I Grew Up on a Farm


QI’m a 2L. Everything is fine. I get my work done, pull in decent grades, have friends, maintain a relatively sane life. But I have no fashion sense. Honestly, I’m from rural Oklahoma, grew up on a farm, and went to school at Oklahoma State University. I did well enough there to land a plum spot at a good law school. I’m also about to start a summer clerkship at a large New York firm.

I’m also cheap, primarily because I have little extra money to spend on things other than school, and living in a city that’s way too expensive. I have two navy blue suits, one black, and plenty of blouses. I’ll get another suit. The workday I don’t worry about too much. I can figure that out. I worry more about the parties, informal lunches, outings that the firm will sponsor over summer. Any advice?


AI’m not a fashion maven, so take this advice with a grain of salt. But there are some dos and don’ts:

  1. Don’t try to compete with any other summer associates, either in what you wear or what you know. They will win, the partners and other associates will notice, and you will look stupid, a copycat, and will be out a lot of money. For example, one day you show up with an expensive Louis Vuiton handbag you wasted a week’s pay on. She’ll show up that same day carrying a Birkin bag through the halls. She’ll not only resent the competition but will pity you and ultimately put you in your place. Don’t give her that satisfaction.
  2. Be yourself. Not that you should wear overalls and chew on a sprig of wheat, but don’t dress beyond what you (a) can afford; and (b) are comfortable in. otherwise, partners and other associates will just think of you as that hayseed who thinks she’s bigger than her britches.
  3. No pantyhose/peep toe combos.
  4. Go to a conservative mainstream clothier like Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor and spill the beans. Honestly. The clerks there may see you as potential future business. They also like to help. Usually. But if you get a fuckwad tightass clerk, just walk away and go somewhere else. It’s not worth it.
  5. Don’t go on a spending spree at some high-end store, even if you can. Be modest, purchase one outfit, and learn from sales clerks what is appropriate. Then find it later online or at outlet malls, if you can. But not the Gap. And don’t buy everything before you start. Buy a few things, check out what people wear at the office, then budget some additions over the summer.
  6. Don’t wear heeled gladiators. Ever. Just has to be said.

Finally, check out BL1Y’s post Attention Idiot Lawyer’s: Business Casual Explained. He nailed the notion of business casual vs. dressy casual. Hell, I don’t mind sending you over to Corporette even. They know a bit more about women’s professional dress than this hayseed farm boy from central Illinois (but who is now very well dressed, thank you).

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

7 Comments

  1. Strenuous Objector

    May 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I have to agree with previous comments on other posts, this is not bitter lawyer. I mean, you could have just linked to the business casual page and then berated the person for asking ex-bitter about clothes. Or hell, you could have chosen any other question and it’d have been more fulfilling than this girl’s question. Either way, the crabs will continue to be the best ex-bitter post for the new age of BL.

    • Ex-Bitter

      May 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      Fair enough. But it’s not every day that an associate gives us a case of crabs.

      • Strenuous Objector

        May 9, 2011 at 7:07 am

        That is true. And after thinking upon it, advice on how to dress would be helpful information, but I guess my favorite ex-bitter from the past where ones where people asked stupid questions and then you laughed about it. Like the fourth year associate who thought he had “contacts” and could set out on his own.

  2. BL1Y

    May 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    You’ll want to pick up Nina Garcia’s The Style Strategy. It’s specifically aimed at letting you put together a stylish (and timeless) wardrobe while on a budget. For instance, Garcia recommends going for clothes with at least 50% natural fibers, because synthetics tend to retain odors (shortening their lifespan) and have to be dry cleaned (increasing the cost of owning it).

    Also (not in the book, as this advice is mainly given to men), if you’re buying a pant suit, buy two pairs of pants. Your pants will wear out faster than the jacket, and they cost only a fraction of the jacket’s price. Getting a second pair of pants basically doubles the life of your suit. No idea if this also applies to skirts though.

  3. Alma Federer

    May 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Be yourself. So what if you’re from another place? You are in a decent law school in a decent city. But don’t let on that you are a hick, or the guys will eat you alive. Just go with the flow, and don’t let the guys take advantage of you sexually. They will tell you that it is OK to sleep with them right away (this is the big city), and not to worry about contraception (b/c this is the big city). Well they are just trying to get into those farm pants of yours. Do NOT let them. If you do, they will merely leave you for the next woman willing to drop her pants for them and you will have nothing to show for your time other than some sweaty guy panting on top of you for 5 minutes. That is NOT what city life should be all about.

    Be yourself, and hold to your moral fibers. You will be respected a lot more by the guys if you retain your sense of self worth. There are a lot of male pigs out there with law degrees.

    • Craig

      May 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      haha … Has Alma gotten funnier? Or is it just relative to the new material on the site.

  4. Bill

    May 7, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Real Farm girls are hot! Look at Ellie May Clampitt from the Beverly Hillbillies.

    Those broads see first hand how their own farm-yard animals do it, so those broads are not hung up over what sex is all about.

    So I say enjoy New York City, and don’t be afraid to drop those drawers!

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