Now that I'm no longer on the billable clock, I spend a lot more time blog surfing and cannot help but notice the proliferation of sites by would-be fashion divas. The little ensemble pictured here comes from profashionelle.com and retails for a mere $4,955.
I love this look! And if I had a role on Boston Legal or L.A. Law, I think it would fit right in. But in the real world, very few law associates ever dress like this.
A mid-level BigLaw associate who has somehow survived The Economy and is still doing "well" is likely working 2500 hours per year in order to meet the firm's acceptable minimum billable hours limit (generally about 2000 hours). However, even though her firm bills clients well over $300 per hour, her actual gross take home salary is likely less than $100 per hour.
In other words, the outfit above costs her an average (50-hour) week's salary. (If our associate somehow manages to avoid all taxes, that is.)
These days, however, most lawyers are earning nowhere near this amount and the attorney job market is still about as bleak as it has ever been. I occasionally browse the legal listings on Craigslist, and it's pretty discouraging to read ads offering attorney contract jobs for as little as $25-30 per hour. (It takes a very long time to pay off the average six-figure law school debt at that rate.)
But don't despair legal fashionistas! I'm pretty sure I can put together a designer look for just a few hours' pay, even at today's rock bottom billable rates.
So last week I decided to make a field trip to my local Loehmann's to test their claim to be "the IT store for designer fashion" at 30-65% off department store prices. My challenge: to put together a designer "business casual" outfit (with shoes & accessories) for less than $500.
Here's what I came up with:
Start with this olive green suede mini dress by Cynthia Steffe.
Retail: $525 (My price: $94.48)
Then add a multi-color leather & suede shoulder bag by Lucky Brand.
Retail: $149 (I paid $62.99)
Plus Michael Kors gold studded tan leather boots
Retail $295 (My price: $170.99)
And add a matching leather wallet by Chocolat Blu
Retail $80 (my price $22.26)
Finishing touches: Calvin Klein netted hose ($11 retail; my price $5.39) plus studded cuff bracelet by Punch ($40 retail; I paid $17.99)
Total = $374.10* (vs. $1,100.00 retail according to original price tags)
(* Quoted prices include an additional 10% member discount, and do not include state sales tax - 8.75% in California.)
One thing I noticed in this little experiment is that fashion photography is much harder than it looks! I probably should have chosen a better background than my study/guest bedroom, and definitely should have hired a more professional model (but that would have blown the budget):
Although I'm happy with the price of this outfit, I have no idea whether I will ever actually wear it! (It's still a bit much for either blog writing from home or dog walking.) At least Loehmann's has a liberal returns policy ...
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What's your vote? Should I keep this little ensemble or return it? How could the look be improved? And how do you feel about discount/outlet stores generally? Are the bargains worth the hunt? Or do you just end up buying more things you will never wear?