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Updating business wardrobe - please help!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I have a firm handle on my casual style, which is sort of a minimalist "grown-up punk/skater" look - t-shirt, dry selvage jeans cuffed up, and Chuck Taylors or Doc Martens, with a thermal, track jacket, hoodie, or Carhartt jacket added as the season demands. I guess the "grown-up" part means that everything fits well now. My jeans are by far the most (only) expensive items of casual clothing I own ... most everything else is secondhand or naturally inexpensive.

I'm now a lawyer, and to date I've dressed in conservative, traditional business clothing, as my two legal jobs have been a) clerking for a judge and b) an associate position in an insurance defense firm. My business clothing is mostly Lands' End (shirts, suits, slacks, ties) or secondhand Brooks Brothers (coats). I dress in what I guess is an Ivy League style - sack or minimally-fitted coats, flat-front slacks with cuffs, captoes or loafers, oxford button-down shirts, regimental ties.

I think I gravitated towards this style of business clothing for two reasons. First, I don't really have to think about it. It's always appropriate, if not necessarily eye-catching. Second, as I've found myself in conservative workplaces, this style has perhaps compensated for some of my other personal traits that might be considered eccentric in these surroundings.

After a short time in the insurance defense bar, it's become evident that neither the culture nor the work itself are for me, and I am taking a significant pay cut to move to the public defender's office. Without getting into a discussion of why I feel this move is in keeping with my personal values and goals, the bottom line is that I'll be afforded more freedom to dress the way I want to - this particular public defender's office, like many others, is significantly more tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies than are the local defense firms.

I don't want to take advantage of this leeway to dress like a clown or anything of the sort. I'd still like to dress professionally and appropriately. However, in this setting I'll be more comfortable dressing in a manner other than "American traditional" without feeling like the odd man out.

Specifically, I'd like to move to a more fitted, "skinnier" look. Nothing extreme. I'd still like to stay on the "conservative" end of the spectrum, just more tailored - I don't want to freak the normals, I just want to look sharp. Not "mod," but leaning that way - I like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry, for instance.

I like a lot of the English bespoke-style clothing I've seen, but there is simply no way I'll ever be spending that kind of money on clothing. Especially on an assistant public defender's salary. I will, therefore, be scouring eBay and thrift stores. My clothing focus is, almost invariably, on value for money. I get a huge kick out of looking good on very little money. I jam econo. My one pair of Nudies excepted.

Once I have the basics down, I know I'll be able to fend for myself. However, I don't yet know the first thing about this sort of style, so I'm looking for the absolute beginner-level course in dressing this way - what kinds and cuts of coats and pants I should be looking for, what kinds of shirts and ties, what kinds of shoes go well with this kind of look, and so on.

If there are any print or online resources for dressing this way, I'd love to hear about them.

I'm 35 years old but am generally mistaken for mid-to-late 20s. I'm about 5'9" and 145 lbs. I wear a 38R chest and a 30 or 31 waist. My hair is currently clipped down with the #4 guide on the clippers, as I've been skating in a park that requires helmets. I don't wear thin solid-color shirts unless I wear a jacket over them, as I have tattoos on my arms and I don't ever let them show in a professional setting. All of my ear piercings have long been retired. I wear basic wire-framed glasses sometimes, although I suspect I'll soon succumb to the siren song of a pair of D&G black-framed glasses, despite the hipster baggage.

In short, when I'm in business clothing, I generally look like a reasonably clean-cut, well-put-together young man and would like to keep it that way, I'm just looking to make a slight stylistic shift in my business wardrobe.

As always, thanks so much for your help!
post #2 of 10
Considering your build and budget, you might try Corneliani. It's cut moderately slim, has a nice bit of style about it, yet wouldn't raise eyebrows if you wore it before a conservative jury. It can also be found relatively inexpensively at STP -- a solid will usually run about $700, a pinstripe much less -- sometimes less than $400. It can also be had for good prices on eBay, particularly if you don't mind second hand. (Be warned, the older stuff tends to be boxier than the modern. So make sure to take a good look at the pics.)

Beyond that, if you're committed to thrifting, you might hunt up items you like and then have the daylights tailored out of them. I wouldn't suggest you buy a boxy suit with the intent of trying to make it into something it's not, but if you find a nice vintage piece, a good tailor can add some waist suppression and slim the trousers easily, if needed. You might even go old-school and pick up some narrow-lapel suits from the '50s. If you get one that's slightly on the small side, you'll have a very Thom Browne look for less than $10, probably.
post #3 of 10
congratulations on making the switch to the PD's office! bravo and good luck.
post #4 of 10
Are you licensed to practice in TX?
post #5 of 10

Am I correct that you are still working in a strictly business formal attire environment, e.g. suits are required?
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by styleoasis
Am I correct that you are still working in a strictly business formal attire environment, e.g. suits are required?
Theoretically, when not in court, I could wear an oxford or polo and slacks, but I generally wear a coat and tie. Again, I can't really roll up my sleeves, and I always feel kind of dippy in a long-sleeved oxford without a coat and tie.

A coat and tie is about as dressed up as I'll need to get except for the rare trial. Our bar is pretty relaxed.
post #7 of 10
What I was getting at with that question was the dress code for your job, because that really affects a lot.

I wouldn't rule out business casual. Don't wear short sleeve shirts to work, meaning no polos, but what's wrong with a blazer or sports jacket, dress shirt, and slacks?

However, you will need some suits for court appearances, so I wouldn't be too quick to get rid of your conservative suits from your last job. I would think that as a criminal defense attorney you'll be appearing in court quite often, no?
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'll be appearing in court on an everyday basis, but again, our bar is quite casual, and a coat and tie are considered acceptable for court appearances, especially in magistrate court. Suits are generally only expected for actual trials, which are rare.

I won't be getting rid of anything, don't worry.
post #9 of 10
Due to your workplace, you don't have a lot of leeway. Fit and brands obviously can be adjusted. Ticket pockets or hacking pockets, but probably not in the courtroom. Take a look at Bluefly. Sleeker shoes (no chunky soles), maybe even in burgundy. Slightly slimmer ties.
post #10 of 10
For slim fitting, you might look at RL Polo Black Label or Jil Sander, though one of the web mtm might work for you, also.
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