Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

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LegalSeagull
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Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby LegalSeagull » Thu May 28, 2015 7:56 pm

Okay, so one of my 1L professors harped on the fact that female attorneys should mainly wear a black suit and matching skirt, minimal jewelry, conservative low heels, pantyhose, and a white collared button shirt in order to be taken seriously. Still, this seems very limited and I have to know what really is the line between professional and unprofessional in a firm, in court, and at interviews. For example, if you can find a well tailored skirt and jacket in white or beige, would that be too "risque"?

I'm also from a very warm climate and have never even heard of any professional women wearing pantyhose nowadays. While times do change, I feel like there's never really a definitive guide for what changes are and aren't accepted in the workplace.

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ManoftheHour
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby ManoftheHour » Thu May 28, 2015 8:34 pm

Many of my female classmates have just bought rotations of suits. It looks really professional and makes it one less thing to worry about. Men never worry about what to wear. Makes it simple.

DrRighteous
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby DrRighteous » Thu May 28, 2015 8:40 pm

I've heard navy blue rather than black. The theory behind it (social science geekery ahead) is that women need to portray both competence and femininity in their outfits to be maximally successful in their impressions. So, a black pantsuit might be too severe (competent, but not feminine enough) and a beige skirt suit might be too soft (feminine, but not competent enough). It's all theory, though - the most recent research on women's professional attire was done in the '70's and not done on lawyers.

Most appropriate attire will vary by office - best strategy in my opinion is to get a few conservative skirt suits in dark colors and then tune to whatever the mid- to senior-level women associates in the office wear.

As a side-note, I work with law firm PD folks on occasion and have heard stories about women associates being called out by judges for their attire. In those cases, it's almost always open-toed enormous heels and/or low cut shirts.

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LawsRUs
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby LawsRUs » Thu May 28, 2015 9:11 pm

1. Can I ask if a navy pantsuit is too "severe" for a person who would feel more comfortable not wearing a skirt? (Just bought one.)
2. How about the material of the suit?

Thanks in advance.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu May 28, 2015 10:19 pm

There's a difference between what an attorney should wear to court vs. in the office (and maybe with clients - can't really speak to that). Many firms (as I understand) are now business casual and while that can be a minefield for women, it's not what your prof describes.

As for court, there are still very conservative judges who may expect hose and skirt suits (maybe especially if you're arguing before a federal court of appeals?) but this is very location/court/judge specific. I'm in federal court a lot and even for trials I rarely see women wearing white collared shirts with black skirt suits and hose - one of the three, sure, but not all at once (hose seems to be entirely personal preference - I wear them for trial but not other hearings; plenty never wear them). And I see all kinds of heel heights.

If this is what your prof is telling you to wear for a school-related thing like a moot court they supervise, listen to what they say. If they're talking about "the legal profession" generally, ignore them and find out what the culture of the particular employer/court is. That said, if you have no idea, erring on the side of conservative (skirt suit, hose, heels, minimal jewelry) is always safe - it's easier to lighten up than go more conservative.

Also, interview gear should be more conservative than daily work wear. I wouldn't wear beige or white to an interview - I would stick with black, navy, gray, or taupe.Though personally I don't think a collared shirt is ever required for women (a shell is fine if it fits you better).

(Sorry for rambling.)

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El Pollito
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby El Pollito » Thu May 28, 2015 10:26 pm

DrRighteous wrote:I've heard navy blue rather than black. The theory behind it (social science geekery ahead) is that women need to portray both competence and femininity in their outfits to be maximally successful in their impressions. So, a black pantsuit might be too severe (competent, but not feminine enough) and a beige skirt suit might be too soft (feminine, but not competent enough). It's all theory, though - the most recent research on women's professional attire was done in the '70's and not done on lawyers.

Most appropriate attire will vary by office - best strategy in my opinion is to get a few conservative skirt suits in dark colors and then tune to whatever the mid- to senior-level women associates in the office wear.

As a side-note, I work with law firm PD folks on occasion and have heard stories about women associates being called out by judges for their attire. In those cases, it's almost always open-toed enormous heels and/or low cut shirts.

navy portrays flight attendant

DrRighteous
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby DrRighteous » Fri May 29, 2015 5:32 am

Yeah, I hate skirt suits too. So I would wear pantsuits but dress them down/soften them either by having a pantsuit with a slightly more 'feminine' blazer, or by wearing a little more feminine/less severe shirt. Pantsuits in general are likely going to be fine in most firms on a day-to-day basis. I would still have that skirt suit on hand for interviews when it's safe to be as conservative as possible.

I can't comment on the fabric question - as a researcher and consultant, I get a lot more leeway in my personal clothing options so I'm not up on the hip fabrics.

DrRighteous
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby DrRighteous » Fri May 29, 2015 5:34 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Though personally I don't think a collared shirt is ever required for women (a shell is fine if it fits you better).


Forgot to say - totally agreed.

psu2016
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby psu2016 » Fri May 29, 2015 6:29 am

As a butch woman, it really leaves me in a quandary as to what I'd ever do if someone told me I needed to wear a skirt for my professional success. Literally, I would be so uncomfortable that it would throw me off my game during argument or trial.

And I look hella ugly in a skirt so I'm not sure what the judge would think the point of "feminizing" me would be.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri May 29, 2015 9:49 am

The point of a skirt (to those who care) isn't that you look good in it, it's that you're not "transgressing" gender norms by wearing "men's" clothing. (I mean, that's bunk, but that's the idea behind the skirt suit thing.)

collegewriter
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby collegewriter » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:38 pm

It's different for interviews with biglaw firms and real life. You can wear pants or a skirt to court as long as you look professional. Many "butch" lawyers I know or those who are more comfortable in pants wear pants. To a biglaw interview you want to wear what your professor said. The biggest deviation is possibly a silk shirt in a not loud color. In the real world, you can basically wear what you want to work unless you are meeting with clients or going to court. Women wear skirts, suit pants, ankle pants, low heels, high heels, dresses, all types of blazers, unmatching separates, jewelry, silk scarves, etc. As long as you look good, polished, and professional you will be fine.

Note for those who don't want to wear the biglaw attire: most PI job interviews don't require as much formality and you can deviate from the boring standards set for biglaw.

matthewdoss
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby matthewdoss » Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:47 pm

mod edit: SPAM

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rinkrat19
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:14 am

Just a note on the "PI is more casual" concept... As with everything else, this is not absolute. The DA's office I'm in now is more conservatively formal than any firm I've visited. Biz formal every day, and pretty much only dark colors (navy, dark grey, black). Shirts/shells (and ties for men) can have plenty of color, and women wear pants (thank god). I actually haven't noticed whether hose are worn all the time. The theory being that as a DDA, you need to be court-ready every day. We take our jackets off in the office, but we have to put them on to leave the office and walk around the rest of the courthouse.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:40 am

pant suits are on fleek, go with that. although as a man I think skirts are very good looking on women so just do whatever you want is what I'm saying. We all have to look like sharp, well-dressed drones when we're at the bottom of the ladder. It's not like male jr associates can wear satin suits to work without getting the stank eye.

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zot1
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby zot1 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:53 am

rinkrat19 wrote:Just a note on the "PI is more casual" concept... As with everything else, this is not absolute. The DA's office I'm in now is more conservatively formal than any firm I've visited. Biz formal every day, and pretty much only dark colors (navy, dark grey, black). Shirts/shells (and ties for men) can have plenty of color, and women wear pants (thank god). I actually haven't noticed whether hose are worn all the time. The theory being that as a DDA, you need to be court-ready every day. We take our jackets off in the office, but we have to put them on to leave the office and walk around the rest of the courthouse.


DA is not PI.

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zot1
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby zot1 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:56 am

psu2016 wrote:As a butch woman, it really leaves me in a quandary as to what I'd ever do if someone told me I needed to wear a skirt for my professional success. Literally, I would be so uncomfortable that it would throw me off my game during argument or trial.

And I look hella ugly in a skirt so I'm not sure what the judge would think the point of "feminizing" me would be.


Wear what you are comfortable with. Just know that you do so at the risk of losing out on some jobs. I'd say that that's a good thing because you shouldn't want to be in those jobs anyway, but with this economy, I can't just say that.

I did, however, made clothes a big part of my choosing my career. I worked in places were suits were required everyday and in places where attorneys wore jeans and a shirt. Although I didn't score with wearing jeans and a shirt everyday, I at least got a super business casual (slacks and a shirt) m-th and jeans on Fridays, with option to wear black jeans whenever.

sheila1s
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby sheila1s » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:10 am

This is your lifesaver: http://corporette.com/

A good place to start is the basic guide to women's suiting. There are a lot of really good comments and people have discussed all the issues you mentioned in depth. :)

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rinkrat19
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:30 am

zot1 wrote:
rinkrat19 wrote:Just a note on the "PI is more casual" concept... As with everything else, this is not absolute. The DA's office I'm in now is more conservatively formal than any firm I've visited. Biz formal every day, and pretty much only dark colors (navy, dark grey, black). Shirts/shells (and ties for men) can have plenty of color, and women wear pants (thank god). I actually haven't noticed whether hose are worn all the time. The theory being that as a DDA, you need to be court-ready every day. We take our jackets off in the office, but we have to put them on to leave the office and walk around the rest of the courthouse.

DA is not PI.

I assume you're attempting humor, because of course it is. PI includes government. Which is why a PI fellowship is paying my ass to work for a DA.

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zot1
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby zot1 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:09 am

rinkrat19 wrote:
zot1 wrote:
rinkrat19 wrote:Just a note on the "PI is more casual" concept... As with everything else, this is not absolute. The DA's office I'm in now is more conservatively formal than any firm I've visited. Biz formal every day, and pretty much only dark colors (navy, dark grey, black). Shirts/shells (and ties for men) can have plenty of color, and women wear pants (thank god). I actually haven't noticed whether hose are worn all the time. The theory being that as a DDA, you need to be court-ready every day. We take our jackets off in the office, but we have to put them on to leave the office and walk around the rest of the courthouse.

DA is not PI.

I assume you're attempting humor, because of course it is. PI includes government. Which is why a PI fellowship is paying my ass to work for a DA.


Actually, I wasn't. At least in California, government is almost never included in PI (although for summer public interest fellowships -titled that way- the actual fellowship contents say "this fellowship is to benefit students working in public interest and government.") My point is that now post-grad I wouldn't ever go to someone and say I work in PI. Almost certainly the people who do work in PI would likely get offended by me saying that.

Anyhow, the people I know working in PI (ACLU and the like) often wear jeans and a shirt. DA offices unlike any other government agency is required to have suits because as you pointed out, you always gotta be court ready. Some other agencies require it and some don't depending on court visibility and how cool the boss is, I suppose.

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rinkrat19
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Re: Womens' Legal Attire. Has it changed?

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 11:38 am

Fortunately for anyone trying to pay off student loans, government jobs qualify for PSLF. It may get referred to as "PI and government" for clarity's sake, but I've never heard anyone try to claim that working for and getting paid by the public at a government agency is not public interest. If PI excluded government, we'd just call it "non-profits."

A DA's office is probably an extreme on the PI dress code scale, but it should be included in the discussion.




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