BUT, as regards women lawyers, I say: this focus on women lawyers’ attire is driven (once again, as in so many arenas) by the need for men to control women (and yes, women will police other women for them, as in the stilletto example above). Our culture still judges women, even the most powerful women, by a completely different standard (one inferior) to men: Diane Sawyer asking Hillary Clinton if she can be both a grandmother and president (did anyone ask Dwight Eisenhower that question when he was running?), the New York Times firing Jill Abrahamson because of her “abrasive” management style (did anyone fire Abe Rosenthal for being too abrasive?).
The fact of the matter is, professional women who have spent three years and tens of thousands of dollars are smart enough to pick out their own wardrobes without help. Women usually are aware of how they look, and what effect their clothes are intended to have. To those who complain about women’s courtroom attire, I say: you may not agree with her choices, you may not like them… but unless you really think a woman did not intend to present the appearance she does (there’s a run in the back of her tights, she has chalk on the seat of her pants, she is missing a button, or her skirt is hiked up in back) then keep your thoughts to yourself. Why not focus your energy on, oh… something that matters?
I’m curious what fellow lawblrs have heard as ‘advice’ regarding their attire. I’ve heard on several occasions not to wear skirts to interviews, as it makes us appear too ‘feminine.’
So, to sum up today:
miss-sardonic has been told by moot court judges, in recorded comments, that she should have been wearing a skirt instead of a pantsuit.
a-necessary-dream has been told women shouldn’t wear pantsuits
emmeetsworld has said that her office has a rule of skirts for court (kudos to the in-house more casual dress code). She also notes that the Hilary Clinton look (conservative skirt-suit, pumps, pearl earrings) is commonly considered a must for East-Coast interviews.
Jdandunderemployed has been told that she shouldn’t wear shirts that fall outside the dark blue/black spectrum. She also has heard stories about how women shouldn’t wear pants during moot courts. (And her story about the legal aid lawyers is great)
theshinyinternets has been told, by a moot court judge, in lieu of constructive feedback, that she should ‘leave her hair down’ because it looked to ‘severe’ pulled back and she’s a ‘lovely girl.’ Kudos to her for not killing him dead right there.
notloblawlawblog has been told to not have her shoes too high OR too short. You know, like Goldilocks. Also, you should wear enough makeup to look like a ‘woman,’ but not so much as so men actually ‘know’ you’re wearing it.
And OP herself, heather-ilene has a great story about her Legal Research prof telling her that without a suit jacket and button-up white shirt, she couldn’t possibly be expected to be dressed for court.
Miss-Sardonic put it best, when she said: Judges and other attorneys will feel they can critique your appearance because you’re a woman, and their advice will contradict, so you really can’t win.
Ladies, I have to applaud you for the fact that you all take this crap with a grain of salt, you don’t punch the people who are trying to police your body in the face and, hopefully, you stand by your fellow ladies when they make their own wardrobe choices.
If you’ve got your own story, please share. It helps when we’re not alone in feeling how ridiculous this is. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the sharing of stories will empower other women to stand up and not let others dictate what should be in their wardrobe.
Day 2 Round-Up
lawblrgh discussed how a judge came into a law office and informed all the women they shouldn’t wear colours or necklaces because they were ‘distracting’ and people ‘would get the wrong idea’ (kudos to the female lawyer who wore a bright red blazer the next day as a hellavu fuck you)
nottreason talked about how in her moot, her critique was that her untucked shit was too distracting for him. She also notes that several friends have been told, by career services, that they should wear more makeup. I’m going to venture a guess that this actually means “please change your face without showing that you’re wearing more makeup.” Ugh.
seducemymindyouidiot has the BEST one so far in regards to heels. No flats. But not too high of a heel. Oh, and kitten heels are unprofessional (apparently we should all take rulers to our pumps, ladies). She also WINS when it comes to inappropriate stories, of a fellow law student being kicked out as the court reporter, because her breasts were too big (and they were fully covered). She also talks about how she’s been told nail polish should be nude or pale pink. Considering how ridiculous it seems that someone felt the need to outline what colour nails are appropriate, I’m just waiting to hear of someone being told their lipstick was the wrong shade.
ultraohmygosh has a terrible story about asking for career advice from a senior partner, and instead being told to dress more provocatively. My apologies to her that this post reminded her of the instance, but we thank her for sharing.
Because it reminds us that we’re going to get told we can’t be women, and yet be reprimanded if we don’t fit the ‘definition’ of women at the same time. It reminds us that all these rules are ass fucking backwards.
And, hopefully, this post reaches a few more people. And it shows them they are not alone. That they are not the only ones going through this. And they are not the only ones who take that advice and throw it out the window like the garbage it is.
It is easier to stand up for ourselves, when we remember we are worth standing up for.
Got a story of your own, ladies? Sound off!
At our interview prep/information session, our career guidance person (a woman) spent the entire time talking at the women in the room about “appropriate” attire, which included advice about how much jewellery (not) to wear, what kind and how much makeup to wear, and the kicker “wear heels but if you wear heels, you have to be able to keep up with the men in the room”. Here I thought I was going to get good advice about how to answer tough interview questions but instead got lectured about my potential wardrobe choices. She never said a single word about what the men should/should not wear.
I have not been criticized (YET) on how I dress as a law clerk either in the office or in court. But I worry a lot about my attire and how I am perceived, especially in court. I worry because, as you all have already experienced bullshit double-standard- based-criticism for how you dress as women law clerks and attorneys, I know it’s only a matter of time before I have to deal with this crap.