MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (The Tennessean)-- The wardrobe choices of some female attorneys who frequent Rutherford County's courts are causing a bit of a stir.
Attorneysin the county have groaned to their colleagues and judges that certainfemale attorneys are showing up in attire that pricks the sensibilitiesof a profession long known for its conservative dress code.
Somefemale lawyers, according to many in the local legal community, areappearing in court in revealing blouses, miniskirts and, in at least oneinstance, sweatpants.
The sartorial hubbub has made its way toCircuit Judge Royce Taylor, who said he has received a number of attirecomplaints from attorneys in the county. He has written a noticereminding female lawyers to keep their suggestive garments out of thecourtroom.
Taylor said the matter became a major discussion point at last month's local Bar and Bench Committee.
"Allyou have to do is go to church and see what people used to wear - hats,gloves, long dresses - have long been gone away with," Taylor said."But I found that county judges here weren't holding women to the samestandard as men."
In the forthcoming newsletter to all members of the Rutherford County Bar, Taylor plans to offer specifics.
"Ihave advised some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below theelbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent," the letterreads. "Your personal appearance in court is a reflection upon theentire legal profession."
News of the soon-to-be-published letterspread quickly. Many female attorneys, including Nashville-based KarlaMiller, who handles some Rutherford cases, heard chatter that Taylor'srules include mandatory pantyhose - an accusation Taylor denies.
By way of explanation, Taylor said: "They're usually behind the podium. I only see their upper bodies."
Miller said she was "slightly offended" by the judge's move but understood his motivation.
"Thebigger picture is: Some ladies are dressing in a manner that should bebothersome to other lady lawyers who strive to be professional," shesaid.
Murfreesboro attorney Michelle Blaylock-Howser responded tothe dustup with a shrug. If men are held to a standard, she said, womencan be, too.
Blaylock-Howser often sees female attorneys sportingsleeveless shirts, which she said should be out of bounds in thecourtroom. Once, a Nashville attorney came to court wearing a dressyblouse and sweatpants, she said.
"How we got off those standards is beyond me," Blaylock-Howser said.
Accordingto image and brand consultant Mila Grigg, who works with more than 100attorneys in Middle Tennessee, personal fashion choices clashing withprofessional decorum are especially pronounced with the millennialgeneration who, as she says, "have a different standard for whatprofessional looks like."
"I've never met an attorney who hasbroke the rules on purpose," Grigg said. "They'll say, 'Oh, I can't wearthat? What should I be wearing?' "
Singling out women, though, is unfair, Grigg said, since men violate professional fashion etiquette just are often as women.
"Well-fittedsuits for men and women is one way to express your personal brand," shesaid. "And you can always showcase your personality through color."
AttorneyLisa Eischeid said Judge Taylor is an equal opportunity wardrobeconservative. She recalls one instance where he found a male attorney incontempt of court for appearing without a blazer. Taylor confirmed thestory, adding that he also made the attorney donate to charity.
"Someoneneeds to tell women that sundresses are not proper in the courtroom,"said Eischeid, who has worn a business suit throughout the 23 years shehas been a lawyer. "But it can be a delicate issue."
The courtroomis in no rush to abandon its old-fashioned protocols, attorney Millersaid, though perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.
"Here's thething - we're girls, we like making fashion statements," Miller said."It's about individualism. Maybe the courtroom is not a place to showyour individualism via fashion."