"Girlfriends of the Court"

The law and … tights

In Barristers, fashion, Stockings, women on February 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

Is it time to toss the tights?

I was sorting through a box of materials the other day when I came across a picture of the solicitor Sue MacGregor in polka dot tights. Many of you will recall that in 1993, Justice Smithers castigated Ms MacGregor for coming to court in polka-dot stockings and a suit with a skirt that finished above the knee. For a feisty response, see Magistrate Jennifer Coate’s protest. [Read on]

Margaret Thornton commented

“It would appear that combination of the coloured hair and the patterned tights was thought to have improperly eroticised the Family Court” (Dissonance and Distrust: Women in the Legal Profession p 225).

Jocelynne Scutt wrote about the event and similar episodes in  Restricted Vision-Women, Witches and Wickedness in the Court Room in 2001 (and recalls the famous story of the not so young female solicitor being told by a Judge to ‘Sit down girlie’).

But legal dresses standards in the law appear have moved on just a little. Cristy recently commented on this blog that she just didn’t wear stockings. Legal Eagle also took them off. But tights seem to be coming on again. I see barristers sporting an array of remarkable tights on their way to court. Sexy fun hosiery also appears to be making its way into  the city law firms.

Yet how professional sensibilities vary. It appears that any either option (off, or on with a statement) would be scandalous in some US jurisdictions (such as Chicago, as described here ), and also perhaps for Ms Ardnt (see the recent posts by Kate Galloway here and here).

(Of course, I now can’t find the picture of Sue Macgregor’s tights, but perhaps someone out there has a copy?)

Have you abandoned the hosiery and tossed the tights? Or are you a fan of the sexy or saucy stockings for the office? Does what you wear (or don’t wear) on your legs have any impact on your advocacy or credibility as a lawyer?

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  1. Thanks for this piece. When I started practising in a Big City Law Firm in 1990, I wouldn’t have been caught dead without tights – I didn’t know any women lawyers who didn’t wear them. Then I moved to the tropics and initially refused to ‘drop my standards’. Then summer came…and I’ve been bare-legged ever since. Fashion caught up with me as bare legs became the norm, but it seems that now I will no longer be fashionable and will need to reconsider my hosiery. I can’t see them catching on up here in the deep north though, and I may have to save them for my trips to southern climes.

  2. Cravats can be subversive too. I was once told by a Registrar in the Family Court that if I wished to be heard, I should wear a tie not a cravat. Subsequently in the State Magistrates Court in a Domestic Violence matter the female Magistrate thought the most important issue was to tell me that I should wear a tie not a cravat. I told her the previous Chief Magistrate (also a female) told me in a packed open Court It was quite acceptable to wear a cravat. Ms female Magistrate was not prepared to respect that aspect of the doctrine of precedent. I now have ties on hand in Chambers. My clients do not need to suffer because of the dress requirements arbitrarily imposed by some members of the bench. My friends I feel your pain.

  3. Stocking fiend that’s me. Although occasionally and to avoid looking like a burlesque performer I will wear tights with shorter skirts.

    I do like patterned tights and nude fishnets.

    As I mentioned to Melissa when we met recently, Scottish people generally like to be reasonably well groomed. This involves wearing hosiery even in the heat of summer.

    One of my girl crushes when I was a baby lawyer was Sheriff Rosie Morrison (I wrote a bit about her here http://shoesandyoga.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/funny-you-don’t-look-like-a-lawyer…/%5D

    In the 1980s, Sheriff Rosie worked as a magistrate in Hong Kong. During her tenure a solicitor complained that her breasts were visible through her blouse, Sheriff Rosie replied:

    “My breasts have given pleasure to many men. I would be more concerned if they were visible through my tights.”

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  6. I remember a time when I was a solicitor in the 1960s and we had to wear hats in court. I kept a bone coloured one behind the door. It never matched anything (nor did it clash).
    A memo was once sent around the firm by a senior partner telling all the female employees that painted toenails were not deemed fitting for the office. There was some objection but I was unaffected myself, feeling “equal” enough not to need to paint my toenails.
    I gather the hat requirement went when largely when Police no longer had to wear jackets as part of their uniform.

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