Dress for Success, Clothes Make the Woman…

“You aren’t going to wear THAT are you?” I love that line – my sister, Angela, often has something to say to me regarding my natural tendency towards bulky, fat sandals (Birkenstocks, anyone?). CNN.com has an article on the Phil Spector murder trial regarding his umm…varied style of dress in court and the effect it might have on a jury.

[Spector’s] dress and mannerisms at the defense table were impossible to ignore.

“Sometimes the most important thing about a defendant’s court appearance is the defendant’s appearance,” Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom said. 

“Looks count when it comes to a criminal trial,” agreed Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “They can work for a defendant, and they can work against a defendant.”

The notion that the “cover of a book” plays an important role in how people judge said book isn’t new. As paralegal students, you will receive much advice on your clothing when it comes to interviewing and working. Keep it professional, conservative and don’t make too much of a fashion statement. You want your interviewers to remember you (or the jury in the event you’re sitting in a defendant’s chair) but not remember you! Some fashion blunders from Monster.com:

  • Wild Nail Polish: This tip is for women or men. Extremely long or uncut nails are a real turnoff, too. Your nails should be groomed and neat.  
  • Jewelry That Jangles: Don’t wear more than two rings per hand or one earring per ear. And no face jewelry or ankle bracelets allowed. 
  • Open-Toed or Backless Shoes: And mules are a definite no-no. Out-of-date shoes should be thrown out or kept for other occasions. 
  • Bare Legs: Wear stockings, even in humid summer weather. Stockings can be in neutral colors or a fashion color to match your shoes. 
  • Out-of-Date Suits: These have lapels that are too wide (three inches or more) or too narrow (one inch or less). A good tailor can alter lapels. The style for men’s jackets is full-body and looser rather than fitted or tight. 
  • Short Skirts: Hemlines should not be more than three inches above the knee. Don’t wear capri pants or leggings to the interview. 
  • Leather Jackets for Men or Women: Even leather blazers are not good for interviewing purposes. They look like outerwear. 
  • Turtlenecks for Men: A tie is preferable, at least in the first go-round. At the very least, wear a collared shirt. 
  • Printed or Trendy Handbags: Purses should be conservative and inconspicuous. 
  • Red Briefcases: Briefcases, purses and shoes should all be conservative in color and in good condition.

Maybe Phil Spector should have rethought some of his stylistic choices. On the other hand, weirdness didn’t hurt Michael Jackson. Or was it his accusor’s unexpected demeanor that saved him?

Posted by C. Bekhor


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