By Karen and Erica
We wore great suits.
In the early days of our careers, suits were the only acceptable attire--navy or gray, not brown, not pants, usually with Brooks Brothers shirts or blouses that had big bows at the neck and sometimes even puffy sleeves. At one point, some women opened a store in NYC called Suits & Co. that tried to add a little styling, like a slight nip in the waist, to make it clear that the wearer was actually a woman. Good idea, but we did not love those suits. They made us feel like we were fading into the male woodwork.
We wanted to be women and lawyers--not lady lawyers. So fairly early on, we started jazzing it up. Still suits, but suits that were different--full skirts, shorter skirts, bold colors, even prints. We found if we wore suits we could wear cool variations without breaking the rules. Then we added three inch heels—in colors, patent leather--and knee high boots. And fishnets. We were sure we looked fabulous! Because the clothes gave off a vibe of more confidence than we actually had, we started believing it too.
The suits are indelibly woven into our memories--and those of our children.
E: When my daughter was in third grade, a friend and I volunteered to conduct a mock trial for her class. I showed up in one of my favorite suits: purple wool chiffon pleated skirt with a black band around the bottom and a long purple wool jacket with scalloped edges, also trimmed in black. I wish I still had it. My daughter was absolutely mortified; the entire day is etched in her brain as a traumatic experience. Undoubtedly, it is the root cause of her penchant for conservative (from my perspective!) clothes in neutral colors. I do, however, still have the orange suit I wore with a leopard shell to her back to school night.
K: I decided to wear a shocking pink suit to a major argument. I was sure I would be the only lawyer in color, and that would get the attention of the three men on the bench, who might not realize how subversive the color was since it was disguised in a suit. I was right, and I won! From then on I wore color to court whenever I could. But always in a suit.
As we became more confident, our wardrobes expanded to dresses, but suits remained our armor whenever we went into battle. They telegraphed confidence, even when we lacked it. Our suits weren’t shy, even when we were. They gave us the courage to be bold, and they were an essential part of our image. That image became inextricable with who we were. And who we still are.