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The Lawyer's Dress Code

published December 08, 2010

By Ashley Caggiano
( 486 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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United States employers have the legal right to ask their employees to adhere to a dress code because they are private employers. As silly as it seems, your employer could conceivably fire you for wearing a hideous jacket. Similarly, laws have been upheld that are gender biased based on dress code. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Harper v. Blockbuster Entertainment of 1999 stated that the video rental chain could legally enforce male employees, but not female employees, to cut their long hair. However neither the federal government nor state governments are private employers, and courthouses are not private buildings.
 
The Lawyer's Dress Code

So where does this leave female lawyers on the question of what to wear? The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th District does, in fact, have a dress code that states that attire ''should be restrained and appropriate to the dignity of a Court of Appeals for the United States,'' but that isn't terribly specific. While we are approaching 2011, comments like ''[women are wearing] skirts so short that there's no way they can sit down and blouses so short there's no way the judges wouldn't look'' by Michael McCuskey, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, are deemed appropriate even though they clearly are sexist. A personal dress code is a bit difficult to come up with for any woman, but for women in law it can be incredibly difficult.

The Chicago Bar Association held a fashion show in the spring of 2010 to address the issue of what was appropriate and what was not for lawyers, unconsciously aiming it at the younger, female generation as that is where the fault seems to lie. Online bloggers Attractive Nuisance and Legally Fabulous wrote up commentaries on the show which seemed to ultimately suggest women should not show off their female figure to ''show some respect,'' as Legally Fabulous suggested, to the ''husband/father/boyfriend'' that the female lawyer in question is ''working for.'' This wording brings up a laundry list of other gender equality issues, but let's focus on the one of dress.

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