When temperatures soar, so do women’s hemlines. When cold fronts drop, women’s necklines do too. This is standard when it comes to the general populace, but we’ve come to expect more from professional women — especially from attorneys. Law is a very conservative field, and if you show too much skin, you may be looked down upon. And if we have to use the term “may,” you know that people will be talking about you behind your back if your clothes are too racy.
Yes, it’s hot out, and that’s too bad. Ditch the sleeveless dresses, throw out your above-the-knee skirts, and don’t you even dare to wear a pair of peep-toes. Sorry, ladies, but you still have to dress like pilgrims, especially if you’re in the South.
If you’re lucky enough to be an attorney with breasts in a southern state, even showing an elbow will earn you a reprimand from this judge…
Yes, ladies, mere elbows are enough to cause a judge to issue a county-wide memorandum on professional dress. To be fair, it wasn’t just the women who dared to bare their elbows in court who caused this commotion. It was the women who showed up for judicial proceedings in low-cut tops, miniskirts, and in some cases, sweatpants and golf shirts, that got this judge all hot and bothered about the clothes women should wear when working in the legal profession.
Down in Rutherford County, Tennessee, Judge Royce Taylor had received complaints about the way women were dressing, and he decided to put a stop to it. After all, if the issue is a “major discussion point” during bar committee meetings, then perhaps you do belong in the fashion victims unit.
You see, not only does this judge want you to dress more professionally, but he’d love if it you showed up to court in full-on Derby gear. In an interview with the Tennessean, Judge Taylor obviously longs for the days that have come and gone, noting that “[a]ll you have to do is go to church and see what people used to wear — hats, gloves, long dresses — have long been gone away with.”
Women in Rutherford County ranged from being outraged to “slightly offended” upon catching wind of a forthcoming dress code from Judge Taylor, and many completely lost their collective sh*t when rumors started going around that he would require everyone to wear pantyhose. The judge has denied those claims, and in fact, his memorandum was quite simple. Here’s Judge Taylor’s main point:
I have advised some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below the elbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent. If you have questions, please contact my assistant….
In an interview with the WSJ Law Blog, Judge Taylor admitted this was “sort of a delicate issue,” and that he “didn’t really know how to address it.” That’s probably why he’s designated his assistant as the arbiter of the new dress code. So, if you think your outfit is inappropriate in any way, please contact her.
Judge Taylor’s assistant will happily tell you that if people can see your uterus when you bend over, your skirt is way too short. She’ll also be able to tell you whether your plunging neckline is making you look like you’re a professional — the hooker kind, not the lawyer kind. She’ll clear her throat in disdain at the very mention of heels more then three inches in height, and you’ll probably be able to hear her heart stop beating if you even say the word “sweatpants.”
The good judge is correct in that “personal appearance in court is a reflection upon the entire legal profession,” but to get all puritanical about women’s fashion in general is absurd. Times and trends have changed, and while certain fashion pieces are definitely over the line, others have been accepted, even in a culture as conservative as law. Come on, peep-toes used to be shunned across the board, and now even federal judges are fine with them (and law bloggers drool over them).
So ladies, while it’s probably best to save the “power cleavage” for days when you’re not in court, wearing three-quarter-length sleeves and slightly above knee-length skirts won’t get you in trouble, as long as you do it tastefully. Just make sure you don’t look like an escort — you don’t want a spanking from Judge Taylor’s assistant.
(If you’d like to see the full memo, click through to the next page.)