Three hours later, “Next!”
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!
I’ve decided I’m bringing this back. Rounded up the stories this has collected from the last time around:
tinycanuck shared a story about a career guidance session being entirely about what was appropriate for the women in the room to wear (not the men), and not about, you know, the actual interview process
unjust-enrichment shared her experience being publicly reprimanded in front of a sitting jury, for wearing pink nail polish.
Another reblog had a story shared from bellaloveshergriffs (I believe from someone else) about how, yes, there are certain office appropriate rules to be followed. And we shouldn’t go around burning our bras and demanding we get to dress like stepford wives. Which is entirely true.
What this post is all about, and what these stories are all about, is the double standards women are told. Some are told to not wear skirts, some are told to only wear skirts. Some are told we should always wear nail polish (in a muted tone!) and others are told our nails should be pristine and bare.
What this is really all about is the fact that these “rules” are horseshit. No one tells men how to dress; they expect that they will know how to dress for the office. And for casual fridays. And for court. And yet everyone seems to think they must chime in and tell the women in the room what they consider appropriate.
I, and many other women who have shared this post, am tired of being policed because of my gender. I would like to be respected enough to be left to dress myself, thank you.
If any other ladies would like to share their stories, I encourage you to. This world feels a lot less overwhelming when we know we’re not alone.
I don’t usually post these things to my blog, but this happens all the time, and I think it’s not only a gender issue, but also a generational one. In my 2L year, I was a judicial intern and was wearing a v-neck top (mid-cleavage) with a dark cami underneath (covered full cleavage). I was sitting and talking to one of the clerks when my judge and another male judge came into the office to talk. He was a tall man and stood to talk to us. It seemed like a innocuous encounter until I was told in my exit interview that the judge was staring down my cleavage the entire time and I should wear shirts that went up to my neck to avoid this in the future.
We also had mock interviews in our school and the one interviewers attended one of my courses and said that every woman she interviewed that day was inappropriately dressed, in part citing heels that were 3 inches. My younger female professor who headed the class smiled and we could all see as she turned out her heel and glanced down at her obvious three-inch pumps. The prof apologized for the remarks after the guest left.
The previous comments are right, there just isn’t a win when it comes to female court attire, but I honestly think this is also a large generational issue. Both of my experiences I shared are critiques from older female attorneys. Right now I’m temping in both legal and office fields and when I went in for my interview with the legal temping agency, I wore a bright, modest cobalt blue dress. When I called to follow up with any assignments, I was speaking to a woman and she said, “Oh! I met you—blue dress!” And my reply was, “Oh, you were two-tone shoes!” And she laughed because I remembered her amazing shoes. I think as more women enter and push into the legal field, it’s valuable to keep in mind that women remember other women in these ways. You never want to dress poorly for court, but it says a lot about a person or a firm if they’re going to criticize you for wearing a color other than black or wearing a bold lip. Times are tough for employment, times are tough for me too, but is this a firm you’re going to want to become a partner in, when you can’t literally ever let your hair down?
Lawyers and Law Students:
I tried to explain the postal worker didn’t work for us (an apartment complex), but she said I was rude and wanted to file a formal complaint to make a “paper trail.”
What your supervisors said:
What you wish you could say:
I said I was fine with it because:
So when they start yelling, I’m just: