DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a social worker, and I work in a poor neighborhood in my city. I don’t have any problem with that. I love my work and get along well with my co-workers as well as the folks in the housing projects where I work. Some of these people have been my clients for several years. We know each other pretty well, and they trust me.
The other day, I wore a fur coat to work because it was really cold. Other women have worn fur coats to work before, but somehow I seemed to stand out because a co-worker told me I was being insensitive and flaunting my possessions in front of poor people. I was surprised; even though my clients typically are poor, a lot of these women have furs. Am I wrong to wear my fur coat on this job? -- Keeping Warm, Newark, New Jersey
DEAR KEEPING WARM: Your wearing a fur coat to work is very different from your clients wearing fur coats. Your co-worker was right to point out that it could seem insensitive for you to wear a fur coat when you visit your clients. You may want to reserve your fur for your personal time.
It is smart for you to dress professionally so that whenever your clients see you, they know you are there for business. This can help to draw the line between you without creating distinctions based on budget. But yes, I would leave the fur at home. Err on the side of conservatism and less flash. Don’t make a big deal of it, either. Just stop wearing the coat to work.