do my clothes and car make me look like I don’t “need” a job — and is that a problem?

A reader writes:

My question relates to interview attire and accessories. I am an attorney with just under 15 years of experience. Many of those years have been spent in self employment, which I fear already impedes/impacts my job search. Recently my family relocated, within our home state, to accommodate my husband’s career as he is the primary earner in our family. As a result, I stopped taking new clients, provided my staff with severance, and am wrapping up old matters. Ultimately I do not think it would be financially productive to open a new office in my new city, but I want to continue in my work as I find it meaningful, challenging, and a large part of who I am.

I have been attempting to network with former colleagues who are now in the new area and put my feelers out for positions in small firms in my practice area. Yesterday, at a lunch with one such colleague who I respect very much I was given the feedback that “to seek a job you should look like you need a job.” I did not know what he was trying to communicate so I asked for feedback. He indicated that my wedding rings and some of my personal fashion/style (handbags, shoes, even my car) make me appear to not need a job and so make me a less competitive candidate.

I do not generally wear jewelry beyond my wedding rings, not even simple earrings. I never wear or use items that have logos or anything flashy. I pretty much wear a single colored dress and usually black or nude shoes each day with a blazer and minimal makeup. Sometimes I might wear a pants suit or slacks and a sweater. While I do drive a newer “luxury” SUV, it is paid off and I cannot afford a new car at this time.

What do you advise in regard to looking like I “need a job?” Should I really be as concerned about this as my colleague thinks? I’m now horribly self-conscious that my appearance comes off poorly. If it helps I’m a family law attorney with the bulk of my experience being in domestic violence and high conflict custody disputes. This is not a practice area where I have felt people are very focused on appearance.

This is weird advice.

It’s true that if you show up for an interview dripping in jewelry and expensive designer brands, you are sending certain signals about yourself that can be problematic in some lines of work. But you don’t sound like you’re presenting yourself that way.

Of course, if your black or nude shoes are $4,000 Louboutins and your handbag is a $15,000 Birkin bag, your colleague might have a point. Even if the styles themselves are relatively conservative, people who know fashion often know price ranges too, and yes, some people will judge — which could be anything from thinking you don’t “need” a job, as he said, to just thinking you’re unusually high-fashion for a family lawyer.

But the way you’ve described yourself makes me think that’s not what’s going on … which makes me want to know more about your colleague. What do you know about his judgment? Is he generally savvy or have you found him to be off at other times? Does he work in an area of law where any display of financial privilege might seem off? Does he have a weird relationship with money that might be influencing him here? Has he been wearing the same inexpensive suit since 1997?

Ultimately it’s hard to give you a definitive answer without seeing your work wardrobe, so your best bet is to run this by other people who know you, the way you come across, and your industry. But based on what you’ve described here, I’d be inclined to ignore this as a one-off piece of misapplied advice.

I do want to talk more, though, about this idea of not “needing” a job. Plenty of people don’t “need” jobs — their spouse earns a lot, they invested well, they have family money, etc. — and are excellent at their work anyway. To the extent that good employers are concerned about people who don’t need to work, the concern is about people who won’t be fully committed, who will choose jetting off to an island for the weekend over staying when work needs to be done, and/or who will walk out as soon as things are hard. If those things are true of someone, they would be a less attractive candidate. But you’ll be able to show that’s not you by how you conduct yourself in the hiring process (don’t reschedule an interview so you can jet off to an island, for one thing) and by the strong work track record it sounds like you’ll be presenting.

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Oxford Comma*

    You’re an attorney and your former colleague is telling you to dress down? That makes zero sense to me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In some fields of law, it could be legit advice — for example, if you work in poverty issues. I don’t think family law is one of those areas, though.

      1. Binky*

        But that would be “dress down not to intimidate clients/look out of step with our mission” not “dress down so you look like you need a job.”

        1. Corporate Lawyer*

          Yes, this. Presenting yourself to clients is a completely different question from presenting yourself to potential employers.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Even there, though, most people still expect professionals to look professional.

            Never in a million years would I question a lawyer wearing wedding/engagement rings.

            1. Annony*

              I could see it maybe being distracting if it is really huge, especially in the absence of any other jewelry, but it does seem like bizarre advice. If that were the case the problem would not be that the ring was expensive but that it was visually distracting in a way that you probably don’t want in an interview. The fact that he also had a problem with her car and purse that didn’t have a logo sounds like he has weird hangups about money.

              If the job were specifically working with people who are not well off financially, I can see the advice maybe having merit, as Alison stated. It would not be about needing the job but about being someone the clients would be comfortable with.

              1. Kes*

                Yeah the only way I see this being valid is if OP is wearing a lot of particularly expensive stuff – I could see potential concerns on OP looking out of touch with their clients. The other factor might be whether it’s a poorer area where the clothes that were fine where she used to live would now put her at a much higher level than the clients.
                Apart from not flaunting wealth, I wouldn’t say “look like you need a job” is good advice though – in fact, as we know it’s often easier to get a job when you already have one, and nonprofits like Dress for Success exist specifically to help people dress for interviews because their existing wardrobe, which would clearly show their need for a job, won’t suffice.

              2. Diahann Carroll*

                The fact that he also had a problem with her car and purse that didn’t have a logo sounds like he has weird hangups about money.

                Yup. He’s judging how OP spends (and his view is negative), so he thinks others will as well.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  Could it be the colleague is trying to sabotage her? The colleague may be looking for a job, too, and not want the competition.

              3. Timothy (TRiG)*

                Bling could certainly impede communication if you’re using sign language (interpreters rarely wear much jewellery, and if they do, it’s subtle; bangles and dangly earrings are right out, as are striped or patterned tops). Other than that, though ….

            2. Spero*

              I did work in a family court/DV focused setting where it was normal practice to remove engagement rings and just have a wedding band on during client meetings. I was a social worker – and I’ve seen social workers in other settings do this as well – but the DV attorneys did it too in this particular setting.
              It was an almost entirely female staff and there were some IMPRESSIVE engagement rings, so I think the original intent was not to highlight financial disparities between staff and clients.

            3. Lexie*

              I wonder if the comment about the rings was implying that since she’s married she doesn’t need to work.

        2. Smithy*

          I think this is where AAM’s advice on “do you trust this colleague” comes from. I used to work in fundraising for a legal nonprofit where our office’s dress was casual even by the standards of the country where we were that overall had a more casual style than the US.

          My boss was notorious for being highly prone to dismiss candidates for dressing up for interviews and instead of reflecting on the overall culture of the office, our clients, our values around presentation, etc – she would dismiss them for less tangible or practical traits (i.e. being snobby). When I told her once that I dressed similar during my interview, her response was “you work with the money people, that’s different”. She had a more sophisticated reasoning if you pushed her further, but her gut reaction on presentation was often immediately said in either rude or wildly unhelpful terms. If the OP’s colleague is otherwise someone with good professional insight and judgement – it may be a case of “I know you dress or present out of step for our professional culture, but have not thought more carefully around why.”

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Public defender and former poverty-law attorney here. Obviously, my experience is just my own, but I dress well for work and it’s never been an issue. I don’t wear Louboutins and Hermes, but I do wear a lot of mid-range professional brands that would work in many offices—think Calvin Klein, Eileen Fisher, Tieks, Coach, etc. I’ve gotten zero pushback, and I know some public defenders who deliberately dress formally so that their clients feel like they have a “real lawyer.”

        I was once told not to wear a suit to a clinic where I was volunteering—the lead attorney said, “People in suits have been cheating my clients for years”—but other than that, even in my corner of the legal profession, I wouldn’t tell people to dress down.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          “People in suits have been cheating my clients for years”
          This might be the one factor where I would have given this advice credence. And even then, that’s working with clients, not interviewing with prospective employers. Unless it’s “People in suits have been cheating their employers for years”, which is an entirely different issue.
          (IANAL, just applying a little common sense from an outside perspective)

        2. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

          Yeah. I also worked in poverty law and dressed as nicely as I could afford. We had clinics in local food pantries and soup kitchens and I would usually take things down a notch. This did make many of my clients feel more comfortable and it also made me feel more comfortable as it was usually a significant walk from the subway in all kinds of weather.

        3. Lucy McGillicuddy*

          Seconding this. My partner is a public defender and also dresses quite well. His entire office does. And the looking like a “real lawyer” thing is super spot-on.

      3. A family law lawyer*

        I agree with this. OP, your colleague is giving you weird advice unless this is a highly regional thing. Family law attorneys at firms, which I presume is where you are applying, usually have to dress pretty nicely on a daily basis because of the type of people who have enough money to hire a firm for their divorce, and we do go to court at least some of the time. If you were applying to legal aid type places then yeah, I could see an argument for dialing it down a bit (although it sounds like you’re already pretty dialed down), but even in that instance wearing a suit to an interview is totally normal and expected.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          From the way the OP described their typical attire, it sounds like the colleague giving her advice almost wants her to show up looking threadbare! It’s entirely possible to be in great need of a job, and on a shoestring budget, but still show up looking pulled together and presentable. I’m struggling to even imagine what it would look like to show up to an interview looking professional, but also “looking like you need a job.” Their advice sounds very weird!

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Due to a health crisis, I had been out of work for 3 years. I was staying with a friend because I had no money, and would help around the house in exchange for room and board. I still managed a very good, professional look for job interviews. Blazer, blouse, and slacks (these were jobs where a full suit would be out of place), simple gold necklace, polished flats, and well-groomed hair.
            There are also several charities in my area that provide interview clothing, free of charge. In fact, they’re delighted to help one find suitable attire for their own.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Maybe the OP is dressing in a way that looks like ‘partner’ and the colleague doesn’t want the competition.

    2. Ominous Adversary*

      The LW has run into that thing where many lawyers who are good at their field of expertise thinks that they are automatically experts on everything else, and that their uninformed opinions based on thoughts that flit through their heads just now are the same as facts.

      1. Marthooh*

        Wild generalization: lawyers loooove to give advice. If it seems like you want some, they’ll cheerfully make something up to fit the case.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It;s what we do. It’s kinda right there in the name — Counselor. We can’t help. Even when its not our problem to solve — we try to solve it.

      2. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

        Yup! Not the main reason I left but one of the reasons I don’t miss law practice. Then again, I have a family member who thinks being clergy gives him similar super powers. Knowing how to read Aramaic is not the same thing as knowing everything in the world.

    3. dustycrown*

      That’s odd advice, to me. I would think from the employer’s perspective, it’s more about whether they need you, than whether you need them.

  2. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Putting aside the fact that the colleague was leaping to conclusions and being judgmental, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be perceived as not NEEDING a job. When I heard that phrase, I felt like the colleague liked to lowball candidates and find people who would accept less than market rates for their work. I don’t NEED to work any longer, although I’d like to, so I’m taking my time looking for a new position. I know I’m very fortunate, and I think it also puts me in a good position to avoid people who wish to nickel and dime talented, experienced, and well-qualified candidates.

    But then, obviously I’m coming at this from a very different angle than the OP’s colleague.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      That’s a good point. Once I stopped looking and acting like I needed a job, any job, I received one that paid me well above my market rate. Of course, my interviews were conducted over the phone, so my interviewers didn’t see the designer clothes I was wearing at the time to be able to determine my relative need, lol. Still, I think the point stands that if you come to an in person interview pulled together, you’re less likely to get lowballed because the decision-makers will decide that you’ll walk if they don’t meet you at least halfway.

    2. Aquawoman*

      I had a similar thought–people who don’t need a job will be quicker to leave a toxic workplace. Desperation makes better serfs.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ding ding. One really exploitative former employer of mine loved to hire formerly homeless people, new college grads without professional experience, and people making drastic career changes, then… pay them below minimum wage and delay their paychecks for weeks on end.

    3. Mainely Professional*

      Also, in interviews the less pushy and less visibly desperate you are for work, the less you give off a scary/awkward vibe. You look and seem confident like you don’t “need” this, even when you do, makes everyone feel relaxed.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Exactly. I don’t want to date or be friends with someone whose attitude is “You’ve got a pulse, so I’m going to latch onto you”. I want people in my life to be there because they want to be.
          Obviously when it comes to a job, most people do need to work, but you’d still ideally like to hire someone who has an interest in that particular job beyond “something, anything, it doesn’t matter”. Paradoxically, you get more out of someone who’s getting something out of you.

      1. LunaLena*

        I’ve often wondered if this is one reason candidates who are employed at the time of the interview tend to do better than candidates who don’t have a job at the time – they’re more relaxed because there’s less at stake, and they know that if the interview doesn’t work out, they’ll just go back to their current job. Obviously there are a lot of factors that might make employed candidates more appealing to employers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of them.

    4. Kiki*

      Yeah, even if the coworker didn’t mean it quite that way when he said it, I would be wary of working for someone who was selecting for how much somebody “needed” to work. To me, it seems like someone who would want to pull something on their employees because they know they don’t have other options. So that could be anything from underpaying or overworking them, all the way up to an abusive workplace or getting involved in nefarious dealings of some sort. It is also, like other commenters have said, historically a way to justify underpaying women.

    5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Where I worked, we used the term about “needing” a job to mean, “This person will be reliable and won’t quit even though this place is a nest of murder hornets, because they need a job and have few options.”

      In my department directly we were good to people, but there’s only so much you can do to counteract the fact that you’re in the middle of a nest of murder hornets surrounded by murder hornets.

    6. Product Person*

      Same here. I’m 55, dual income famiky of two, we always were well compensated, and I could have retired a few years ago if I wanted. I never hide that fact (and I often bring it up to explain what could look like “job hopping”: financial security means I often join high-risk startups that either get acquired or fail, which means I’m constantly interviewing for my next gig after a year or so. Not once someone expressed concern because I don’t *have* to work. I think most people realize that if you don’t need a job and it’s still doing your best to impress your interviewers, plus have references to attest to your work ethics, there’s no reason to have concerns.

    7. radiant peach*

      This is actually driving me nuts because as someone’s who has been on the job hunt since December, I somehow have to “look like I need a job” but also “not look desperate”. Of course I know there’s a happy middle somewhere but I need a job quite badly yet if I show that in any way, I would be respected less by my interviewer.

  3. Observer*

    There are plenty of people who will judge you if you do NOT look prosperous enough – and I suspect that this likely to be true in your field, the idea being that if you were “good” at your job you would be earning a lot more.

    Also, I suspect that the problem is not that you dress too well, but that you are female and >gasp< married. No one thinks that a wedding ring – even a really, really nice one – indicates that you are rolling. So why is he highlighting that?

    1. The Assistant*

      My eyebrows raised up at that comment as well. A woman wearing a wedding ring? Not needing a job? Sorry, I wasn’t aware we were living in a Leave it to Beaver-type sitcom.

        1. Student*

          Exactly what I keyed in on. The wedding ring reference was the dead giveaway here. Sure sounds like he’s mainly referring to the old stereotype about married women working for “pin money”, while married men work “to support their families”.

          When he gestures to her clothes/fashion items as follow-up, he’s implying that she looks like a “kept woman” whose husband can clearly (insert huge eye-roll) provide for her. Sadly, this is still common in some industries. It’s plagued my field of work for generations, with no signs of abatement. It’s even a measurable, obvious impact on wages for us. Our single men and women have similar wages – but our married women lose ground in wages compared to the single folks, whereas married men get a notable salary bump over the singles.

          Dude gave you sexist advice. Dress nicely for job interviews.

          You could consider taking off your wedding rings during an interview to combat some of this ridiculous sexism, or you can decide you wouldn’t want to work with people who make your hiring (illegally, in the US) contingent on your marital status + gender combo because of assumptions on how you’ll use your income and whether you “deserve” said income as much as a married man.

          1. dustycrown*

            On the opposite side of this–I have lived for 25 years with a man to whom I am not married. Because we live in the midwest/Bible belt area, this sometimes raises eyebrows, particularly from married women. I have a fake wedding ring that I wear to job interviews, to put those women at ease. It makes me appear to be “one of them,” and gets us past my marital status as a topic of conversation. Without a wedding ring, they will ask if I’m married, even though they shouldn’t do that in the context of a job interview. With the fake ring on, it never comes up.

            1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

              That’s fascinating. When I was applying for my first jobs out of law school, I actually took my rings off and put concealer over the tan lines. I was young enough (and have a very young face) that there’s less assumption about my marital status and it is also a protected class where I live. I can’t imagine it coming up in an interview, but I know assumptions are made either way. I took off my rings so there wouldn’t be any assumptions that I’d be getting pregnant and disappearing just when I was getting really good at my job.

              1. dustycrown*

                Oh, absolutely. I’ve been on that side of it, too. When I was single with no kids, I would definitely make that known in a job interview, because (sadly) it was always viewed as a plus.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            Well, giving him the benefit of the doubt… it may be that he doesn’t think “oh, she’s married, she must not need the job because she has a husband who is obviously going to be the bread winner” per se, but rather that in general I think you can associate a flashy engagement/wedding ring with being relatively well-off and having “money to burn” if you put it like that…not because it’s a wedding ring as such, but because it’s an ostentatious piece of jewellery that must have cost a lot of money, similar to an expensive handbag or shoes or earrings or similar.

            Actually I think a similar line of reasoning would apply to a man with an ostensibly expensive watch or other accessories (suggested in one of the other threads below), I appreciate that there are gender aspects to a lot of areas but maybe sometimes “a pipe is just a pipe”.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yeah–in the context of the rest of the advice it didn’t sound like he had an issue with wedding rings in general or anything to do with her marital status, but was instead suggesting her ring in particular looked very expensive.

        2. Alli525*

          Yep, I interpreted this as sexist too. No way this guy would have told a man not to wear a watch (non-flashy, like OP describes her accessories) to an interview.

        3. julia*

          yes, this. I strongly suspect he would not have given this advice to a man driving a luxury car and wearing a nice suit.

      1. Ash*

        But she mentioned “rings” plural, twice, so I’m guessing also a diamond engagement ring. Do people typically wear their engagement ring every day along with their wedding band? (I don’t have either, so I have no idea.) Perhaps the size of the rock is rather ostentatious. But I agree with pretty much all the commenters, the advice can generally be disregarded.

        1. Metadata Janktress*

          I do and most of the people who have both rings among my friends and colleagues do too. My engagement ring isn’t fancy pants (single black diamond), but people routinely sink a lot of money into engagement rings, so a particularly ornate engagement ring shouldn’t necessarily look ostentatious.

        2. londonedit*

          I’m not sure about the US (I’ve picked up on a few cultural differences around the way people talk about ‘wedding rings’ in the US) but in the UK yes, it would be usual for people to wear their engagement ring alongside their wedding ring on a daily basis (here, a ‘wedding ring’ is usually a band, most of the time plain but sometimes with very small inset stones, whereas an engagement ring would more usually be a solitaire or cluster of stones, and people will wear the wedding ring with the engagement ring on top of it). However I think judging someone on their engagement ring is extremely crass – how can anyone know if it was inherited, or bought with years’ worth of savings, or anything at all about it?

          1. nonegiven*

            A lot of the wedding sets I’ve seen do come as a matching set, made to be worn together. They will even have a connector to keep them lined up.

            1. Jaydee*

              Mine are like that and I actually had them fused together after we got married. The wedding band is not meant to be worn alone. It is not a circle. The engagement ring has a setting with points above and below the main stone (think this —^— on top and bottom) so the wedding band just looks like that upside down to fit under the engagement ring.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                My mother and father couldn’t afford much when they were getting engaged back in the 80s. Her engagement ring was a very simple single diamond on a gold band. Her wedding ring was the same width in a plain band. For their 25th anniversary Dad got her a “ring protector.” I don’t know if that’s what they’re actually called, but that’s how she describes it to people. It’s basically a double band that slips around her engagement ring and has little inset diamonds. It completely changed the way her engagement ring/wedding band looked and she was so happy with it. But after about a month she said it was driving her crazy that the engagement ring would twist around between the double bands of the ring protector, so she had them fused together.

        3. TootsNYC*

          yes, in my experience, most WOMEN do wear that expensive diamond ring after marriage.
          Because otherwise, you’d get to wear that beautiful bauble for about a year, sometimes less. What a waste!

          And the size of the rock is really not an indicator of how rich you are now, but of how splurgy (or save-y or savvy) the fiancé was when he* bought it.

          I don’t think most people really notice it, to be honest. Maybe if it’s huge.

          *using the stereotype, sorry

          1. Annony*

            Yeah. I don’t tend to notice engagement rings but there was one meeting I was in where it was very distracting. It was a huge ring and she talked with her hands a lot, so the sparkly definitely held my attention more than it should have.

          2. ampersand*

            Yep. To me, it would be a waste of money to *not* wear my engagement ring (also, I’m pretty low key otherwise but I love sparkly things, so I enjoy looking at it)(also also, I more or less designed it so it’s a piece of jewelry that I truly like). I wear mine most days of the week, but sometimes I only wear my wedding band.

            1. allathian*

              Because men usually don’t wear anything other than a plain gold band, and this site requires HTML for italics and bold formatting. Just my guess.

          3. TardyTardis*

            And if it’s huge, there’s a possibility these days that it’s a lab diamond and cost less than a largish car payment.

        4. Third or Nothing!*

          Mine is a set. The wedding band was attached to the engagement ring after we got back from the honeymoon. So now it looks like one ring, but it’s really two.

          I also wear my college ring on the other hand. Those rings are very important to graduates of that college. The other ring could be like that.

        5. blackcat*

          I do, and I’d say most women I know do. I have taken it off for some things, but I’m paranoid about losing it since it’s a family heirloom (think: stones in the family for ~150 years)

          1. allathian*

            I’ve quit wearing my wedding ring most of the time. I feel married without it, and I’ve never been a jewelry wearer as an adult. As a teen, I did wear a silver necklace for long enough that when I finally took it off, it had oxidized so that it was completely black… I’m surprised nobody ever commented on how gross it was!

            It’s a white gold/gold band with 7 small artificial diamonds (no blood diamonds for me) so it looks like it’s a set, but it’s just one ring. I was 8 months pregnant when we got married, and we were never actually engaged. Here the engagement ring is typically a plain gold band and the wedding ring is more ostentatious, although some are adopting the American/British tradition of a flashy engagement ring and a plainer wedding ring. Those are often the ones who end up being engaged for years without ever getting married.

        6. Observer*

          Yes, lots of women wear both on a regular basis.

          It’s quite obvious that this is her wedding / engagement ring. No one in their right mind thinks that even a BIG wedding / engagement ring indicates that they are rolling and “don’t need a job.”

          Something is VERY off with this advice.

        7. Yvette*

          When they both fit me I did. Now I gained too much for them to fit so I wear just a silver band with small CZ stones I got for cheap :)

          1. Helena1*

            You can get them enlarged! Very easily. Any decent jeweller will do it. They basically heat it up and stretch it a bit.

            1. I can only speak Japanese*

              But you can only resize a few times before they lose integrity, and if Yvette is like me and thinks she’ll lose the weight eventually, or simply cannot be bothered, it’s not a good idea.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                I have a ring that was my grandmother’s, but it only fit on my wedding finger. In order to get it enlarged to fit on my right hand, I gave them a single gold stud earring that didn’t have a partner. They had to add the gold to the ring in order to resize the band. The golds are slightly different, so you can see a slightly different color on the bottom side of the ring where the gold was added. Not that anyone else would ever notice…but I think it’s kind of funny. It worked, though!

        8. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

          I do, when I wear them. They are soldered together. For my day to day, I wear a pink silicon ring. My diamond is hardly a rock, but it gets caught on things. I’m forever taking it off anyway, because it’s a pain to cook with, craft with, shower with. It gets gunk stuck in it.

        9. ThatGirl*

          I do (or at least I did in The Before Times) along with an antique diamond ring on my right hand – but both diamonds are small (0.25 ct) and not flashy.

        10. Joielle*

          I do! I had mine soldered together after the wedding so they’re essentially one ring now. Most of my friends have done the same, although some people also have a second, plain metal wedding band that they wear if they don’t want to be flashy (like… when travelling in a third world country).

          I agree with other commenters that even an ostentatious wedding/engagement ring doesn’t necessarily say much about a person’s financial status. Maybe it’s a family heirloom, or it’s actually a white sapphire or moisannite or something.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I was going to comment similar about the ring and weird assumptions. One of my close friends has a beautiful ring that looks expensive, but it’s a custom setting of both grandmothers and her mother’s ring. I think her parents paid for the setting as an engagement gift. It cost her and her husband nothing out of pocket but is valuable otherwise to my friend.

          2. emmelemm*

            Right? These days they’re shining up all kinds of clear stones (not to mention “fake”/cubic zirconia/etc.) to be just as sparkly and pretty as diamonds. I daresay most lay people could not tell the difference.

        11. Clisby*

          I would think (in the US, at least) that it’s very, very, very usual for women to wear both engagement ring and wedding ring daily if they have them. I don’t have either, but my sister and both my sisters-in-law do. If you aren’t going to wear them, why get them?

          1. Belle of the Midwest*

            I agree. I can’t remember the last time I took off my wedding ring–I only take off my engagement ring if I’m working in something that’s going to get trapped in the prongs (bread dough, cookie dough, etc.) or I’m using machinery.

        12. Environmental Compliance*

          In my area (Midwest US), it would be very uncommon to wear only the band. Most women wear them together, and often they’re soldered together (helps with keeping the rings from damaging each other from constant movement).

          I think I know one person who doesn’t wear their engagement ring with the wedding band, and in their case, it wasn’t really the typical big-single-stone ring, it by itself was more of a band. So their engagement band is on the right hand, with the wedding band on the left.

          It really, really came across to me as a very sexist overtone suggesting that since she’s got a spouse, why does she need to work? which is absolute BS.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Not only does soldering the bands together help prevent damage, but it also makes them safer. One of my older relatives had one band slip inside the other and the rings had to be pried off. Since then, everyone in the family who wears multiple rings on a single finger gets them soldered together!

            And yeah … unless the diamond is very ostentatious (like obviously worth a year’s salary or the kind of thing you expect to see on royalty), it almost certainly doesn’t even register to the interviewer.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              My sister-in-law was given the engagement ring from her parents marriage (they had been divorced for sometime) as an 18th birthday present. It meant a lot to her to have the symbol from their union. My sis-in-law tried it on her right hand, not wanting to wear it on her left, and it got stuck! She tried oil and soap, but it wouldn’t budge. Her finger started to swell from her trying to slip it off. She ended up at the emergency room that night and they had to cut it off her finger!!! She took it to a jeweler after that and they fixed it and resized it to fit on her right hand.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            In my past marriage, my e-ring was more of a band, and yeah, I did the same thing – wore it on my right hand and my wedding ring on my left. In that particular situation, what my ex thought of as an e-ring and what I thought of as an e-ring didn’t match up, so I ended up telling him he could get me whatever e-ring he wanted, but if I didn’t like it, I wasn’t going to keep wearing it after the wedding, and he pitched a tantrum at that idea, but did end up getting me a ring in the style that I preferred more than the big blingy nonsense he had in mind. (There were signs. I ignored them. It was dumb. There’s reasons he’s an ex.)

          3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I don’t wear my engagement ring, I only wear the band. People do ask about it from time to time. My engagement ring has a weird setting that catches on things easily and it’s not comfortable to wear. I really don’t care.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              That’s true! Slipped my mind with the safety aspect or comfort. I know quite a few medical staff that won’t wear their engagement ring if the setting is too high or clunky, and will wear a smooth profile band only. I opted to wear a flat band for teaching labs. Easier on/off with gloves.

              But yeah, in general….I can’t say I really notice. I very rarely get questions, and I have a not-typically-colored stone – mine’s bright blue. YMMV, but I think the average person just doesn’t put a lot of focus into what rings are on other people’s hands.

            2. allathian*

              I quit wearing my ring, because the stone setting was uneven and kept collecting gunk. This meant a hugely tedious process whenever I needed to wash my hands, I needed to take it off and dry my hands without wearing the ring. If I didn’t, the damp gunk would irritate my finger to the point that I got a rash. I washed my hands often even in before times, never mind now.
              I wear my ring if I need to dress up for any reason.

        13. Dust Bunny*

          Yes, they often do. The engagement ring goes on the outside (that is, away from the hand) side of the wedding ring.

          But this isn’t an unusual thing, at least in the US, and shouldn’t draw comment.

        14. Archaeopteryx*

          It’s regional. In the PNW it’s somewhat common to just wear your wedding band and save the engagement ring for special occasions, but elsewhere in the US it’s standard to wear your engagement ring always, just like your wedding ring, unless it’s being cleaned or something.

        15. LavaLamp*

          Some people do yes. My mom’s are tacked together so they’re essentially one ring. also a lot of wedding sets are designed to be stacked and worn together.

        16. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, lots of people choose not to of course but generally women continue to wear the engagement ring with the wedding band. I don’t think this was a sexist commentary about marital status, I think it was weird judgment about either the size or number of diamonds on her ring.

    2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I read that comment as a very thinly veiled “well, you don’t NEED the job because you have a husband”.

      Doesn’t matter the size of the bling. I’ve gotten similar while wearing a plan silicone band.

      1. Observer*

        Exactly – I’d say that according to this guy, the OP needs to hide that she’s married.

      2. LunaLena*

        Yeah, that’s how I read it too. I remember when the office manager at my first full-time job was leaving, and the regional manager announced it to everyone as “Office Manager has found a very industrious, well-to-do husband, so she’s leaving us to live a life of leisure.” He clearly meant it to be funny, but I found it to be pretty crass and kind of sexist, especially since it made it sound like the extremely hard-working, well-liked office manager was a lazy sponger.

      3. Batgirl*

        Yup, “Clearly, he bought you a nice ring so why I should hire you over a guy who needs to ‘provide for his family'”…… *headdesk*

    3. Allison*

      Right, if it’s a job where you’re paid based on your “wins” an well as your overall performance, you want to project an image of success, and in professions like law and accounting, you want to look like a successful person. If someone came into an interview with a designer bag, and they worked in a high-paying field, I’d assume they earned the money to afford that bag in their past jobs, not that they’re being taken care of by a wealthy spouse and don’t need to work. But even if they flat-out said “I don’t need to work,” so what? They’re working despite not needing to, which means they have passion for their field of work, and that’s insanely valuable.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        Both parts of this are exactly my thoughts.
        -A nicer wardrobe/car are signs of success, and in the case of an attorney, well… that’s a good sign!
        -Someone who doesn’t strictly *need* to work to survive, but chooses to anyway, gives me a good vibe that they genuinely enjoy their career and will therefore practice in it with gusto!
        This guy is giving outdated, dumb advice with sexist overtones and may be safely ignored :) Any minor adjustments to what pieces you choose to wear or not wear to any particular meeting/interview are entirely on your own judgement, not Judgy Guy’s. Go get em, OP- wearing your Successful Lawyer Threads with pride, because you earned them.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I did hire someone who told me in the interview that he didn’t need to work, and he was an amazing employee. But I think that’s because he needed the work in a different way. He may not have needed the salary, but he did need to feel like he was doing something productive with his time.

        All of OP’s colleague’s focus here is on whether it seems like OP needs the money a job will give her. And whether or not she actually needs that is not particularly relevant. OP doesn’t need to show potential employers that she needs the money she’ll be earning at this job. She needs to show them that she needs the other things this job provides, like a sense of purpose or an opportunity to help families through difficult times. Those are the things that will matter more to an employer than whether or not you’re financially in need.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yes, was coming here to say this! Work can fulfill genuine needs that aren’t money—the need to stay active and engaged with something, the need to feel useful, the need to be productive. Obviously non-paying jobs (volunteering, caring for one’s children, etc.) can fulfill this need for some people, but by and large people do have a psychological need to do productive work.

          I believe there have been studies about post-retirement depression for exactly this reason, and depression in people who are otherwise prohibited from working.

    4. Batty Twerp*

      Just a thought, but it might be a veiled “you’re married, therefore you’re either off to have children or already have children”. It’s not quite in the “needing a job” category, but I do know people for whom their marital status was an unintended factor in their job search.
      (to the best of my knowledge, while it is very illegal to base hiring on pregnancy, I’m less sure about marital status being a direct factor – in my friend’s case it was a convoluted set of coincidences that led to this conclusion)

    5. LCH*

      same. it sounds like he’s saying since you are a married woman, you don’t need a job. what decade is he from?

    6. PleaseVoteInLocalElections*

      Yup. Came here to ask: would the colleague have said that to a man? It’s hard to imagine so.
      This “advice” seems awfully gendered.

    7. Nanani*

      Ding ding ding.
      “You don’t look like you need a job” isn’t because of how you dress, it’s because a lot of people think women aren’t really supposed to work if they have a husband (or in some cases, at all!)

      did you get a chance that he was reaching for things to name when you pressed him for details? Perhaps he realized “because of your wedding ring” was from the wrong century and was BSign the rest

    8. TTDH*

      Yeah… honestly, when I read this I thought exactly that, followed by wondering whether A: the OP is moving to somewhere very conservative (maybe???), and/or B: their old friend is actually an ex. Either way, his comments sound like they’re about his own baggage/expectations and not something the OP should be taking seriously at this point.

    9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t know about the legal profession, but I think in general, regardless of gender, I’d be more inclined to give a job to someone who (based on how they present, and their narrative in an interview, and circumstances, etc) seems to need it, rather than to someone who seems set in life already and doesn’t really need the job but just does it because this is the thing they are interested in in the moment…

      All other things being equal, between someone who seems to ‘need’ the job and someone who would just be taking it as a kind of auxiliary to their already full life, I’d choose the person who needs it because it’s the socially right thing to do.

      1. Pedantic*

        Huh? You can’t be sure anybody needs anything. This whole question has ignore that an entire designer knock-off industry exists, as does credit. Too many folks have the appearance of prosperity while having none at all! Then, there are millionnaires that drive regular cars and don’t live ostentatiously (read The Millionnaire Next Door).

        This post is full of judgement. What does it mean anyway for a job to be auxillary to an already full life? Just select the most qualified person based on relevant criteria, and leave the rest out of it.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          I understand your response; and how can I be sure anyone “needs” anything? I can’t, and I’m sorry if it came across the wrong way. What I was trying to get across was that given two otherwise “completely the same” candidates (ofc I know this doesn’t literally exist in reality, it was more of an abstract concept I guess, but I didn’t make that clear) that all other things being equal I’d be more inclined to give the job to the one who would benefit the most from it.

          I didn’t take into account the aspect of knock-off designer items and just assumed that the accessories were the “real deal”, and moreover that people can tell that they are the real deal (I’m a doofus about that and couldn’t tell unless it had some obvious errors of wording on it, like Rolex vs Ralex or so.) I inferred that the items are owned outright rather than being bought on credit, but admittedly now that I read the OP back it doesn’t say that (although I still get the sense that they are owned outright).

          What I meant by a job being auxiliary to an already full life is something like: well, the person already has more than enough money, hobbies to keep them occupied, doesn’t want for anything…but occasionally feels like they would like to have a job to “contribute” somehow, or to have some “mental stimulation”, or whatever it is.. (you can fill in the rest I’m sure!)

    10. Alice's Rabbit*

      Taken in context with the rest of his advice, this didn’t sound sexist to me. He didn’t single out her ring as being a problem because it’s a ring, but rather because it fit the pattern he was trying to explain.
      Some rings are very flashy. Those can be distracting, especially during a job interview. Personally, I don’t wear my engagement ring to interviews, just my wedding band. It still communicates the same social message, but it’s not going to draw attention.

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This comment seems especially odd since I feel like in the legal profession, it wouldn’t be uncommon to be well dressed based on everything I’ve ever seen or heard about fashion norms in that industry.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      My sister is an attorney. She said that there are judges who will make you leave the courtroom if you are not modestly dressed. That goes for both genders.

      We’re not talking fashion police. More like bare feet, ripped jeans, visibly dirty shirts, etc.

      That judge provides donated clothing for people to use should that happen.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Makes the lawyers leave the room if they’re not modestly dressed or the people attending court?

        1. Jenny*

          I have seen judges chastise members of the public for dressing inappropriately. For instance, a judge made a defendant’s mother put on a sweater because she was wearing a see through top.

          Never a defendant.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My experience is with Judge Judy and she has chastised people for being inappropriately dressed for court. I know it’s a reality show.

        1. Not Australian*

          She still maintains appropriate standards of dress for people attending, though; if nothing else, that probably gives her viewers some idea of what’s likely to be acceptable clothing in a real courtroom.

      3. a clockwork lemon*

        There’s a difference between “being modestly dressed” and “wearing designer clothes.” Most properly-fitted business professional attire is modest by default.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this. I can’t think of anything I own that might remotely be considered too immodest for work that I would never think of wearing to work, anyway, for other reasons (too old, too informal, too flashy, etc. I’d wear my tight, back-slit denim skirt to a concert, sure, but not to work!).

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Modestly dressed for women usually means things like kitten heels and stockings if you’re wearing a skirt suit though, not that you can’t be wearing Chanel. In fact, that’s a luxury brand that’s very modest and I highly doubt any judge would send a woman wearing a Chanel suit home to change.

      1. Clisby*

        +1. Dressing “modestly” does not mean dressing inexpensively. I suppose some people might include dressing flashily as being immodest, but I doubt that’s what a judge has in mind.

        1. DireRaven*

          I define dressing “modestly” as dressing appropriately for the occasion and climate with all necessary bits covered to avoid indecency charges so as not to draw excessive attention to yourself. So, an itty bitty bikini is perfectly appropriate at a pool party, but not in a courtroom whereas a nice suit and heels (maybe the swimsuit and the regular suit are by the same designer…) is appropriate in a courtroom, but not at a pool party.

    3. TootsNYC*

      also, if you’ve had a private practice, I’d think that being able to purchase quality clothes, etc., is proof that you were SUCCESSFUL at that practice, which would be a good recommendation. No?

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m really not trying to start anything here, and I originally hesitated posing this question, but screw it.

    I seriously wonder if the OP would have gotten this same advice if she was a man.

    Alec Baldwin’s Coffee is for Closers speech comes to mind.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I did wonder if there was something gendered to it. Would this colleague worry about a male looking “too flashy”?

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Thought the same thing. Would he say something if a man had diamonds on his platinum wedding band?

      1. TootsNYC*

        probably yes.
        It’s not WASP-y enough; it’s ethnic (read “Italian”), or “mobster,” or something.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I don’t k ow why it would be mobster like? My ex step dad’s ring had small diamonds in the band.

      2. Hillary*

        Just diamonds? No.

        Big diamonds on the wedding band, big gold class ring on their right hand, huge designer watch, gold bracelets, gold necklace(s), and gold cufflinks? That says flashy to me. (Yes, I’ve met that guy more than once. Always in sales and usually but not always from New Jersey.)

    3. Forrest*

      I’m seeing two possible interpretations of this advice, one extremely non-legit and one POSSIBLY legit:

      – you are a woman, you look all womany and well-dressed, I bet you have a rich husband, women with rich husbands don’t need a job and don’t have the hunger, you can’t trust married women, they just up and off on you.

      – this is an area of law where people don’t make a lot of money and do it for the moral integrity, sense of righteousness, desire to help others, and there’s a bit of solidarity built around not being like THOSE lawyers, with their six-figure salaries and BMWs, and if you’re carrying a $5k handbag and driving a BMW, it’s just a bit jarring and weird.

      But it’s impossible that you’re an experienced attorney and just … haven’t noticed the second possibility, so I’m going with #1.

      1. Teapot Tía*

        The OP says they’re moving to another part of the same state – as a New Yorker, that makes me think there could be a third interpretation (or maybe a subcategory of your second): “you look like a fancy New York City lawyer and we don’t like fancy New York City people in these parts.” (The fact that there may not be much if any practical difference between how fancy Big City in the State people dress & well-off local metro people dress is inconsequential, if the real issue is “you rich big city people invading our little city”.)

        1. Observer*

          This guy must an extremely poor communicator if he said “you look like you don’t need a job” when what he meant is “We tend to dress differently here – more casual and laid back”.

          Also, I simply don’t think it’s possible to ignore the issue that he mentioned her wedding ring and “needing” a job.

          1. Teapot Tía*

            I very much don’t think he was trying to be helpful. And yes, there’s obvious gendered bigotry going on here. Could be both/and.

          2. Ominous Adversary*

            Lawyers are supposed to be good communicators as part of the job! If he meant to say that she should dress in a less-expensive suit or switch out her handbag because she was applying at a legal aid clinic or whatever, he could and likely would have said that explicitly.

            This is a guy who is uncomfortable on some level with successful women (law is infested with guys like this) and is projecting it into weird career advice.

        2. Summersun*

          Yes, I’ve heard of very specific old-school judges being notorious in their areas (i.e., the walrus in South Carolina who pitches a fit if women attorneys aren’t wearing hosiery) but advice in that genre is specific for a reason–it includes who and where the person/jurisdiction is. A vague “you look too done” comment is not that.

        3. Smithy*

          If the OP would otherwise vet the colleague – this comes to mind strongly.

          If you’re relocating from a “big city” to a location used to receiving those transplants and perceives them as wealth – and especially in a time a COVID – there may be relevant criteria at play in terms of “seeming like you need a job”. It may be that the OP is moving from NYC to San Francisco, or another kind of move where this is irrelevant. But if I think of larger attitudes around California residents moving to other Western states there is a stereotype of arriving as wealthy people/raising cost of living/etc.

          I 100% agree that the overall comment is gendered to a woman differently than a man, but I wouldn’t entirely dismiss it.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Oh NYC to SF could absolutely tick that off. “Here WE wear HOODIES and FLEECE VESTS and ALLBIRDS for dress up, not DRESSES and SUITS and HEELS.”

            People in SF are really snobby about their casual attire, which is sort of funny because that’s exactly what they’re accusing dressed up people of doing with their fancy attire.

            1. First Star on the Right*

              “Here WE wear HOODIES and FLEECE VESTS and ALLBIRDS for dress up, not DRESSES and SUITS and HEELS.”

              This made me laugh so hard. It’s dead on.

            2. whingedrinking*

              I live in a notoriously casual West Coast city that hosted the Olympics a few years ago, and I vaguely remember a newspaper article bemoaning the fact that the world was coming here, and we were all in yoga pants and Chuck Taylors.
              The general response in the comment section was: exactly, they’re coming *here*. If they don’t like athleisure wear they can go home.

            3. Smithy*

              Well there ya go!

              I had a boss who was very rude generically, and that would include feedback about clothing. There were two times where she saw what I was wearing and based on meetings I had that day, sent me home to change. She delivered that message in a bewildering and cruel fashion – BUT – both times she was spot on that I wasn’t dressed quite right and I was thrilled to be in my revised look.

              If the OP’s colleague is overall someone who the OP trusts – there may be genuinely helpful information in the message, even if the message isn’t clear. Wearing a full tailored business suit is “too fancy” or reads as “expensive” whereas in other areas it’s just an interview look. It may be that the OP has another trusted peer where it’s an area to probe to sniff out whether this was some gendered sexist nonsense, or if there are more pragmatic issues at play.

              1. Observer*

                As someone pointed out, competent lawyers NEED to be decent communicators. If what he meant is that “you’re dressing more formally than is typical here” he should have said so, not trotted stupid and sexist tropes about married women not needing jobs and therefore not being good hireas.

                1. Smithy*

                  I’ve worked with a number of attorneys who could communicate with clients and explain points of law brilliantly – and then couldn’t give directions to the shop around the corner.

                  The OP trusted this person enough to seek their advice. I see this as a solid red flag – where if there are no other red flags – then maybe it’s worth checking with another peer or probing more deeply. If it’s matched by other red flags, then all of the “it’s stupid and can be ignored” – definitely makes more sense.

                  I worked at a very casual nonprofit overseas, where as the only fundraiser, the Executive Director once asked me to instruct all program staff how to dress better when meeting with donors and international media. And it turned out to be a very difficult task that I do not think I did well. So it may be my personal experience being mindful that “tell someone how to dress to meet a different cultural expectation” was really difficult as a work task. Even if a lot of what I did at work also involved clearly communicating.

        4. Letter Writer Here*

          It is me the original letter writer. To answer this is a colleague I trust and have never see exercise any type of poor judgment in the past. He is also a fairly stylish person for a man in his late 50s, which caused me to be even more taken aback. After writing here and stewing over my wardrobe for a little while longer I picked up the phone and asked him for clarification. Apparently, what he was trying to convey to me, in perhaps the least artful manner possible, is that my new locality is largely agricultural and with that comes a more casual or at least less “big city” aesthetic and that it is far more conservative and I am likely to encounter more misogyny and gendered bias than I have previously. As it turns out, he was also extrapolating on commentary offered by some of his older partners to whom he introduced me, but did not wish to come out and say that as he felt it would taint my opinion of them and the regional legal community is fairly small. Apparently, they spent some time speculating that my husband was likely a tech executive now not bound to his office moving into “our town” to buy up all the cheap land.

          That being said it would not suit me to go to work or conduct professional networking in jeans. I already have struggled with body image/appearance issues as I put myself out there to find new professional opportunities as I am overweight at present. I am going to go with the notion that since I do not have a truly garish appearance it is best to present myself in the way I am most comfortable. I have an upcoming interview and will fortunately have a balanced panel of female and male attorneys.

        5. Alice's Rabbit*

          That’s a good point. You want to look like you’ll fit in your new surroundings. While LW’s clothes are fairly conservative in color, the overall style might scream Big City Lawyer.
          So perhaps some scouting expeditions are in order, to see what her colleagues in the new town tend to wear. If they’re all wearing more relaxed fashions, LW might want to loosen up, too.

    4. Anne Elliot*

      This came across as gendered to me as well. I cannot see a man telling another man “dress less well, dress like you need a job.”

    5. Observer*

      Three certainly is something gendered – Notice that he has an issue with her wedding ring. That would NEVER come up for a guy, especially in the context of “needing” a job.

      1. NBGB*

        Maybe it would in the sense that the man needs a job to provide for his family. Who knows with this guy.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Right, especially since many people who are not particularly well-off have nice engagement rings, because it’s something culturally valued for them and they saved up for it. It’s super weird to read anything into an engagement ring… unless you buy into the lie that married women “need” jobs less than “breadwinner” men and thus women only work to have more “fun money” (ugh).

    6. Lynca*

      That’s honestly my feel. I’ve had so much nonsense advice about dressing from people I generally respect that isn’t valid.

      Especially about purses. Even though my bag has never even gotten a comment- I always get told not to use a ‘flashy high-end purse’ because you are just showing off wealth.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Which is funny because most high-end bags do not have visible logos (thinking of my Bvlgari and Celine bags), so no one would know that they were expensive unless you told them or they could spot real leather (which I can assure you, the average person cannot).

      2. TootsNYC*

        and it’s terribly funny because I would bet MOST people couldn’t tell the difference at all.

      3. Eether Eyether*

        My dentist wanted me to have several crowns done and I said that I couldn’t afford it (at the time). His next statement was, wow, that’s a really nice handbag. It was a brand new Dooney & Bourke. My mother had just died and I bought-AT THE OUTLET–to cheer myself up. So, it happens…

        1. ThatGirl*

          I have a Dooney & Bourke purse. It’s Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World) themed and my mother in law bought it for me for Christmas because I married into a Disney-crazed family. I wouldn’t have bought it for myself, but you know what, it’s gonna last me for like 20 years. (Also, D&B isn’t as stupid expensive as some brands out there.)

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I find myself getting judged for this as well. I have a huge Kate Spade tote; it is beautiful and in pristine condition. About $400 brand new, which is a lot to me but to a lot of people mid-range. I bought it for $45 at a resale store & it came with the dust bag. And it will likely last me for 10 years. But every once in awhile I get a “must be nice” comment in regards to my perceived income and I am like, um…what?

            1. ThatGirl*

              And I love Kate Spade’s stuff, so if I ever found one that was pristine for $45 you bet you I’d buy THAT in a heartbeat. But yeah, it’s kind of annoying to be judged – I get it, some people would never spend more than $50 for a purse. Or shoes. Or more than – pick an amount – for a car. But having one (or even a few) higher-end things doesn’t mean you’re loaded.

            2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

              I wouldn’t even spend that… $45 just for a bag?! (unless it is an investment of some sort?) What does that bag give you that the one from the supermarket doesn’t?

              I am relatively well off and I spend a max of (assuming 1 GBP = 1.5 USD) $30 on a pair of shoes, $15 on a bag, $30 as a limit on any individual item of clothing but normally more like $2o or less.

              Anything more than that I see as spending excessively, which leads to endless conflict with my partner who has the “buy cheap, buy twice” attitude and routinely spends a lot more money on things like shoes that are actually intended to be short-lived and disposable.

              1. Batgirl*

                That’s only £34 sterling. You cant get real leather (or equivalent strength fabric) or good stitching for that money no matter what the shop, or the label. If you’re okay with regularly replacing your handbags you can get ones that look good and perform fine for a tenner. Replacing them can be fun too. I like more lasting handbags though because I tend to get used to the pockets and filing system I have. I like the way a good handbag ages, too. I did once get a primark handbag that lasted eons. Total fluke though, it never happened again.

              2. Pomona Sprout*

                What kind of bag are you talking about? I assume Uranus Wars was talking about a handbag/purse. $45 is not a huge amount of money for a nice purse where I come from. I say this as someone who lives in a rented apartment and hasn’t bought a non-used car since 1988, and anything I own with a designer label was purchased at a thrift shop, on clearance, or in a store like TJMaxx that sells higher end merchandise at discounted prices.

                But I really am wondering if that’s what you meant, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen purses/handbags of any kind sold in a supermarket.

                1. Uranus Wars*

                  Yes! I know this was from yesterday but this is a largish, structured, zippered tote. I use it to tote files back and forth from the office (when I was commuting) as well as to put books or magazines in for when I am going somewhere I might have a wait (like a doctors office) or my tablet and things when travelling. It is quite functional!

                  And also, I have never seen anything sold similarly in a grocer here, so I don’t think we mean the same bag.

              3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                I would love to be able to get shoes for $30, where “able” means they fit my feet well enough not to hurt, and will last at least two months.

                I don’t spend more on shoes because I think shoes should be expensive: I spend more on shoes because the people who make inexpensive shoes don’t believe people with my shape of feet exist (that’s the positive interpretation, there are definitely times when it feels like “don’t believe people with my shape of foot deserve to be able to go outside without pain”).

                There’s also what Terry Pratchett called the “boots” theory of money, that you can buy cheap boots for $30 and they’ll last you three months and possibly leak, or you can buy expensive boots for $150 and they’ll last you ten years. So at the end of ten years the poor person has had to spend twice as much on boots as the middle-class person, and still has wet feet.

                If you can get good clothing — defined, again, as actually doing their job, so a winter coat will actually keep me warm and dry — for the budget you mentioned, please let me know where you shop. I’m in the US, but I have family and friends in England who could use that information.

                1. WS*

                  +1, if I had very narrow feet I could buy women’s shoes more cheaply. If I had slightly longer feet, I could wear men’s shoes more cheaply. But my feet are small and shaped like duck flippers, therefore I’m stuck with specialist wide-fit shoes.

                2. allathian*

                  @WS, I have what I call Daisy Duck feet, so I hear you. I’m lucky in that my feet are big enough that I can wear small-size men’s shoes reasonably comfortably, as well as wide-sole flats. I’m lucky in that I work in a very casual office, so I can get away with going to work in sneakers and wearing open-toe sandals (with thin socks or stockings rather than bare feet) when I’m actually at the office.

              4. Media Monkey*

                at those sort of prices (sounds like you are in the UK so i am going to guess supermarkets, primark, zara, H&M, maybe the odd bit of next or topshop) things do not last and are not well made. you could also research the impact of treating clothes/ shoes. accessories as “disposable” has on the environment and on the lives/ wages/ working conditions of the people who make them. no shade on people who need clothes and that is what is within their budget but you said that’s not the case with you so…

                1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                  I’m not sure if people are still reading the thread, but… yes, I’m in the UK.

                  Yes I buy shoes and clothing mostly from supermarkets, primark, etc (zara, h&m, next, topshop are “too expensive” for me…!) and yet I’m well off…. why? Because I feel like most of these companies ultimately exploit working conditions in the same way, but they leverage it in different ways of making profits; either “sell cheap and sell a large amount” (like Primark) or “sell at a bit more expensive price and sell fewer but ultimately make the same profit based on the same suppliers”.

                  The real reason though is a bit closer to home, and relates to self-worth and stuff. I have a pretty shitty opinion of my own self to be honest, and a long-time inferiority complex, and feel like I’m not “worth” spending £200 (or whatever) on the “Good Thing” when I could spend £30 and purchase the thing that gets the job done for now.

                  And then (and I know this is bad) I sometimes vocally project this on to others, like co-workers who bought a £60k all-electric, all-tech car (probably by borrowing money but still) while I earn the same and am driving a car from 2010 with a £2000 (if that, probably less) resale value.

              5. ThatGirl*

                I find it interesting that you consider a $15 purse or $20 item of clothing your spending limit but criticize your partner for buying cheaply … clothes from H&M, for instance, are generally inexpensive but don’t last me more than a year; clothes from Land’s End will run me a bit more but last me much longer. My inexpensive, impulse-purchased purses tend to be cheaply made and will show wear, fall apart and just end up in the landfill; my Dooney & Bourke purse is well-constructed and has already lasted me nearly a decade with very little wear.

                As Alison said, it’s fine if you don’t prioritize the same things others do, but you may find that buying higher quality shoes, purses, clothes etc will last you much longer and reduce waste.

                1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                  Yes, on reflection I understand that clothes from supermarkets, H&M (or similar) only last a couple of years whereas clothes from (… well, I don’t know what to give as an example, since I’ve never looked in to it… but I know they exist, of course) will last for many years.

                  As much as I try to take a “big picture view” about lots of things, I find it hard to apply to myself. I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive the next couple of years, so as such I try to minimise the amount of “long-term” things I commit to right now. But also as mentioned in the thread above, feel like I don’t “deserve” to spend any more than I do.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  I haven’t bought a new purse in 20 years, because my mom got me a good quality leather one when I graduated high school, and it still looks like new. I have a couple dressy clutches, and larger totes for the farmers market or the beach, but only the one black leather purse.
                  Same with shoes. I used to buy cheap. Then I got a pair of Rockport flats that lasted me 13 years wearing them at least 3 days a week (often every day). They were $120, but in the same amount of time I would have needed new $30 shoes every year. Overall, I saved $270 on shoes in that time.
                  Trendy fashions aren’t worth that kind of money. But a quality, timeless piece is.

      4. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I’m so ignorant about designer stuff, I doubt I’d know a high-end handbag if I fell over one. Someone could say, “It’s a Insert Brand Name Here,” and I’d say, “OK.” I have no idea what these things look like or how much they cost.

    7. Bluesboy*

      Right? I sometimes think that this community is just a touch too quick to jump to the ‘I bet this difficult person to manage is a man’ (while recognising that there are many gendered issues in the workplace), but in this case…I can’t imagine that a man wearing an Armani suit and Church’s shoes carrying a Mont Blanc briefcase would be told that his clothing was not appropriate to look for a job in a legal studio, also because…surely a legal office WANTS someone who has proven to be very successful?

      (To be clear, I too am not trying to stir anything when I say that I feel the community can jump to gendering, but just to stress that EVEN a person who feels that way sees a gendered response in this one!)

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Actually, I could absolutely see that being overkill for an interview at a legal firm in most any place but a handful of cities. It would be fine in New York City, Boston, or DC. But in rural New York or Virginia, it would be pretentious.

    8. Elizabeth*

      The wedding ring comment is what really makes me think this. Even people who aren’t wealthy will spring for a little sparkle on their wedding ring, a piece of jewelry that you will presumably wear for the rest of your life! I also find it highly unlikely that a man could tell that her clothes were expensive. My partner’s family is extremely wealthy and at 30 he still can’t tell if something I’m wearing is designer or Zara

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I’m fashion blind and can’t tell designer clothes or purses from Walmart ones unless I can examine them closely. It’s strange to be able to glance at someone and know exactly what they are wearing.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Fashion blind also, since I can’t afford it. The most I can do is wear whatever colors happen to be popular. But usually the difference between cheap jewelry and expensive is that the cheaper jewelry is larger. Cubic zirconia, or whatever, costs less so some people buy it bigger. But not always, people with money to spend will spend it.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            My mother loved costume jewellery and I inherited several very nice cubic zirconia rings that are obviously fake but look so nice. I like wearing them because if they get dinged it’s not the end of the world. But again, I can’t tell the $50 piece from the $5000 one.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        My partner’s family is extremely wealthy and at 30 he still can’t tell if something I’m wearing is designer or Zara

        Ha! I said this below – the average person is not that tuned into fashion to be able to tell the difference between mid-range and luxury brands, even people who are around luxury things. There’s just entirely too many looks per season per designer to commit them all to memory, so if anything, people will just note that you look nice and sharp – they won’t be able to tell what you paid to look that way.

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Even people who aren’t wealthy will spring for a little sparkle on their wedding ring,

        I spent exactly £5.99 (about $8) on a wedding ring at the time because I didn’t feel the need to “spring for a little sparkle” (I’m divorced now, but not because of that.. but glad I didn’t spend more!) because the relationship should speak for itself.

        I think any time you use some kind of purchased object as a proxy for “whatever sentiment you hope to convey”… you are going to be on the losing end.

        Doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding ring, something masculine like a briefcase, designer brand shoes or shirt or whatever.

        1. Batgirl*

          I’m wearing a cheap ring, but you wouldn’t know. The thing is, he’s not a jeweller. She might have been really thrifty and gone for ‘big cubic zirconia’ over tiny but pure diamond. He zeroed in on it because he’s focused on her marital status and upon making asumptions on what that means.

    9. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

      My first thought as well.

      My brain immediately jumped to: would he say the same thing to a man in a high-end, well-tailored suit who drove an expensive car?

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yes, most likely. The letter writer commented above that she went back and asked for clarification. Her clothes read “big city lawyer” which came across as pretentious when applying to firms out in the countryside. So yes, a male lawyer would have gotten the same advice, including the ring, if his wedding band was flashy.

    10. QuinleyThorne*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this. They probably didn’t mean ill intent, but it definitely comes off that way. It makes me wonder if they’d give the same advice about expensive watches, cuff links, or expensive suits or something (I dunno what dudes wear to look expensive).

    11. Tasha*

      I was coming here to say the same. I can’t imagine a man being told he didn’t look like he needed a job.

      OP, ignore this “advice.”

    12. Hiring Mgr*

      I agree, but I don’t think you need to delicately raise the issue – it’s probably around 90% certain that it’s the case, and certainly the most obvious explanation..

    13. Kiki*

      It definitely reads as gendered to me, even if the person giving the advice didn’t think he was saying something gendered.
      When a man has nice things, people assume he worked hard for them. When a woman has nice things, they assume she has a wealthy husband and doesn’t need to work.
      It also made me roll my eyes because there is a 95% chance the guy doling out this advice can’t tell Alexander McQueen from Target. (Not a dig at Target, I love Target.)

    14. 2horseygirls*

      I wholeheartedly agree.

      If a male attorney showed up with scuffed shoes, a stain on his tie, and yellow collar, would he be more appealing/employable than a female who wears a wedding ring set (solitaire engagement ring and band with stones), a nice suit with a conservative shell, and polished flats or low heels?

      Would he be interpreted as more in need of a job?

      Many “high end” brands can be found for pennies on the dollar at consignment or thrift stores, websites, or gifted to people from friends and relatives. I can get a 2014 Mercedes for under $16,000 that looks fresh off the showroom floor. Because I am a prudent and careful shopper, I am deemed undeserving of a position that pays a fair salary?

      How very 1950s.

    15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t know if the OPs ‘mentor’ would have advised the same to a man, but I think I would. Expensive watches, cars etc etc aren’t really specific to gender.. I’d be thinking if this guy can be driving a luxury SUV does he really need the job?

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I really hope you aren’t involved in hiring. I guess it’s completely impossible for a person driving a luxury SUV to have paid it off before getting laid off. It’s probably also completely impossible for someone with a modest income to save money to buy something expensive — just because I own a pair of Rothys I could shell out another $150 any time with no problem! (That was sarcasm, by the way: I saved for year to buy those.)

  6. Jaybeetee*

    I mean, lawyers generally make pretty good money. Haute couture might he unusual, but dressing well, with “good” brands, shouldn’t set off any alarm bells. In fact, my first thought would be it would be more flaggy to show up to an interview for a six-figure job looking bedraggled.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah the standard outfit for attorneys is a suit and nice shoes. What else would you be wearing.

      I work with low income folks — in family law, with a lot of domestic violence. No one has judged me on what I wear. Now when I meet with clients I am in jeans and a t-shirt, but that’s my personal style. Most of them WANT their attorney to look like an attorney. Only lost one client though who didn’t like the casual dress outside of court. The Judges? They tease me if they see me outside the courthouse in my regular attire. But that’s it.

      According to this advice, people with money shouldn’t get jobs because they don’t NEED them? People work for a variety of reasons — most because they have bills to pay — but some because they like to work.

      1. Artemesia*

        Even a poor person wants a ‘good lawyer’ i.e. a successful competent lawyer who presumably makes therefore a good living. A poor person expects the lawyer to be not poor — to be successful and therefore in a position to prevail on their behalf.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Unless maaaaybe you’re in tech, but you should still dress nice for the interview.

    3. Mazzy*

      This question being ask by an attorney with 15 years experience is a bit weird. But for other jobs, I think there is a nugget of truth to the concern. Once, I interviewed someone moving to my area, and I followed up with them, and they were talking about eating out and then moving to an extremely expensive area ($2500-$3000 for a one bedroom in today’s dollars) and the job paid about $60K in today’s dollars and was pretty entry level. I got a couple of clues that the person was out of touch with the norms that they’d be living with in our office and this just added to that picture.

      A few years ago I actually worked with someone like this and they did seem a bit entitled to come and go as they please, and wanted to WFH when WFH was more taboo before covid, and wanted to take extra PTO unpaid (but we still needed work done). There were a few other office specific things that weren’t the end of the world, but I think most employers would prefer someone with a sense of humility rather than someone who’s going to act like the job is an impediment to their lifestyle

      1. TechWorker*


        We hired someone who came from a super wealthy background and they just… didn’t care very much? Obviously that’s not in direct correlation to wealth but if you see a well paid professional job as pocket money then it’s maybe not thaaaat surprising to take it less seriously. (To be clear, that’s not a reason not to hire someone, but in the hypothetical scenario where two candidates are otherwise identical.. idk..)

  7. Jennifer*

    I’m divided about this. On the one hand, I don’t think we should try to determine how much money someone has based on the brand of shoes they wear or the car they drive. On the other hand, with unemployment being so bad right now, I know there are people out there who are more sympathetic to people who seem to be truly in need of a job. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s just how some people think.

    Plus there are some people that just flat out don’t like wealthy people. I took my picture off Linkedin and started to get a lot more messages about jobs because people are racist. Is that right? Of course not, but it’s the world we live in and sometimes you have to play the game. I don’t think you have to start taking the bus and show up for an interview in rags, but toning it down may be something to think about.

      1. Threeve*

        Definitely not. But leaving anything else visibly a luxury good at home? Yeah, maybe. A small label on a black handbag might be very unobtrusive–but if that label says “Prada,” people are going to notice. If you have five pairs of ordinary looking ballet flats, but they all have turquoise soles, a decent number of people are going to know that each pair cost about $200.

        Telling someone to “look like they need a job” is absurd. But it’s also true that many people (and just about everyone working retail) don’t have the best associations with people visibly displaying wealth.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Ok, I know I tend to be kind of oblivious to this sort of thing, but how many people are staring that closely at a small label on a handbag? If I did happen to notice, even I know what “Prada” means, but if I’m interviewing someone, I’m going to be paying attention to them, not their handbag. And for an interview, how would anyone know that she owns five $200 pairs of shoes rather than that she’s wearing her nicest shoes to an interview?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Exactly. No one is thinking this deeply about clothes during an interview unless you are wildly unprofessionally dressed. Trust me. When I interviewed at a prior company in person, I wore $600 Lanvin wedges and carried a designer purse. My manager couldn’t have told you what I was wearing that day. She almost didn’t even recognize me the morning she came to get me from the lobby to start my first day!

            1. whingedrinking*

              An interviewer once noticed my shoes and commented (favourably) on them when she went to offer me the job, but they were bright blue Fluevogs. ‘vogs are pretty distinctive even if you’re not part of their cult following, so that’s hardly surprising. The difference between, say, a black ballet flat from Prada and one from a mid-range mall shoe store would be much harder to clock at a glance unless you had a particular interest in shoes.

              1. Anonym*

                I would not be able to resist commenting on someone’s ‘Vogs, though I would try in an interview. I would probably be wearing some!

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          The LW isn’t applying for a retail job, she’s applying for a job at a law firm, likely at a senior level. Her colleague’s advice is way off base. He didn’t say, you’re carrying a Prada bag which may not be a good idea to that interview at Rural Legal Aid. He didn’t say, you’re dressed the way it would be appropriate for a lawyer in Big City, but I know that the culture in Smaller City is more casual and you might want to be less formal. He went on an uniformed rant about how everything from her wedding rings to her car sent the wrong message, topped off with a claim that she needs to look more desperate.

          1. Jennifer*

            I disagree with the wedding ring comment also. But there are a lot of people across many industries that know a lot about fashion and would pick up on that kind of thing.

        3. AnonForThis*

          (waving) Hi from the girl with five pairs of flats with turquoise soles!

          Since I do not wear all five pairs at once, I do not know how anyone would know how many pairs I have – or care that I save birthday and Christmas money gifts to buy one pair a year or buy like new from eBay and Poshmark, and those are pretty much the only shoes I wear, so they are worth it to me for the comfort factor.

          I had to endure an rant from my mother about the price of Coach purses she saw at the PX at the local Naval base whilst my brother and sister-in-law stared uncomfortably at my Coach bag on the chair across from Mom. I know that I bought it at the outlet, and have carried it daily for over 9 years, so I let her rant.

          My vintage Cartier diamond and platinum triple rolling ring has more stones than the ones you see on the Cartier website these days. It was an eBay find from an estate jewelry company, and it is definitely the least flashy (and least expensive) of all my family’s and friends’ wedding rings. I bought it because it is my unusual larger size, and as an equestrian, it did not have a protruding stone to potentially get caught on something at the barn and rip my finger off. (In full disclosure, I usually either do not wear a ring to the barn, or wear the $25 silver triple rolling ring that I bought to test wear and make sure I liked this style of ring before I bought the Cartier…..)

          My Tahoe was purchased used from a Mercedes dealer who way underpriced it because they had no idea what it was. It is a 2005 that was purchased in 2008, and currently has 198,000 miles on it. During the lockdown, my husband did some body work; replaced all the lights with LEDs; and detailed it to death and back again. My barn manager asked if I had gotten a new truck.

          So if you are going to make assumptions about me because I wear Tieks shoes and a Cartier ring, carry a Coach bag, and drive a Tahoe to ride my horse, that is completely your prerogative.

          But then please also assume that I have worked honestly and diligently, and EARNED the money for these things that I take very good care of so they last a very long time.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        If it’s flashy, yes. Wear a simple band for interviews, not something that will distract.

    1. a clockwork lemon*

      If you’re applying for a professional job because you got laid off from your other professional job because of COVID (so, sometime in the past six months), it would be insane on the part of an interviewer to assume someone doesn’t “need” a job because they’re wearing the same clothes to the interview as they wore to work/court earlier in the year. Same thing with cars–if you’re only going to get $25k on trade for your paid off 2016 Mercedes, why bother replacing it with a used Honda?

      Specific to this LW, though, her colleague told her to not wear her wedding rings to interviews because they’re too flashy. Very few people find themselves in such dire straits that they need to sell off all their wedding jewelry (even in bankruptcy that’s a personal item they let people keep regardless of how much it’s worth.) The guy’s just being sexist.

    2. Metadata minion*

      It sounds like she already is pretty toned-down unless she’s wearing seriously high-end stuff. A plain suit or dress, blazer, wedding ring…that sounds like utterly normal interview attire to me.

  8. nona*

    He gave you weird advice. You sound like you were dressed like any other lawyer (small or large firm), and therefore dressed to show you understand professional norms.

    That being said – I wouldn’t work for/with him. It sounds like he wants people who can’t afford to quit working for him (or his firm) (aka “look like they need the job”) and therefore will put up with more crap. And the idea that her (perfectly professional) presentation disqualified the OP (rather than the resume) is just…yuck.

    1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      He sounds like, and this is being incredibly charitable, he got the common advice of, “dress for the job you want,” twisted in his head.

      As Alison said, unless you’re wearing things that are SCREAMING money it won’t even be thought about as standard corporate wear for most professions is very streamlined. Even if your wealth is whispering around you, most people wouldn’t even notice unless you were purposely standing out.

      Uncharitably, however, guy might be a tad sexist. And a toxic boss at that.

  9. WellRed*

    OP, did you move to a small town in the 1950s? And men, don’t give women fashion advice, thanks.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      + 1 to your last sentence – unless they’re a successful fashion designer or stylist themselves, of course.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      She is moving to a small town. She clarified about this above. She went back for a second conversation with him and asked what he meant. He explained that her big city fashions were coming across as pretentious to small town law firms, and she needed to dial it down.

  10. AnotherAlison*

    Maybe the colleague is trying to communicate that the OP’s style is too “urban” for this new location, and has attributed it to something else (not needing a job).

        1. Pescadero*

          Actually – in a lot of rural areas near where I live… yes.

          Farmers drive pickups, and ratted-out SUVs based on full frame trucks.
          City folk drive unibody luxury “SUV” type vehicles.

          Can you tow a hay wagon with it? Will it really go off road? Can you spray it out with a hose? That is rural.

          Your Range Rover/Lincoln Navigator/etc. with leather interior and built in Alexa is something city folks drive.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I was thinking more the whole overall appearance, but it’s ridiculous if you think there aren’t demographic differences in wedding rings. I have no idea what ring the OP has, but if she is a successful professional attorney married to someone who makes even more, there’s a good chance her ring is pretty nice! If she’s now in a smaller town with lower average incomes, earlier ages for marriage, etc., her ring could come off as extravagant to others. It’s not anyone’s business, but OP might be thinking she’s wearing completely normal clothes that she always wears, while she’s really dressing full Corporette in a Target shopper kind of county.

        1. Joielle*

          Corporette vs. Target wardrobe could be a valid point, but “you dress like you don’t need a job” would be a weird way to express that. Maybe it’s just a dude who has some vague fashion-related advice and isn’t explaining it well, though. Wouldn’t be the first time.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Then the advice should have been “this area isn’t as wealthy, and you’ll want to dress down a bit more to be more in line with the public/clientele” rather than “dress worse so you’ll appear desperate for a job”. Those are two very different things.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I mean, my whole comment was just me trying to guess at what the OP’s colleague was really getting at. I felt he had something more unkind on the tip of his tongue and the “need a job” bit was just what he was able to get out of his mouth first in the moment.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              To be honest, I think that’s a bit too charitable. If that’s the actual concern, he should have used his words and said so, rather than say something so open to the wrong kind of interpretation. Plus, the generic person, without logos, isn’t going to recognize the difference between $6000 black pumps and $60 black pumps. Heck, many people I’d be willing to bet wouldn’t be able to off hand tell the difference between diamond and moissanite. OP states none of her wear/accessories has logos. It already sounds (to me) like the OP is aware of regional differences, and is trying to not appear flashy already.

              This sounds like very, very much advice often given by men to women in an attempt to ‘help’ while actually being layers of sexism. Maybe Advice Giver had some good intentions in there somewhere, buried deep, but good intentions marred by an absolute crap way of delivering the intentions still is crap.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                It was the actual concern. The letter writer spoke with him again and clarified what he meant. Nothing sexist at all. Just the difference between big city lawyer vs small town firm.
                That so many people are jumping all over him with zero evidence is just sad. He was trying to figure out a delicate way to tell her to tone things down, is all.

  11. glitter writer*

    I think the colleague is off the mark, but also there are some regional variances in appearance and attire. For example I have a designer handbag that doesn’t stand out one tiny bit in the city where I live — it’s significantly cheaper and lower-end than much of what I see in this city, or at least what I did see when commuting and offices were still a daily occurrence — but when I visit my family in another region, it stands out like a sore thumb and I tend not to bring it. The same goes for several dresses I wear in my home city (none of them are designer clothes, and similarly nobody in my home city would blink an eye at any of them), which I have learned I cannot easily bring with me to visit my family or my in-laws without standing out more than I like to.

    None of that makes the colleague’s advice any less bonkers as presented, though.

    1. Forrest*

      Ha, I had a job where I was based in northern England but the rest of my team was based in London and I was constantly amazed by the size of the stones in my London colleagues’ engagement rings. Just–SO big! SO glittery! I didn’t realise they existed outside of magazines!

      1. Country Mouse*

        Tee Hee. I felt the same way when my in laws got engaged. They were city mice while I was just a country mouse. Each of our diamond engagingment rings reflect what Forrest mentions.
        I do wear mine most of the time, because it is low profile. She only wears hers on special occassions. When she does, I need to shade my eyes it is so large.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        And in reverse, my husband’s big city colleagues are shocked that we not only own a house, we own a triplex with a large yard. They live in tiny apartments and are lucky to have a balcony, while we have fruit trees and a vegetable garden, and our own swing set in the back yard, and a big lawn to run on.
        What’s considered normal varies wildly from city to countryside. I’ve lived in both, and have the bipolar wardrobe to prove it. My tailored suits and silk blouses are currently at the back of the closet, behind cotton sundresses, jeans, t-shirts and bulky sweaters. My leather flats with metallic embellishments are boxed up, but my tennis shoes, work boots, sandals, and simple dress shoes are on the rack.
        I don’t have a big, flashy ring because it would get in my way. Someone who doesn’t grub in a garden doesn’t have to worry about that, though. So it wouldn’t occur to them that such a ring instantly marks them as an outsider.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Regional differences are a really good point- could it be possible that your colleague was referring more to your overall presentation rather than the cost, and he expressed himself ineptly? Is the OP coming from a tailored-suit-and-heels culture, and entering a blazer-slacks-and-flats culture? I could see how someone could read “formal” as “expensive”.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I can see where you’re coming from, but “You dress like you don’t need a job” would be a suuper inept way of saying a “Hey you’re overdressed”. Plus I feel like OP would have mentioned if they looked/felt overdressed compared to their colleague. Unless everyone else mentioned their clothing needed to change, I’d disregard this bit of advice.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I have learned to never underestimate just how inept some people can be, despite having apparently long careers and tons of experience.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, then his advice could have been, “Try not to dress too formally in X city since they’re more casual in their law firms.” But he said, “You look like you don’t need a job,” which is perplexing advice because it doesn’t mention regional differences (which are valid) and sounds more like a comment on her spending habits, which is none of his or anyone else’s business – and which many people wouldn’t be able to ascertain just from looking at her anyway.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Seconding this. I flew to a funeral in a deep southern state and carried my favorite Coach turn-lock tote on the plane. I can put everything I’ll need during a flight in it, and it’s a great bag in general. I live in a major midwest city and I see it, and its copies, everywhere. It’s nothing flashy, just a simple, well made bag.

      Well, not according to my pious Assembly of God relatives at the funeral service. They thought I was acting like a big city girl, swanning around and flaunting my wealth with a fancy bag. I’m not sure how they knew it was ‘fancy’, the bag wasn’t labeled and I took the brass tag off long ago. A cousin told me I should leave it in the car at the gravesite service out of respect for the family, too many people were talking about the bag and not the deceased. Okay, then!

      I also agree that the OP can ignore the colleague’s advice. It’s remarkably tone-deaf and sexist.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Well, just bless their hearts for not focusing on the dearly departed as they should have been :/

    4. Roja*

      Ditto to all of this. I lived in the city for years before spending five years in a really rural area. I remember feeling so awkward visiting my in-laws and feeling so dressed up, when I was wearing jeans (!), a t-shirt (!!) that fit me well, earrings, and mascara. I also remember one of my husband’s friends telling him in front of me how nice it was for him that he’d married a rich girl and could have a “fancy car”–I drive a car with a good reputation for safety and reliability, but it’s NOT luxury by any stretch of the word. I don’t miss those days.

      So it’s possibly OP is running into some of that. But considering the other gendered parts of the advice and the weird phrasing as “needing a job,” not “fitting in with the locals,” I’m inclined to think it’s really just bad advice and OP is perfectly fine. And really, most people don’t know fashion well and can’t pinpoint $$ to clothes. What they DO pick up on is “does someone look put together or not,” and that can be done with very little (see my earlier example of jeans and a t-shirt).

  12. Goodbye Toby*

    This is so odd. If anything, I would think you are a super successful atty and had a great book of business. If I were working as a PD or in legal aid, I might tone down my wardrobe just to not make clients uncomfortable, but I don’t think this is a weird look at all for family law or private practice

  13. Heidi*

    The bit about the wedding rings bugs me the most about this. Is he saying that the rings themselves are too expensive-looking? Or that the fact that the OP is married signifies that they don’t need to work? The first is probably a non-issue; the second is just completely out of touch.

    1. Semprini!*

      As a woman who supports her husband, I find this doubly frustrating. If anything, I need more money because I’m married – two mouths to feed, two cell phone bills to pay, etc.

    2. BottleBlonde*

      I was picturing a huge diamond or something that would suggest OP/spouse are very wealthy (agree that it’s likely not an issue unless it’s literally the Heart of the Ocean). If it’s the latter, that definitely seems out of touch. I’ve gotten (also bad and unsolicited) advice that I should wear a fake wedding ring to interviews to appear more “settled down.” I guess you can’t win!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, I definitely took his comment about her rings to be about their size and possibly the shape, not that she was wearing them at all.

    3. What the What*

      I assumed she was sporting some big ole diamonds. The coworker was commenting on how she looks/dresses.

      An eye-catching an expensive wedding ring set, an eye-catching and expensive SUV, noticeable brands of expensive handbags/shoes.

    4. Alice's Rabbit*

      Letter writer clarified after speaking to him again. The rings are designer, and look out of place in a small town. As do her clothes. And her car. She’s a city girl, and it stands out in a bad way.

  14. NW Mossy*

    Let’s put it this way: the Venn diagram between “firms that emphasize precise financial calibration in their attorneys’ appearance” and “firms you don’t want to work for” is a circle.

    If this is a rule-out, let it be. You want to be valued for your skills and accomplishments, not your ability to play to bizarre prejudices about job-seeking.

    1. Delta Delta*

      As someone who survived an incredibly toxic law firm and who also loves Venn diagrams, this comment tickles me all the way to my core.

  15. Former call centre worker*

    Wow, last time I was unemployed and had to go to interviews wearing worn out clothes and not having had a haircut for over a year, I didn’t realise I was doing myself such a favour by looking like I needed money. Isn’t it strange that employers weren’t falling over themselves to do me the favour of hiring me?

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      I think this dude severely misunderstands* some basic dynamics around wealth and poverty and how other people respond to them.

      *his advice taken at face value would indicate a severe misunderstanding, but what I ACTUALLY suspect is that it’s coded advice meant to criticize something else.

  16. WantonSeedStitch*

    The day companies give people jobs because they are needy, not because they can help the company make more money, is the day this advice will make sense.

  17. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I could see if the OP were dressing like Ell from Legally Blonde, but it sounds like she is modestly dressed. Either the other person finds anything more than Walmart to be too flashy, there’s some gender stuff going on, or he has problems with with money and is jealous.bor a combination.

    I would take what he says with a grain of salt.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      He could very well be projecting his own negative feelings about how the OP spends her money onto other employers in the area.

    2. Perpal*

      I ended up loving that movie and if someone wants to dress like Ell from Legally Blonde, they should rock on with their bad self. Too much work for me but I admire anyone who likes to go the extra yard with their appearance, whatever way that manifests! (also, I think my daughter may end up being like that, which is hilarious considering I was a total grunge/nerd, never pierced my ears, hate high heels, etc. She wore out a pair of used platforms she picked out from the 2nd hand store, is begging to get her ears pierced and has been for a while [she is 6 now so I’ll do it], loves makup and accessories; it’s all good. I love that she is happy)

  18. Shramps*

    I would completely disregard this. Unless you’re showing up in off-the-runway costume haute couture, no one will really notice. Even LV bags can be found in “poor” neighborhoods. Intelligent hiring managers know better than to read too much into these kinds of signs, and will want to hire you based off of excellent performance in an interview and good references.

  19. Public Sector Manager*

    I’ve been a lawyer for 25 years and the advice the OP received is literally one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        Male lawyers’ advice about fashion and appearance to female lawyers is a whole category of dumb things by itself.

  20. MK*

    Hmm. I was ready to dismiss this advice as completely wrong (people usually expect all lawyers to be affluent, often more than they actually are) till you mentioned your area of law, depending on where you are applying. I seriously doubt a big law firm would have an issue with an expensive car and clothes, but a non-profit that supports victims of abuse might think you not the best cultural fit. I don’t think it has much to do with needing a job or not, but some organizations have a prejudice against people who e.g. spent the last 15 years making tons of money and now want to change track or those with inherited wealth or rich spouces.

    1. Shramps*

      But OP says they’re not flashy- they don’t dress up and their car is luxury but it’s not brand new and super fancy.

    2. Jenny*

      I’ve done family law work and this is bunk. Sure, don’t show up to a client meeting with a $2000 purse. But your clients expect you to look the part. How you present yourself helps reassure the client. If someone dressed down for low income clients, I’d actually consider that disrespectful.

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t think they mean dress down as in showing up in ripped jeans and a dirty t-shirt, that would be insulting. But dealing with clients in poverty and showing up in an outfit that cost thousands could be seen as a misstep.

            1. Jenny*

              I don’t own thousand dollar outfits, myself, and it doesn’t sound like the OP does. I’m saying if I didn’t wear my suit for a client meeting based on income that would be extremely disrespectful. I’ve never met a public defender who didn’t wear a suit.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Yup, it sure would be disrespectful. Unless the client asks you to dress down, you err on the side of professionalism just like you would for everyone else.

              2. Jennifer*

                I agree with you. I’m not saying don’t wear a suit. I’d feel disrespected if I met with an attorney who showed up in ripped jeans. I meant more designer labels.

              3. MK*

                Except we don’t know how much the dress, blazer and shoes she is wearing cost; just because they are simple in design doesn’t mean they are average in price, or that they are not out of sync with the new area she has moved into.

        1. Jenny*

          She says her bags don’t have logos and aren’t flashy. The same rules of suit and professional clothing apply for all clients.

      2. MK*

        Dressing down has little to do with money, as there are jeans that cost thousands and suits that are inexpensive. And mu point was more about where the OP is applying: I am sure that small law firms and nonprofits that serve low-income communities will still expect their attorneys to show up in a suit, but might be jarred by someone who drives a luxury car and wears obviously expensive items.

        I don’t know what price range the OP is wearing or whether her appearance is obviously wealthy. I do know that people from the more extreme ends of the income spectrum are not always reliable when judging how normal their clothes are and whether they come across as cheap or too expensive.

    3. doreen*

      Yes – I was thinking that maybe the colleague wasn’t being very articulate and really meant something more like the OP’s presentation might scare away potential clients of the small firms in the new area. If I were looking to hire a lawyer for a custody case, I wouldn’t necessarily think that one with expensive clothes and accessories who drives a luxury car doesn’t need a job – but it’s very possible I might think I can’t afford to hire her.

      1. CTT*

        But how you dress for an interview and how you dress for your everyday practice are two completely different things, and this dude was specifically talking about interview attire. I don’t think that’s a case of being inarticulate.

    4. Kotow*

      At the risk of derailing, I’ll just push back on the notion that “victims of abuse” automatically means poverty. Abuse runs the entire spectrum and there are legal aid organizations that don’t even have income requirements in order to qualify for services. All of the legal aid attorneys I know wear suits when they go to court; that’s what’s expected in my city at least. In other communities it’s not as prevalent but you’re not going to be “wrong” with wearing a suit. Honestly I know of certain designer brands and that they get expensive, but I really couldn’t look at someone’s purse and know that they spent $2,000 on it. Probably most people who would know that are also really into fashion themselves. And solo attorneys in family law definitely aren’t guaranteed to “make tons of money.” Many of us are fortunate to keep the lights on every month, especially now!

  21. Jubilance*

    About 10 years ago, I was told this gem: “feedback is a gift – you can decide if you want to accept it or not”

    This sounds like a case of feedback that you can disregard.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        My in-laws are always giving us stuff that we don’t want or need, especially for our daughter. I donate it. Don’t donate this gift either. Throw it in the trash where it belongs.

        PSA to grandparents everywhere: a gift is not a gift when it’s a burden.

  22. C in the Hood*

    The first thing that grabbed me about your letter was “I want to continue in my work as I find it meaningful, challenging, and a large part of who I am.” And the second thing was how your letter was well-written and focused. Those items alone tell me just about everything I need to know regarding how well you’d do a job.

    As far as how you’re dressed, you sound fine. And I doubt you’ll be taking any interviewers for a spin in the SUV.

  23. Delta Delta*

    This is ridiculous. I say this as an attorney with a similar amount of experience as the OP. In Normal Times I’m in and out of court nearly every day. When lawyers go to court we wear court-appropriate attire. That’s how this works. Often when we meet with clients we wear clothes that are frequently associated with What Lawyers Wear because we know that clients come to us for Important Advice, and sometimes Looking Like You Give Important Advice is all part of it. I could give the same advice in my pajamas as I do in a Brooks Brothers suit (and sometimes I do); it feels more appropriate in person coming from the suit. Or the dress. Or whatever.

    Now, all this being said, you also have to know your market and know your area. Where I regularly practice, it’s okay to appear in court in tailored pants and a nice blouse. If I travel 30 miles to my next courthouse, it’s Suits For Days. When I was a public defender I met with a client while I wore jeans and a sweater; he said he appreciated that I didn’t look stuffy and like I was too good for him. One of my best friends from law school interned in an old-school white shoe firm. His co-intern listened to classical music one day while researching and was reprimanded because That’s Not Done.

    tl;dr – wear what you are comfortable wearing. Drive your car. Wear your wedding rings.

    1. Kanon*

      Was coming to say “know your area”. OP says they have moved within their home state but moving from Albany to Manhattan, Chicago to Champaign, or the DC suburbs to Roanoke is a huge culture shift. What may seem like a simple suit and shoes in one place comes off very differently somewhere else. And that applies to wedding rings too. I’m not suggesting the OP change anything but they may want to look at what are some of the other cultural norms that are different that you wouldn’t expect.

  24. Ash*

    This concept of who “needs” and “doesn’t need” a job was also historically justification for why men would be paid more than women for doing the same job–men were supposedly providing for a whole family, whereas women were just supplementing their husband’s earnings.

  25. Another lawyer*

    Another attorney here:
    OP had her own practice for a long time. Most law firms are going to see red flags regarding hiring someone who had her own firm and was obviously successful. Usually folks go back to law firm employment when they couldn’t make ends meet in their own practice or they don’t want to work that much.Maybe that is what this guy is inartfully trying to say. Or he’s just a jerk

    1. Delta Delta*

      Eh. She’s moving to a new area, so applying to firms makes sense, since she wouldn’t already have a client base in the new area. I don’t think I’d see it as a flag so much as a necessity to link up with an established practice.

      But, I’m solo after working in firms, and I love solo life more. I readily admit my solo bias.

      1. Jenny*

        I work in public interest and people leave firms/solo life to come here all the time, so it wouldn’t be a red flag at all.

    2. Self Employed*

      Not an attorney, but self employed. I admit to reading the letter and comments with much interest. When personally considering going back to work for someone else, I have secretly struggled with the image of a self employed, late model SUV driving interviewee.

      Another Lawyer sums up my greatest fear: law firm ego back tomployment when they couldn’t make ends meet in their own practice or they don’t want to work that much.
      No advice, just consolation for OP.

  26. Jenny*

    This is extremely weird advice for an attorney. If anything that’s a field that requires a certain degree of polish.

  27. Diahann Carroll*

    Of course, if your black or nude shoes are $4,000 Louboutins and your handbag is a $15,000 Birkin bag, your colleague might have a point. Even if the styles themselves are relatively conservative, people who know fashion often know price ranges too, and yes, some people will judge

    I doubt many people the OP will run across are this into fashion, though, that they would be able to tell that she was wearing high-end designer brands as opposed to mid-level mall brands like J Crew and Banana Republic. I mean, the most conservative plain black Loubs I’ve seen have run from $600-800, which is not remotely expensive when considering luxury brands. And the only thing that really gives them away as Loubs are the red soles, which no one would see unless you crossed your leg and they were sitting behind you or directly across from you with no desk in between.

    I’m a very fashion-conscious person who has a closet full of luxury design brands and carry $3k+ purses (that I got on consignment for much lower than their retail prices), and even I wouldn’t be able to tell what designer someone was wearing unless they told me or I saw a conspicuous label. My thought about OP’s friend is that he’s projecting hard here. He probably knows that the OP dresses in luxury labels because she tells him as much, so he’s thinking that if others knew that, they’d be judging her for it not realizing that most people are not going to be able to tell the difference between a black Balenciaga blazer and one from Zara.

    1. Kiki*

      Yes! I could be entirely mistaken or just hanging out with a different crowd, but for neutral business-wear like LW is wearing to interviews, *most* people will have no idea how much she is spending. They will probably see that she looks very polished and nice, but they’re not going to be able to just look at her and immediately identify that she’s wearing a $5k sheath dress or whatever. There *are* people who can do that, but that is an extreme minority and that probably means they *also* own (or at least really like) nice things and probably won’t judge you for it.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Absolutely. And I mean, no offence to OP but we are talking about lawyer job interview attire here, not the Met gala – she is not going to be wearing anything crazy distinctive because that defeats the entire point. Lawyer clothes are pretty famously conservative. If this was a more fashion-forward job where she could conceivably turn up in current-season Dior dresses or something then maybe someone would recognise them but blazers? Officewear? Nah.

  28. Abogado Avocado*

    I’m an attorney and here’s the drill about clothing while job seeking in the legal field: if you want to be hired, you should look like a reliable, stable professional. For men, that generally means a dark, well-fitting suit and conservative tie — not a sharkskin number that makes it seems you’ve spent the night out in Vegas. For women, that means a conservative dress, skirt-suit or pant-suit; save the flash — including the Louboutins — for some other occasion. In other words, while interviewing you should be covered, conservative and boring (as far as your clothing goes). Once you’re hired, you might work in an office with business casual or, if you’re working in a legal services non-profit, you may find that office attire is much more laid back than that and that you can wear something other than black, navy or beige. Until then, however, show your interviewers you can be creative in how you approach the legal problem solving, not in how you dress.

    1. Observer*

      Uh, OK. What about the OP’s description sounds like she’s wearing flashy stuff despite her explicitly saying that she does NOT wear anything flashy?

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Nah, Loubs aren’t a good example of this because of how ubiquitous they are in pop culture. Everyone knows what the red bottoms are even if they don’t know the exact price (I chuckled when I saw Alison say they were $4,000 in the post because I’ve never seen the plain ones for that much). Manolo Blahnik’s black pumps would be more of an example since they have no discernible feature other than the claw style of the heel (and many of the plain styles don’t even have that flared out heel tip on them).

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Yeah, those are the VMA red carpet pumps that are mainly for celebrities and other red carpet wannabes. The average Louboutin wearer is wearing the cheaper $600-1k styles.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            And to further clarify – I meant that Loubs wouldn’t be mistaken for $60 pumps because of the sole (if anyone saw them). Something like Jimmy Choo’s Love 85 pump would be a better example since they look like some heels I saw on Nine West’s website.

            1. Kiki*

              A lot of shoes in the $60 range have red soles! I know they’re knocking off the Louboutin and the shade of red isn’t the exact same, but I see a lot of people wearing red-soled shoes that are definitely not Louboutins. If I were to see the flash of a red sole during an interview, I may wonder “Are those Louboutins?” but I see so many knock-offs that I wouldn’t assume that.

              1. nnn*

                A while back I saw a little hole-in-the-wall shoe repair place with a sign posted saying they could resole any shoe in Louboutin red.

          2. DataQueen*

            Right and on the flip side, I’d actually die to find a $15,000 Birkin – assuming i’d be allowed to purchase one (and i’d never make it on one of those lists, *sigh*)

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              You and me both (though I probably want a Kelly more than a Birkin). Not only are they upwards of $30k now, but you have to spend almost that much on other Hermès pieces before you can even get on a waitlist for one. *sigh* This is why I buy dupes from Amazon, lol.

          3. Third or Nothing!*

            TIL there are famous shoes with red soles and that I am terrible at fashion. (Typed while wearing athletic gear left over from my morning run.)

          4. Red soles*

            Agreed – I was on a jury once where the ADA was wearing (plain black or nude) Loubs every day and it was the TALK of that jury room. Not just among the young women either, the men were all over it. And the topic did move to her very expensive wedding ring set. People notice. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it stands out.

          5. Delta Delta*

            I’m gonna be awful for a second. I have 3 pairs of Manolos (purchased at consignment shops) that are work-appropriate. They are, quite simply, the most wonderful heels I’ve ever owned. If I had Manolo money I’d buy nothing but those for work. Because I am actually *in love* with these shoes, I recognize other Manolos when I see them. If I see someone wearing them I think to myself, “I understand. I love them, too.” But I know they’re stupid expensive, unless you buy wise on consignment, so I assume the wearer also bought them that way.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I have four pair myself purchased on consignment, so I feel you, lol. They’re beautifully made and very comfortable.

          6. Jackalope*

            Amused at this comment because I had never heard of Louboutins until this exact blog post. (I mean, I hate shoes and spent many of my childhood summers playing games like “Can I make it a full week without ever putting shoes on my feet?”, and clothes are things to protect you from weather and :: vague awareness of fashion somewhere out there :: so maybe not be best example here…).

  29. Random Commenter*

    This seems counter-intuitive to me.
    Aren’t people more likely to be hired if they have a job, which would mean that they don’t NEED a job.

  30. In house energy lawyer*

    This is bad advice. While many women litigators will take off engagement rings with large diamonds and wear modest jewelry and suits in a jury trial, this advice doesn’t hold for job interviews. No lawyer I know would ever consider whether someone “needs” a job to be a qualifier for hiring. Moreover, dressing down or looking less than fully put-together would be much more likely to put you out of the running for a job than dressing well.

  31. rr*

    The idea of some people not “needing” a job is pervasive and can be harmful especially to women. At a former job (where I was repeatedly told that I was the highest performer in the office, and worked for 7 years), I was time and time again passed over for promotions and raises and given the excuse that I couldn’t get promotions/raises because then my (less experienced, lower performing) male counterparts would also have to get the same promotions to “catch up” to me so it would be equal, and there wasn’t enough money to give everyone raises. The implication seemed to be that these men had families to support on a single income, while I (in a dual high income household) shouldn’t be asking for a raise because I didn’t need the money. So they refused to promote me, because I didn’t need the money, and as a result everyone else’s promotions stagnated too. Eventually “not needing” the job led me to leave for a job where I would be more appreciated, and then suddenly they seemed to find the money to promote my underperforming and less experienced male counterpart TWICE within an 18 month span.

    1. juliebulie*

      The notion of “not needing” a job also doesn’t do justice to the weaknesses of our health insurance system. My company pays pretty well and the insurance is good, but if you want to add a spouse to our plan you will take a big financial hit. So even if people don’t “desperately” need a second income, they might really need the insurance coverage.

  32. Binky*

    Unless the norms in your area are very, very different from the ones I’ve seen (and I’ve seen lawyers in most regions of the US) your friend is just very off. “Need” for a job is not a selling point in law.

  33. Another JD*

    Was he inelegantly telling you that your new city is less formal? We visited my husband’s family in a rural area and found out they thought we were snobby because he was wearing button-downs and polos on vacation. I was really surprised because my husband would go hiking in a button-down, it’s just what he and most men wear in our area.

    DV victims are also frequently unable to pay attorneys fees, so I could see a firm wondering whether someone who has some luxury items/looks more put together would stay longer term, or move on to a more prestigious/higher paying position.

    1. londonedit*

      I think this is the most charitable explanation, though it was a very inelegant way of saying it! If that’s what he meant, he could easily have explained that people tend to dress less formally in that city, and that full-on city lawyer garb might come across as snobby or out-of-touch.

      I’ve experienced the same as your husband – when I visit friends in the area of the country where I grew up, they tease me for being ‘so dressed up’ when I’m wearing what I consider to be a casual dress and trainers. They all wear jeans and t-shirts. Here in London, what I wear fits in with most other people of my sort of age and area of work, but then I also have friends from cities in northern England who find it bizarre that here in London most people don’t dress up in heels and full make-up and a ‘going out’ dress for an average Friday night!

      1. MissDisplaced*

        London is a very stylish city!
        Even the guys dress nice in their suits on the Tube (and I think I may have even spotted a waistcoat/vest). Lots of stylish sticky-uppy good hair too. Lol! British men look like they care!

        American guys are sloppy in cargo shorts and t-shirts/baseball hats most of the time.

    2. Clisby*

      This is interesting because I live in Charleston, SC, which can definitely have sort of stuffy old-fashioned vibe. A common “uniform” for lawyers here is khaki pants, buttoned-down shirt with tie, and navy blue blazer. Basically, my son’s First Communion outfit. I’m sure people in the know can tell the difference between the really expensive version and the Lands End version, but I can’t.

  34. YoungAcademic*

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. This post spoke to me.

    I struggle with this too. I am both young and youthful-appearing and tend to “step up” my daily wardrobe compared to my peers in an effort to be taken seriously. That said, I am mindful about just how much to step it up on a daily basis for fear of appearing out of sync with the culture (my work sits at the intersection of non-profit, medicine, and public service).

    However, GETTING A JOB generally involves an interview, which typically happen in a conference room or office (these days, perhaps its even virtual!) and the expectation is that candidates come looking more polished than usual, no? Typically, no one is going to see your car, and I doubt an interviewer would be put off by clothing that looks nice. It’s an interview! I wouldn’t come covered in logos or carrying a Chanel handbag, but otherwise, who cares if it’s Tom Ford or Target, as long as it’s appropriately fitting and well-maintained. This colleague’s comment sounds like it may be symptomatic of having met you in a casual setting, with a view of the parking lot, and perhaps you were looking more put together than expected given that scenario.

    Would someone comment about a man showing up to lunch in cufflinks? Perhaps. But this still feels like another icky, un-solicited comment about a woman’s wardrobe. Sometimes it feels like we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      I agree–there’s definitely a gendered element! And I would always wear something 1-2 notches up for an interview. It does seem like the OP was maybe a little more elegantly dressed than the norm for whatever she was attending…but I don’t really see that being a problem for many people!

  35. Kristine*

    I technically don’t “need” a job because my spouse makes enough on his own for us to live a comfortable, middle class life. But my clothes come from Target and I drive a 5 year old Honda sedan. Does this mean people will assume I *do* need a job and be more likely to hire me?

    OP, your colleague is ridiculous.

  36. higheredrefugee*

    As a fellow attorney (and former law school administrator), this feels like very gendered advice to me. While I practice in a Midwestern metropolitan area where people dress from casual to well, but rarely in $5K suits, and never in heels more than $500, I bet he wouldn’t say the same thing about your SUV to a man, and your ring wasn’t (likely) purchased by you anyway. But you sound like a typical suburban wife to me, who 15 years after law school has nice things, but whose clients haven’t been particularly poor. At least here, even with wealthier clients, you could wear dressier business casual outside of court (and even in court for some hearings, but that is judge dependent), but depending on the single color dress, that likely fits in that anyway. I’d seek out adjacent networking contacts of other women from referrals you trust, as in, people who are willing to help but can’t vouch for you personally, and will be happy to opine on this guy’s views. Also consider, this may be his weird hangup. I have them – open toed shoes, wearing navy ties with black suits, messy hairstyles, using aint, and some I’m sure I’m not even able to articulate or recognize – hopefully, this is just one of his.

  37. LemonLyman*

    I’d definitely suggest ignoring his odd advice! A man telling you what to wear to an interview just seems wrong. And what does it matter what car you drive? Who even sees it when you’re interviewing?

    But I’m also curious to know what he means, so if it were me – and purely out of research purposes only – I think I’d probe more. “What do you mean by ‘look like I need a job’? What’s wrong with wearing my wedding ring to an interview? What do you think would be more appropriate to wear instead?” I would ask this to learn more about him in general. This would help me decide if I should write off his insights on other things, too (which I suspect is true).

  38. Katefish*

    One of my best coworkers ever did not “need” the job – a coworker at a coffee shop while I was putting myself through school. He did, however, generously give my shifts when I got laid off from my primary part time job in the Great Recession, and I’ll never forget that generosity. I think the advice about overcoming this “issue” by your great work ethic is sound.

  39. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Proves yet again you cannot win if you’re female. If you dress nicely and smartly, or are slim, have neatly styled hair, speak in professional tones you’re ‘looking like you’re too good to work’ or ‘don’t need a job’ or ‘trying to use looks to get a job’

    Have hair that doesn’t take to styling, be overweight, have one interview outfit you got on sale, have a regional accent, you’re ‘unprofessional’, ‘not making an effort’ or are ‘too lazy to get hired’.

    In all the time I’ve conducted interviews I’ve never cared what car someone drove up in (as long as it doesn’t explode in the car park) nor how expensive I think their clothes or jewellery are. Are you prepared for the interview? Do you act professionally (no swearing, belching show tunes or picking of the nose)? Are you (visibly) clean and tidy? That’s what’s important.

    Hold your head high and give the proverbial two fingers to those who want to make you feel low.

  40. Sleepy*

    We hired someone who did not “need” a job…I knew this because he was a volunteer for years and years. Who cares? Need is not what makes a good employee.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That actually makes me wonder about the person who gave that ‘advice’ mentioned in the letter. Do they dismiss people from hiring consideration if they don’t think they ‘need’ work as much as someone else? (People with families ‘needing’ jobs more than single people etc).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Those who show up when they don’t “need” a job are actually really valuable because they are working because they have pride or ethics involved, which can be worth more than the money that comes with the job.

      The flip side are the people who will be flakes, unreliable and mediocre then when you let them go, start sobbing about how much the “need” the job.

      Needs can be subjective, it’s not always the financial side. Financial is only one part of it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        “The flip side are the people who will be flakes, unreliable and mediocre then when you let them go, start sobbing about how much the “need” the job.”

        First person I ever had to fire did that, full scale on the floor sobbing about how he cannot cope without the pay. He should have paid attention to the multiple disciplinary warnings he got if he needed the money that much.

        (He harrased several women on staff and stole computer hardware to sell on eBay. Daft sod left the asset tags on the hardware, clearly visible on the photos…)

  41. Nonprofit Nancy*

    Honestly, I would ignore this advice if you’re comfortable with the way you dress. People don’t always have good instincts about these things. For example, my first mentor (who appointed themselves to that role) told me that one of my problems was appearing too feminine, and that I needed to lower my speaking voice so that people would take me seriously. In retrospect I should have ignored that advice and just carried on. I’d say this advice is similar.

  42. Them Boots*

    OP, my read on this is that your colleague is jealous. Yep, that’s it. Especially when he mentioned your car, WTF?! Your ducks are in a row, yeah you! Alison’s advice was spot on.

  43. Kotow*

    I have a solo family law practice concentrating in high conflict custody disputes as well in a city in Western Pennsylvania. It’s not NYC by any means but also has a certain unofficial “dress code” that I haven’t found in smaller counties (such as you find out quickly you’re expected to wear a blazer to court appearances). What you’re describing seems like pretty standard attire for family attorneys. I know nothing about fashion so couldn’t tell you who is wearing the designer brands. I can think of a few attorneys who are much more fashion coordinated than others but I’ve never seen it have a negative impact on them. In smaller counties, you can definitely tell who doesn’t have their main office there because people do dress differently; but it more says “this person isn’t from around here” than “this person doesn’t need a job.” Domestic violence and high conflict custody disputes run the whole spectrum of incomes and so I don’t think it affects potential clients’ perceptions. Funny thing though, you can almost always tell who the “just got my license” attorneys are. They come in expensive suits to motions court (a 5 minute proceeding!) while the rest of us are spending time trying to figure out if we’re “presentable enough.” Your general attire though sounds pretty much like what we all do.

  44. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    I’m voting with the people who are calling this sexist. Would this colleague have said the same thing to a male attorney? Or does he assume that all men deserve a job but only needy women deserve a job?

  45. DataQueen*

    #5, My advice would be really similar in that if you don’t have a specific reason to change your level of dress/car (like serving a poverty mission, etc.), don’t worry about it. People have goofy opinions on fashion and money, and everyone thinks they are right. There is that there’s always going to be a faction of people who think it’s ridiculous to spend that kind of money. If you have a $3,000 handbag, people are going to say it’s ridiculous to spend over $300. If you have a $300 bag, there are people out there who think it’s ridiculous to spend over $30. And then if you have a $30 bag, someone might think it’s silly to not spend $3,000 for something that lasts. Some people think Chanel is a designer and some people think Coach is a designer and some people think Banana Republic is a designer. Just wear/buy/use what makes you happy.

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Fascinating that you need to “dress down” to look like you “need a job”, whereas the rest of us are forced to “dress up” in clothes that don’t even match our job descriptions most days to look like we should be taken seriously.

    If this were true, we would have hired everyone who walks in wearing flip flops and tank tops because clearly they need a job, they aren’t even dressed in interview attire!

    If someone doesn’t hire you because you don’t “look like you need a job”, they’re actually not hiring you because they like to abuse their employees and employees who don’t “need” a job, won’t take piss poor treatment.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      No, flip flops and a tank top says you have enough money to live how you want and do not give AF what people say. I think the proper outfit for “need a job” is what you did wear to work in 2010, or perhaps the turn-casual-into-business approach of tucking the shirt you wore to your uncle’s wedding into your nice jeans and maybe adding a tie.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh everyone I’ve ever seen show up in a flip flops and tank top were totally poor and needed a job. I know because they were def driving a car that looked duck taped together or they came on the bus!

        But I’ve had literal homeless people apply for jobs. It wasn’t just that age old “rich farmer in his overalls paying from his rolled up $100’s, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” LOL

        Now jeans and converse sneakers, screaming 80’s tech guru…that’s the “dress like you make enough that you don’t care what people think!”

  47. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Wearing a ratty old clothes to the interview isn’t likely to get you a sympathy hire, and it’s a well-known fact that companies discriminate against the unemployed in hiring. I see no reason why a hiring manager would react to your fancy clothes by deciding it would be charitable to hire a poor person instead.

  48. Some Lady*

    Ugh – this advice makes me think of the whole ‘poor people shouldn’t have nice things’ concept. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people being judged for having need but also having a decent phone, or nice clothes, or a nice tv, etc. Do people not realize that financial insecurity can make you very resourceful? That if retirement seems like a pipe dream you might go ahead and use a tiny bit of money when you get it to get something nice for your family? That that nice thing might have been gifted to you? Or something that you prioritized because you need it to do some function of your life? Or that, heaven forbid, you found a way to give yourself one nice thing?
    I would ignore this advice – you probably don’t want to work for folks that would agree.

    1. Perpal*

      It’s kind of like weight; there’s some kind of razor edge between too skinny and too fat (or more realistically, a bunch of people have different judgements and for some reason think they need to sh are them)
      Same thing with money; too little money and every possession and expense is put under scrutiny, and frankly there’s always a way to be more frugal; too much money and why aren’t you giving it to someone more needy and/or why would you want to work or do anything with your life and/or why are you “flaunting” etc etc.

  49. Ellie May*

    Colleague seems to be telling you a lot about HIMSELF and isn’t speaking to actual issues about YOU – not sure what he’s feeling (resentment, envy?) but that’s his to manage. I could easily be perceived as someone who doesn’t need a job but I have one and I am committed and diligent and deliver value to my employer. I like what I do and know that the success of others around me depends on me delivering on my commitments. The house I live in, the car I drive, and the jewelry I wear isn’t anyone else’s business.

    Like Alison, I’d like to know more about Colleague. Would he tell a man that he needs to look like he needs a job or should a male attorney look polished and professional and successful? Is it wrong that a female attorney look polished and professional and successful? Ugh … I didn’t want to get into gender here but I couldn’t resist.

  50. HR Exec Popping In*

    Ok, first off – I totally agree with Allison’s advice. That said, I have had situations where leaders have had conversations about how difficult it is to manage employees performance and/or motivate them when the individuals are obviously wealthy and are not necessarily working for the paycheck (think private jet, driving $200k+ cars, the whole thing). I’m not saying this is right, and I have coached these leaders when it has occurred. I just think some people are intimidated by wealth and MAY struggle to connect or know how to motivate someone who is wealthy. This is their issue, not the employees, but it is real.

    Based on this experience, I would have the OP take a look at what they are wearing. If the items are obviously very expensive and/or her diamond wedding ring is unusually large she may want to take that into consideration. Not necessarily to show that “she needs a job” but to take any weird hangups about wealth off the table as it can be a unnecessary distraction.

    1. Buttons*

      I think those managers have a bias and are blaming the person on the receiving end of that bias. Its no wonder those employees aren’t motivated.

      I was once told that I dressed too nice for my position, that I was dressing like a leader. That was in my 6 months performance review. It was BS, she couldn’t find any fault with my work, so she had to come after me personally.

      1. juliebulie*

        Even in that context, “you dress like a leader” is really ineffective criticism that would have gotten her laughed out of most places I’ve worked (though sadly not all).

      2. Polly Hedron*

        That was BS all right. She must not have heard of the adage, “Dress for the job you want.”

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      But I think the way she speaks about her work would counter any impression someone might have about her based on the brands she’s wearing.
      And like someone else said, the wedding ring is really weird. There are lots of people who don’t make much money but will save and splurge on a ring. Heck my cousin works as Assistant manager t at a small grocery store doesn’t make anything like what a lawyer would make, and his wife’s wedding ring is huge!

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I don’t think anything OP has described seems like it would imply private jet, no-need-for-a-job levels of wealth, though. Basically she seems to be saying that she drives a nice SUV, wears logo-free designer clothing and a wedding ring. That could indicate anything from “has worked hard for a few years and it’s paid off” up to “low-key generational wealth”. If a manager’s hangups about wealth are such that they’re going to get weird about anyone who turns up in that kind of clothing but they are also able to identify a logo-less sheath dress as designer on sight, then idk, that seems both very strange and like a bad sign for the job going forward. (Would OP have to jettison all their nice stuff if they got the job? Downgrade the car? Seems wasteful, idk.)

  51. Pinkie Pie Works Hard*

    I’m guessing your colleague who gave you this advice is male? Cue the misogyny parade of advice to professional women that everything about their appearance is wrong.

  52. OrigCassandra*

    One possibility here I haven’t seen mentioned, which may unfortunately be relevant regardless of the gender of the advice-giving colleague, is that this is negging — trying to get under OP’s skin by finding something (anything!) that will reduce OP’s confidence.

    I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, Alison and commenters’ advice still stands — put it out of your mind, OP, it’s garbage.

    If on reflection you think this is possible, OP, I might reduce interaction with this colleague as much as possible. Neggers are just bad news.

  53. Chrissy*

    Is it possible this guy was hoping for a date? And then, when he figured out it was a true networking meeting, he lashed out with a bunch of nonsense disguised as “career advice”.

  54. What’s with Today, today?*

    This is a family law thing. My husband does family law in rural, yet wealthy area. Yes, the female attorneys and CASA volunteers are seen differently and talked about behind their backs by CPS employees, court employees and clients for clothing and jewelry. It happens all the time locally. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has come and said “So & So was talking about how inappropriate X’s purse is in the courtroom.” What’s wrong with X’s purse? It cost more than a monthly mortgage. I think it’s incredibly unfair to the attorneys and CASA volunteers, but I also love expensive purses.

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      why is family law so WEIRD like that?? it’s such an important field and has so many little minefields of weird culture!
      I love Empire Records, also.

    2. Anon for this one*

      What’s wrong with X’s purse? It cost more than a monthly mortgage.

      I don’t know much about the world of law, but I can see how it’s insensitive and tone deaf to show up with something that’s “just an accessory” that costs more than their client’s monthly mortgage payment.

      There’s something wrong in society where a purse can cost more than someone’s monthly payment for their housing (where the purse-owner is working for the other person), and this is perceived as a normal level of inequality!

      1. Batgirl*

        Eh, I’ve spent more on a bag than my own mortgage payments. I was in a low CoL area, didn’t need much in that sense. Handbags cost the same everywhere and I lived out of my handbag more than my flat. I honestly think it’s more elitist to be aware enough of costs to police them. Flashy labels I agree are insensitive but most expensive bags don’t have that.

  55. SaffyTaffy*

    I do think this kind of appearance policing comes up among lawyers. My sweetheart felt pressure from the partners in his firm to trade in his Honda for a “nice car” so clients would think he was rich. Then when he bought his dream car, an honest-to-goodness Astin Martin, that was “too nice” and clients would think he was a thief.
    He also stopped wearing patterned socks while contracting with another firm, because “I don’t want them to think I’m not serious.” Picture a 60 year old man in a custom suit, with cufflinks and a pocket square, worried plaid socks will read as not serious.
    He’s also telling me to tell you that he knows a lawyer who won’t hire women wearing heels below a certain height, because it signals that they’re lazy. Somehow.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I once encountered a judge wearing mismatched socks. He was at work but not in court. (Presenting continuing education)

  56. Spicy Tuna*

    You definitely do not want to look like you “need” a job. At my last job, I was friendly with the HR director, and his office was next to mine, so I got a bird’s eye view. Another department that I worked closely with had hired a temp and they were considering make her a permanent offer. Even though I wasn’t part of that department, they, and HR, asked for my opinion since I had worked with her, and I said I thought it would be a great idea.

    Once they hired her, well, it got weird. Previously, her payments were going to the temp agency, but once she was hired full time, they found out she was living in her car. The job she was hired for was a professional, well paid job that required a CPA license, which she had. She said she just preferred the freedom of living in her car and didn’t want to deal with moving.

    I guess that’s not really related, but something about this question made me think of that woman! Also, I have been told by more than one employer to “dress nicer” – I am 100% disinterested in fashion and shopping and nothing fits me correctly, so appearance / attire is a sensitive topic for me. It’s definitely better for people to notice that you’re dressed nicely than to comment that you’re not!

  57. Coverage Associate*

    One more attorney agreeing with the consensus. Also, I am a woman. I subscribe to fashion magazines. I cannot tell expensive women’s suits from inexpensive. Occasionally I can tell someone is wearing a dated style from their law school days. And in San Francisco I see butch women who may need expensive tailoring. But it doesn’t sound like OP is in those extremes.

    I can tell expensive manicures and blow outs, though. A very polished look will read to me as “expensive” or “lucky.”

    Last time I needed a new suit, I took my husband. It showed him how hard it is. (It was May and most of the suits were more mother-if-the-bride than federal-case-management-conference.) It also gave me an older man’s perspective, because that’s still what most judges and law partners are.

  58. Anon attorney*

    SMH. You can’t win. If you went in with shoes that needed the heels replaced and an obviously Goodwill suit, he’d have criticized you for not following professional norms.

    I used to practise family and domestic violence law in a poor urban area. I would not have worn an ostentatious diamond (this required no sacrifice, since I didn’t own one) nor obviously designer gear, but I did dress discreetly well because (a) the judge would be wearing a suit and did not want to see attorneys who looked like they lived in a dumpster in front of him and (b) my clients expected me to have a professional appearance.

    Also, you can have designer gear and still really need a job. Maybe all but one of your purses went on eBay already to put food on the table and you kept the one with a ripped lining. Things are not always as simple as they look.

    Tldr – dude needs to stop policing women’s appearance!

  59. Anon for this one*

    I have the opposite problem in that I live well below my means, but I have a well-paid job where I “ought” to be able to wear designer clothes, drive a nice car rather than the 15 year old one I actually drive, have lunch at the local lunch place every day with the others rather than bring something I’ve batch cooked from home, etc.

    I constantly feel like I ought to be living up to the salary rather than cutting corners and squirreling money away, “being responsible” so I can fit in.

    The salary is market rate relative to the actual job I’m doing, but I still feel like I don’t need all of it as my costs are much lower than others’.

    I’m afraid every day that I’ll be pushed out with the justification (probably not made explicit) that “she doesn’t need this well-paying job, she has such low costs she could just get a job at the local fast food place and it would pay all her expenses). I do a good job but there’s more of a PR opportunity in “recruiting someone from a desparate situation and helping them out” than there is in “employing a senior professional at market rate”. They haven’t cottoned on yet about the correlation between company’s financial difficulties and seasoned employees updating their Linked In profiles and posting a near constant stream of additional training and certifications they’ve achieved!

    That’s the other side of it.

  60. Heffalump*

    I don’t think the LW’s luxury SUV is a strike against her. But if she thinks it is, she could trade it on a used not-so-luxury car and come away with some extra cash.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I have had a few coworkers tell me I’m different bc I dont “need” my job. They did not mean my clothes but my attitude. I was willing to speak up and ask for changes to a system if it might work better or I was just willing to ask questions about things (the kinds of things AAM give advice about all the time). They felt that would be putting their jobs at risk and they needed every paycheck in order to eat and pay rent. And they believed I did not.

      It made me do some soul searching and is part of why I found AAM. But could the colleague be responding to something else and clothing was the closest he could come to explaining?

  61. Batgirl*

    Aside from the gender aspect, there’s a really nasty exploitative vibe when employers are trying to work out net worth before hiring. How desperate are you? Will you work harder? How much do you currently earn (because I will not go far above it)? It’s the salesman who uses the materials on you, rather than the materials of the product, to determine the price.
    That is part of the reason why women were and are underpaid. The more old fashioned an employer is, the more they are only willing to pay what a ‘household’ typically needs (and women only need money for their clothing; OP is already set!) rather than what the job is actually worth. Fuck that noise.

  62. CSI*

    15 years in and having formerly owned a firm, but with no book of business, would be a tricky hire in my jurisdiction. And the problem with someone like that who also doesn’t need money is that you can’t control them very easily. The golden handcuffs are real. Someone with tons of skills, no current clients, but great client skills, and no pressing need for cash honestly could appear a bit dangerous to firm. Not partner material if they are not self-sufficient, but not associate model either… and not currently hungry? Some smaller firms might see that as best case not a long term prospect and worst case a risk to their client book.

  63. MissDisplaced*

    What an odd comment. There’s no pleasing some people I guess.

    Obviously we can’t see your wardrobe, but a plain sheath dress and modest heels or flats sounds like about what I’d expect a professional attorney to wear. Or a neutral suit for court days. Law is generally more business formal than companies. Unless this new city tends to skew much, much more casual (like pants & tops) and therefore dresses are reading as “well to do.” But I think it odd.

    Do you have a large engagement ring? I mean that might make people look, but it was a gift. As long as you keep other jewelry or accessories to the plainer, discreet side for interviews. to me, it’s like oh well!

    I doubt most interviewers will see your car.

  64. Prof*

    I mean…I buy designer clothes and bags at goodwill. Like, I have literally bought Coach bags out of bins at the clearance center for $1. Brands don’t tell you as much as you think they do…

  65. Carlie*

    When I got married, the trend was to buy the engagement ring and wedding band as a set that needed to be soldered together to look complete. Think a solitaire with side accents, then a band that had just the matching other side accents. So you really couldn’t wear just the wedding band.

  66. RagingADHD*

    I’ve never heard a hiring manager – certainly not a law partner – talk about how needy a candidate looked as a good thing.

    Very much the opposite. Driven, hungry, ambitious? Sure. But that’s your personality, not your clothes.

  67. FuzzFrogs*

    OP, I think the colleague you networked with might have been trying to say, not necessarily that you looked rich, but that you looked *married.* If I were a betting woman, I’d say his advice was colored by his knowledge of your situation–that you moved because your husband is the high earner, that you were able to shut down your business because you wanted to, that your stated desire for a new job is because you find your work “purposeful,” not because you need to earn money in order for you and your husband to get by.

    Unfortunately people seem to have a lot of preconceptions about married women who don’t strictly need to work. Not that that’s your situation, OP, but it’s easy to see how someone might assume that from your recent circumstances and the way you frame your job search. The worst part is you’re clearly well-spoken and well-presented–like Alison said, your presentation clearly isn’t the issue here. I think it’s more that your colleague doesn’t realize he’s blaming something on your clothes and car that really has to do with male preconception of married women. (I think he’s probably even being genuine in this, but his concern is coloring his ability to have an outside perspective or lay it out properly.)

    I feel like he’s forgetting that hiring offices won’t necessarily know your past like he does. And everything about you–your professional and new car, your clean dress style, your reasons for looking for a job–will read very differently in the context of a job interview, where they will likely read as professional. If anything, I’d take your colleague’s advice as a helpful heads-up that people may assume certain things about you once they know a little more about you, and you might want to keep an ear out for people making assumptions so you can cut them off at the pass.

  68. JessicaTate*

    I’m a day late to this party, but in case OP is reading: I agree with Alison that the advice is odd, particularly for a lawyer. But one thing you might think about is your engagement/wedding ring. Are they perhaps big, lots of diamonds? Tasteful but not subtle? First, there is nothing wrong with that! I hope you adore them. But…

    I once worked with a woman, in the non-profit world, who was very, very wealthy – mostly due to her husband’s profession. She was very strategic about her jewelry and fashion choices, depending on what we were doing that day. Normal day in the office: wore her beautiful, work appropriate – but very noticeable and expensive – jewelry. Meeting with wealthy donors or business stakeholders – all the best jewelry. But if we were going to an external meeting with basically anyone else (say, an academic or city official), she ALWAYS wore just a very simple gold wedding band and other very simple jewelry. She was keenly aware of perceptions, and it was a form of code switching, that she wasn’t so heavily signaling her wealth to people who might judge her on that alone.

    It was a very savvy move, I thought. You might want to do a once-over on your wardrobe and jewelry options, and just think about whether – for that first impression – you might have a variation of that strategy. Good luck.

  69. employment lawyah*

    This is code. Here’s how you should translate it:

    1) Nobody wants to hire a low-level person who really fits a high-level job. Even if they can do the work, you will fear they will leave too soon (costly), not want to do menial tasks (costly), or cause uncomfortable situations if you order them around (costly) or simply challenge your opinions all the time (annoying, unless you like it.)

    2) Also, there is a fine balance between “experience” and “hard to train the way YOU want things.” Solo attorneys–who are more likely than most to use a non-standard approach, merely because we are, by definition, not standard–are notorious for such things. It’s faster to “train” than to “detrain bad habits and retrain good ones.”

    3) As an experienced solo attorney who is (presumably) seeking non-partner positions, and is (presumably) not bringing a portable book of business, you’re already showing #1 and #2 hard by your resume. If you make it even more obvious through your Rolex and your Audi Q7, that makes them worry even more about #1 and #2.

    4) Don’t take this the wrong way, please, but the fact that this code wasn’t instantly obvious to you (while it would be to a lot of folks in law) is a bit of a flag as well.

    I don’t mean to be harsh. I speak from personal experience: Even if I were willing to cut down to a 5th-year associate position, nobody would be likely to hire me at a big firm for precisely those reasons.

  70. mgguy*

    So, just a comment, as a guy I don’t wear any jewelry other than a watch and am not into designer labels or anything like that-my criteria is more fits well(meaning both is comfortable and looks nice) and appropriate to the situationk and of course is clean/in good shape. That means I’ll wear a suit to an interview-even though in the type of work I do normal office attire could probably range from nice shirt/tie if I’m teaching that day or otherwise meeting with someone important, to ratty jeans and a t-shirt if I’m going to be moving stuff and/or crawling around on dirty floors and the like. And yes, both of those can happen in the same week(if not same day) so I’m well suited for those and kind of a default “business casual” in-between.

    Outside of clothes, though, I do have a couple of “nice” things that are usually with me every day, and I had one interview where I was told they gave the “wrong impression.” I wear a Rolex-it’s an older(1980s model, older than me) that was a gift from my parents-and knowing that they wanted to get me one I specifically requested a an older model from a reputable seller instead of spending(way too much) on a new one. I’m a watch collector, and although it’s not the most significant/valuable piece in my collection it’s a practical every day “nice” watch(and if any watch nerds are paying attention, it’s a 16013 two-tone Datejust).

    The other that sometimes catches people’s attention is the Mont Blanc 146 usually in my shirt pocket. I like fountain pens, and for all their ups and downs and stereotypes Mont Blanc still makes great-writing and comfortable pens. Most Mont Blancs are not overly showy, but the white star on the black cap is a dead give-away to anyone who pays attention. There again with it, I bought it used, and it was nowhere near as expensive as what people associate with Mont Blanc prices(even though a lot of people are shocked at paying 3 figures or even 2 figures for a pen). That particular pen was a “first real job” gift to myself.

    To be honest, few people even notice those items, and for those that do it almost always leads to a conversation, the fact that I have a broader interest in those items(usually shared with the person I’m talking to) and I’ll gladly tell the story about how both came about. At least in the past, that sort of stuff has never hurt me in a professional context, as it’s great small talk to build rapport with people who are interested that’s a bit more in depth than the weather, but also a non-issue to people who don’t notice/care.

    So, in any case, I went to an interview at a large Fortune 500 chemical company and interviewed for a job that would have been a few cuts above a lab tech level job(it was a low level scientist position, which means actually reading and interpreting data as opposed to just collecting it, but not to the level of a project lead or higher). I knew pretty much 2 minutes into the 15 minute interview that it wasn’t a job for me(which was frustrating considering the time and money I’d spent to get there). In my post interview feedback, though, I was specifically told “It’s not a good idea to wear a nicer watch or use a nicer pen than your interviewer.” That was just more affirmation for me that it wasn’t a good match.

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