Articles Posted in Dress & Attire

Being beautiful ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Or so it seems from the legal-news headlines.

First, there are the “Borgata Babes.”  The female cocktail servers at Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, known as Borgata Babes, challenged the legality of their employer’s policy prohibiting them from gaining more than 7% of their body weight after they were hired.  The Babes lost the lawsuit, though, when a New Jersey judge granted Borgata’s motion for summary judgment.

The cocktail servers alleged that the hotel created a culture of humiliation and harassment with its dress

Delaware’s Kent County Superior Court has issued a new dress code (pdf) for litigants and observers.  The dress code provides that “appropriate dress” that is “consistent with the seriousness and dignity of the judicial process” will be required to gain access to the courthouse. The dress code goes on to say that attire must be “constructed and worn in such a manner that it is not unduly revealing or offensive.”  Casual v Business

The dress code goes on to identify certain types of clothing that are prohibited for court appearances, including:

  • Clothing that depicts swear words, violence, drugs, or alcohol use;
  • Muscle shirts or tank tops
  • Halters or bare midriffs
  • Mini Skirts (no more than 4″ above the knee when standing)
  • Hair curlers, hats, or head coverings (except those worn for religious purposes)

The Superior Court dress code seems to me to be, well, pretty easy to satisfy. Really, are we asking too much that a litigant take off his hat when he comes to court?  I’m all for casual and all for comfort; but there’s a proper place and time. 

Employers have long hated the summer months for the dress-code disasters that inevitably accompany the change in seasons. The inability of people to make good fashion choices for their workplace attire has led to countless headaches for human resource professionals and managers everywhere and, in many cases, has been cited as a reason to not make the switch to a casual dress code.  Dress Codes from the Ivy League

Just ask educators. Uniforms in public schools are more popular than ever. When everyone wears the same thing, social status becomes much harder to identify.

Harvard apparently has its own take on the “school uniform” idea.  It’s set to release it’s own clothing line, called “Harvard Yard.”  And, according to Fashionista, the line isn’t cheap–we’ll have to wait and see how a $220 pair of pants impacts the wearer’s perceived social status.

A lawyer who cares a lot about shoes. That description applies to me, as I just love, love, love shoes of the high-heeled variety, in particular. There’s another lawyer feels passionately about shoes, but in a very different way. The Palm Beach Post broke the story of a Florida lawyer who filed a motion to compel his opposing counsel to wear better-looking shoes.  Nope, I am not kidding. 


In short, the lawyer felt that, by wearing old, ugly shoes to court, his opponent was unfairly garnering the sympathy of the jury.  It’s a high-drama story, far more so than even this description implies, if you’re interested.  But I just love the fact that the attorney actually noticed his opposing counsel’s shoes in the first place!  Nevertheless that the guy had the guts to file a motion about the darned things!   This story reaffirms my admiration of the justice system and sense of awe of lawyers who take the details very, very seriously. 

NPR aired a story claiming that employees are paying more attention to their wardrobe as a result of layoffs and belt-tightening.  Has workers’ attire become more conservative and just better looking lately?  And, if so, is the appearance improvement possibly a tactic being used to prevent termination? image

If this idea is based in reality, doesn’t it imply that employees believe that dressing better is just plain better?  So why do they settle for less-than-better unless they think their jobs are on the hook?  Maybe the ones who don’t “dress better” (as in, “improved”), should be rewarded because they (a) always strive to “dress better” (i.e., look their best); or (b) have enough confidence in themselves, their fashion sense, and their employer.

There may be something to it.

Women’s attire has been a hot topic here this week.  (See Pantsuit I and Pantsuit II). And the subject of dress codes is only getting started–it is, after all, the start of the summer.  One law firm has taken the bull by the horns.  Curtis Mallet issued a memo to associates providing some very specific instructions on what the firm considers to be appropriate summer attire. According to law-firm-tabloid blog, Above the Law, the memo was not well received by associates. 

Oh, boo hiss to them.  dress-for-success

The memo is hilarious.  It’s to the point and it leaves little room for doubt.  I think it’s a model for excellence in the dress code category!!  Visit Above the Law for the full memo but here’s a few highlights in the meantime:

Whether women attorneys are guilty of poor fashion choices when it comes to courtroom attire was the topic of Part I of this post.  (See Are Women Attorneys Being Stricken by a Pantsuit Pandemic).  In this part, I propose what I believe is the “solution” to this problem.

What can and should be done about these fashion crimes?

There has been some suggestion that law schools should teach students about the dos and don’ts of fashion for their future career endeavors.  I have to giggle a little when I hear that idea.  Academia is going to be responsible for communicating fashion tips to the next generation?  Oh, come on now, I don’t think there can be too many people who actually believe that this is a viable proposition. Even if schools were to outsource the subject and hire image consultants to teach a 1-credit class called “Appropriate Courtroom Attire,” standards will still vary by some degree based on geography and the courts in which you practice.

The dress-code issue took front and center during a panel discussion of federal court judges from the Seventh Circuit. The judges raised the issue of what one jurist described as “the Ally McBeal look,” complaining that female attorneys dress inappropriately when appearing in court. The comment and ensuing discussion has sparked a debate across the blogosphere.

For me, the comment raises multiple questions. First, do women really dress as badly as the panelists described? Second, if women are making such horrible fashion choices, why are they doing so–ignorance or disregard?  Third, assuming the pantsuit pandemic is not limited to the Seventh Circuit, what’s to be done about it?  image

I share my thoughts to the first two questions below and will share my solution to the problem in a subsequent post.  But, before turning to the questions, but feel compelled to first disclose where I stand on the fashion spectrum.  I fall somewhere on the “fashion forward” side of the line.  For example, my electric blue patent leather pumps usually get an eyebrow raise or two, as do my leopard-print calf-hair Lambertson Truex stilettos. I am a self-confessed shoe junkie.

Shoes aside, I definitely fall on the conservative side of the line, as well.  I guarantee that no judge would ever comment that my hemline is inappropriately high–in or out of court.  Never ever.  So I come from a position that women can dress in a way that reflects their individuality and that is perfectly current without compromising their attire-integrity.





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Men are going unshaven as a sign of rebellion against Corporate America, or The Man, or the employer that just laid them off.  Well, so we hear, anyway.  And fashion houses are designing women’s suits that include shorts so short that would make the women in the Nair* commercials blush.  Even I have contributed to the recent workplace dress code rebellion by suggesting that corporate-suit-types may prefer pink iPod cufflinks to the traditional mainstays.  shutterstock_23553256

And this type of style confidence is fantastic.  Unless, of course, your choices put your superiors on guard–instead of admiring your style as avant-gard.  Just ask Tracey Batt.  

From the ABA Journal, an article titled, Ex BigLaw Associate: I Was Arrested By Law Firm Fashion Police.  According to the article’s author, Martha Neil, Batt was a 5th-year associate at a BigLaw** firm in NYC when she scared her superiors so badly with her fashion choices that they actually retained a fashion consultant to take her shopping and help her with a total makeover.

Workplace attire is a favorite topic of mine.  When the New York Times announced that the “man-short” suit was going to sweep corporate offices across the country, I had my doubts.  Recently, the Wall Street Journal asked whether unshaven faces would be the next big thing as men laid off from their fast-track jobs rebelled against the system by, well, by dressing like men without jobs.  

For those who find this type of fashion-of-the-absurd-style commentary as entertaining as I do, I’m glad to bring another soon-to-be fashion classic to your attention.  Corporette, a fairly recent and worthy edition to the blogosphere, spotted this first.*  51M


This Bebe twill suit is available as separates–a jacket with piping and pleats, a bustier vest in the same style, wide-leg (and super-long) pants, and a reasonably conservative skirt.  But what really takes the day is not the slightly off-beat twill suit.  There’s a third option.  If neither the pants nor the skirt does it for you, try the super-short shorts.  How short is short, you ask?  Try a 2.25 inch inseam.  Wowser. 

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