harvard Law women after all.

Next we are faced with our most important decision-the shoes. As I could have conducted a survey just on shoes, I limited my inquiry to whether respondents wear stiletto or chunkier heels and the height of those heels. Stiletto heels win with 60%. In terms of height, 65% wear heels between 1.5 and 2.5 inches, 20% wear heels 3 inches or higher, while the remaining 15% wear heels 1 inch or lower. One respondent noted that she wears 1 inch heels with a skirt, and 2 inch heels with pants. Another commented that heels 3 inches or higher are “annoying.” Another stated that she “wouldn’t do flats,” but would “go as low as kitten heels if I had found any when I was shopping.”

Finally, I asked respondents whether they wear their hair up or down. Interestingly, this question elicited the most comments. Of the 30% that wear their hair up, some pin it up with bobby pins, some put it half up, some opt for the sleek low ponytail, while others try to tame it with a full ponytail covered by various types of holders and clips. The remaining 70% leave their hair down, “loose around the face.” At last, some variety!

One respondent aptly noted that I forgot to ask about the bag. I also forgot to ask about jewelry and the use of personal shoppers. I apologize. I hope her comment makes up for my lapse: “I go in with my backpack and if they are upset about it, screw them.”

While my survey gives me some, probably false, comfort that there is more variation in law school interviewing suits than what I saw during my investment banking interviews, as a whole, Harvard Law women do have a uniform: a black skirt suit with a white collared shirt and 2 inch stiletto heels. 1Ls, start shopping.

Pamela Foohey, 2L, wears a black skirt suit with a pink sleeveless shell and 2 inch black stiletto heels.

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