Seattle Style: For Better or Worse?

The Seattle Times recently featured an interesting article about Seattle fashion sense, which asked whether Seattle is one of the country’s worst dressed cities. Interestingly enough, the results of the featured study showed that Seattle ladies represent pretty well, coming in as fourth-best dressed after San Francisco, New York and D.C. The dudes are dragging us down though, as Seattle men ranked 31st among 77 U.S. metropolitan cities in the fashion category. Come on guys!

To any Seattle native or transplant, this comes as no surprise. Birkenstocks, corduroys, Crocs, and the ever-present North Face, all make it into the “business casual” wardrobe even though they have no business being there.

Is the legal community immune to this fashion crisis? Absolutely not. I can count the number of times I’ve worn my black power suit and heels in my last three years of practice without even using up all my fingers. It just seems excessive in Seattle.

While I aspire to look polished and professional, it can be tough in the face of serial casualness around you. I’ll never forget arriving at my first deposition (one of the few times the power suit made an appearance), only to find the witness in jeans and the other guy not even wearing a tie. Your wardrobe should be sending the right message, but that day, it was screaming: “Newbie! First Deposition!” I felt like a law student getting dressed up for a mock trial.

Seattle style, for better or worse, is what it is. Maybe it’s a west coast/east coast thing, maybe it’s that we just don’t care, or maybe it’s that buying designer shoes just doesn’t make sense when they will be soggy for three-quarters of the year.

What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Seen some poor ill-dressed colleague get chewed out by a judge? Share your stories in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Seattle Style: For Better or Worse?

  1. Mary V. White

    I’ve always struggled with how much “quirky” or “individualistic” dressy style I can safely use practicing law in Seattle. When I was a public defender, my lady clients in the tank used to ooh and aah over some of my funky but dressy outfits, for whatever that is worth! It made things a bit more fun, anyway. I sometimes wore a full length silk paisley blue Pendelton skirt and jacket with my Frye boots, to good effect. I have always gone for the dramatic/ creative jewelry (rather than the demure and understated), and and at times have had mildly wild dye jobs in my hair (although no blue and green… just odd shades blonde/ gold/ black). As I advance in my forties, I feel a bit more anxious about not appearing “juvenile” although I tend to prefer dressing younger in the rest of my life. For women there is also the unspoken line in dressing, between “attractive” and what you could call “distracting” or “inappropriate.” Shorter, tighter skirts come into fashion and grace the pages of Elle and Vogue, and we must decide if we could — or want to — “get away” with the look in a courtroom.

    I’ve enjoyed dressing up, and I know clients often feel more confident that they have a “real” attorney when I’m dressed up, but have always hated the conventional ladies suit – the uncomfortable tight skirts, higher waisted “tailored” trousers, and hose which seem to be required when suiting up. It all feels…restrictive! When I am uncomfortable in my clothes, it can even effect how I perform in the courtroom; for me physical discomfort detracts from the energy or charisma and confidence that I might try to project in a hearing. Not to mention the horrible pain of many high heeled pumps. SO — I like to show style, and to dress up, but generally not in the power suit. This has worked pretty well most of the time, I think. In Seattle, there is more leeway and forgiveness for dressy but artistic/ unique clothing.

    Now I practice in the Wenatchee area. People are equally formal here but perhaps a bit less “creative” in their courtroom dress. The journey never ends!

  2. markpattersonlaw

    Jason your point about sloppy dress leading to sloppy work is well taken.

    Additionally the image projected by sloppy dress harms the lawyer and client both. Tyipically the client is there for something important, shouldn’t we project our respect for their issue in how we carry ourselves? I think it is part of the job.

  3. Jason Walker

    Forget what the other lawyers think about you – Don’t forget you’re making an impression on the non-lawyers you interact with too! When the other lawyers around you are dressed like it’s casual Friday, you make all that better of an impression.

    The other lawyers may think you’re like a law student dressing for mock trial – if you do only show up to your first deposition looking sharp, then fall into their bad habits. Be consistent. And remember, making Seattle (and the rest of Washington) a better dressed place starts with each of us.

  4. markpattersonlaw

    Claire- Wear the power suit. Wear the pumps. Knock them over. It is that edge that the dressed down like it is Saturday at Starbucks lawyers do not have.

    Just because Seattle is the birthplace of REI and Grunge Rock doesnt mean we have to dress like we are heading out in to the woods or some crummy bar to listen to music my son might find agreeable.

    Given my wife’s heritage we travel to Spain regularly. I was sitting in a hotel room in Madrid watching a TV news report about the shanty towns outside the city. The people living there were better dressed than most of the Bar. It’s embarrassing really.

    And if you go to Spain be aware it is considered poor taste to wear shorts, no matter how hot it gets. Those white tennis shoes scream “I am a tourist you can steal from me”.

    Seattle, you look like hell. Get thee to Nordrstroms and acquire the polish the term “esquire” implies.

    My name is Pete Patterson and I approved this message.

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