Via Glenn Reynolds, I read this post at The Careerist:
What if a young associate dresses better than the partners? That question was obliquely posed on Corporette.com, a fashion blog for professional women. In a recent post, a summer associate at a big firm in Singapore asks whether she should carry her Birkin to work. (For those who are too embarrassed to ask, a Birkin is an Hermes bag that’s become an uber-status symbol; the price starts close to $10,000.)
The summer associate describes her dilemma: “I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: 1. You should dress what you would like to be, i.e., if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and 2. Dress appropriate to your level in the firm.”
Writer Vivia Chen gives her take:
While jealousy and competition among women in the office are not uncommon (see “The End of Sisterhood”), women, in my experience, are actually quite respectful toward those who are well-accessorized. From what I’ve seen, women are far more critical of those who don’t dress well than those who are nicely turned out. The comment is usually, “Why is she dressed in rags when she makes so much money?” rather than, “How awful she’s wearing that exquisite Armani.”
Why are we more forgiving about these luxuries? Maybe it’s a pleasure to see someone who looks stylish. Maybe we’d like to think that we’re in the same sorority of good taste.
So my advice is to bring out the Birkin, and prop it right on the conference table. And if it seems to be stirring jealousy or resentment, just hint that it’s a fake. In New York, at least, that would be completely plausible.
In the corporate law offices with which I’m familiar, that approach would go over just fine. But were I ever confronted with a lawyer or an agent or some other professional carrying a small leather bag that cost $10,000, I’d immediately conclude that his or her value system is astonishingly perverted, and that he or she lacks the judgment, perspective and ordering of priorities necessary to do business of any sort with me. Even the most hedonistic spendthrift is preferable to the superlatively decadent brand name status whore.
Then again, it is highly doubtful that I’d be able to distinguish a $10,000 bag from one purchased at that store on Broadway where people famously buy cheap but fashionable purses. Okay, that was a bluff, but surely such a store exists? Also, did the advent of cell phones place all wrist watches into the “purely decorative jewelry” category?