PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Judge nixes fleshy fashion in courtroom

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Years ago, I complained that young female attorneys had few professional fashion options, and how stylistically tragic it was for them to be young and drab.
I’d attended my son’s Bar swearing-in ceremony and watched as young woman after young woman passed by in the same style navy suit with straight skirt, tailored jacket and white blouse.
They looked like nuns compared to the men, who even in their dark suits of brown or black or navy made colorful fashion statements with their ties and shirt colors.
Now it comes to my attention that somewhere along the way, some female attorneys in Rutherford County, Tenn., apparently have broken out of the Talbot’s tradition and put some judge’s undies in a wad.
In a lengthy memo to the local bar association, Circuit Judge Royce Taylor instructs the female attorneys headed to his court that sleeveless dresses and low-cut blouses just won’t do.
Apparently too much naked arm and flaunted bosom are ingredients for courtroom distractions.
In a legal blog, he reports that one woman actually showed up for a workers compensation hearing wearing a golf shirt.
He also tells of hearing from another judge about a female lawyer who showed up in sweatpants.
Truly, he is correct with those two examples. Lawdy, sweatpants – I can’t even imagine it!
My experience in North Mississippi courts has not revealed (m)any inappropriately dressed female lawyers, although I’ve gone to a few official outside-court functions where I thought the skirts were a little short for women over 40. Just sayin’ …
Let’s blame television and the movies for this fashion problem. I bet you’ve noticed that the women in these legal productions are showing way too much cleavage.
While I don’t expect any of our regional judges to make a public fuss about this sort of thing, I suspect at least one or two of them might strongly suggest a change via their clerks or a private note.
Sure, fashions change. I recall the bra-less era in the 1970s, although this style was probably a flop (pun intended) because so few young women were in courtrooms back then to make any Libber statement. (You must be of a certain age to recognize Libber as the person involved with the Women’s Liberation Movement.)
In Tennessee, Judge Taylor knows he’s treading on narrow ground.
“It’s sort of a delicate issue. I didn’t really know how to address it,” he said. “The unanimous opinion was that the women attorneys were not being held to the same standard as the men.”
He said he’s advised “some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below the elbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent… Your personal appearance in court is a reflection upon the entire legal profession.”
One relief, though, especially in the South: The judge won’t require the women attorneys to wear pantyhose.
And so, what a twist on legal style a mere four years since I remarked at its drabness.
Perhaps to make all things equal, the U.S. Bar should embrace the English practice of wearing robes to court. Those ugly wigs, though, no way!
PATSY R. BRUMFIELD writes a Thursday column for the Daily Journal. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.