This morning, I’m headed off on holiday and in the mean time, I have lined up a selection of fabulous ladies to pop in and keep things going around here while I’m away. There will still be 2 posts a day, but one of them won’t be by me. I’m pretty excited actually, each of the bloggers who are contributing are people who I admire for their style and content so I think you are all in for a treat. And I’m not telling you who’s coming either, you’ll have to wait and see!
Today, it’s the hilarious and seriously intelligent Kirsty from A Safe Mooring. She’s hit on a subject I’ve been meaning to cover for a while so I hope you enjoy this teaser and share what you wear to the office after her insights. Thanks Kirsty!
Like Rebecca, I work in a profession that is often presented on screen as impossibly glamorous. If television and films are to be believed, female lawyers waltz around the office all day in nothing but mini-skirted suits in a variety of pastel shades, sporting perfectly coiffed hair and skyscraper heels. (They also merrily flit from one specialist area to another, this week defending a murderer and the next pursuing a libel case, but apparently the rules of professional conduct, just like the rules of office-appropriate attire, don’t apply on the other side of the screen.)
It’s all Ally McBeal’s fault. Back when I was an impressionable teenager, Calista Flockhart epitomised my idea of a glamorous lawyer. Donning a tiny skirt, dancing in the communal bathroom, drinking in the in-house bar – just a typical day in the life of your average solicitor. Or not.
And who can forget the pinktastic phenomenon that was Legally Blonde? Sure, it’s hardly representative of real life (or intended to be), but there was something about those fluffy pens and candy-coloured Jackie O suits – not to mention the implication that you could be blonde, wear pink, and actually have a couple of brain cells to rub together – that secretly appealed to me. Judging by the embarrassingly large number of blondes brandishing fluffy pens on the day one of my law degree, I wasn’t the only one.
Sadly, the reality of life in a legal office is somewhat disappointing in the style stakes. When I began my job straight out of university, I had three suits: a black, a grey and a blue. Conservative, safe, zzzzz. Fast-forward a few years and instead of being a trainee, shuffling paper and scurrying in the background, I’m out in front mixing with clients and making decisions. I don’t need to hide my opinions at work, so why hide my sense of style?As women become an increasingly dominant force in the workplace, the classic male uniform of suit, shirt and tie becomes less and less relevant, so why is the legal profession so slow to catch on? Surely it’s possible to look professional without looking like you’re the Conservative candidate in a local council by-election??
Ladies, I believe it is. Allow me to present Exhibit A in the case for professional-but-stylish: Diane Lockhart, the ballsy senior partner in my current legal drama of choice, The Good Wife.
Diane’s wardrobe is subtle, but speaks volumes. Rich jewel tones in classic shapes are lifted to the next level with interesting jewellery and luxe fabrics. Dresses and smart separates replace suits. It doesn’t scream “Look at me!” (or, “Look at my legs!” à la Ms McBeal). Instead, it says in a calm, authoritative voice, “I am a woman. I am good at my job. I do not need to dress like a man, nor do I need to dress to attract a man, to excel in my chosen field. And by the way, your fly’s undone.” At least, that’s what I like to think it says.
Of course, it’s a fine line to tread, and women’s magazines aren’t particularly helping us find our way. If I read another article suggesting that a leather pencil skirt is “totally office appropriate”, I will throttle someone with my own bejewelled hands. But the shift from the days of McBeal and co – when television’s idea of a female lawyer was a ditzy girl larking about in a short skirt – to the slick, smart and stylish professionals presented in The Good Wife is a significant one. Off-screen, there are signs that it might be catching on. My (female) boss often ditches a suit in favour of a sleek dress or colour-blocked top and skirt, and even the senior partner has been spotted – *gasp* – without his tie. Lawyers aren’t known for their daring sense of style, but as more and more young women enter the profession, perhaps we can show the old boys a thing or two.
What about you? How do you balance looking professional with looking stylish?