Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England
I have written a lot of blogs about how first impressions shouldn’t be important, about how being a good solicitor is not about looking a certain way, and about how I hope my daughters will, in years to come, be judged on their merits and not lose out on jobs because they aren’t wearing a three piece suit and tie.
But I do love a nice pair of boots. I’ve just ordered some actually. I was about to say 'in the sale' but that would be a lie. They were not in the sale. I sort of feel like they were because I was looking at the sales when I came across them. They are tan, knee high and have some subtle gold detailing. I think they are going to look really good with a midi dress.
I know that if I was a better person I wouldn’t care about clothes. As far as I am aware, Mother Teresa tended not to splurge on knee high boots when she was already overdrawn from Christmas shopping, and I’m pretty sure Greta Thunberg spent less than me on hair and make up last year. But we work in a profession where confidence and good presentation are key, and looking and feeling smart and confident when you meet a new client (admittedly, wrongly) will make them instantly have confidence that you know what you are talking about. When you are young, or female, or have any other characteristic that might lead your clients to stereotype you into a less authoritative position, it really helps if your dress fits well. Not because anyone is worried about how many mince pies you ate last month, but because of the feeling of comfort in your own skin(/dress) that you will emit.
Recently a tweeter asked for advice on post-maternity leave style. I put on over four stone with each pregnancy. I lost it each time, but I simply don’t feel I can wear empire line clothes anymore. They used to show off my narrow waist but now they billow over that part of my tummy that will just never be the same after being stretched out of all proportion, making me look like there is a DALC3 on the way. So I get this. I also get that when you have a year off work, hemlines and things change in the shops and, just like I’ve never really memorised the changes to SDLT that came in while I was off, confidence can really plummet. I can count on one hand the colleagues that have come back from maternity leave exactly the same shape and size, and wanting to wear exactly the same clothes, as pre-pregnancy. I count them on one hand and then make that hand into a fist ready to punch them with. Embracing grey hair, or recovering from chemotherapy, are other examples of physical changes that might mean you want a new style direction.
Anna Wood, partner at Michelmores LLP, responded to the tweet to say she had used a stylist. Surely stylists aren’t for the likes of us, I thought. I’ve gone overdrawn buying the boots let alone paying to be told how to wear them! Anna kindly put me in touch with her stylist, Michelle Blake, and we had a long conversation about this. Before she did, though, she sent me some before and after photos and the simple changes that Michelle introduced made such a huge difference to Anna’s look - she now simply looks professional and well put together. Most importantly for me, Michelle has helped Anna to put together outfits, including shoes and accessories, that she knows look good together and she can throw on quickly in the mornings.
For (much) less than the price of my new boots Michelle will spend an hour talking about your colours, with a second session talking about your body shape. From there, there are options for online or real life shopping sessions.
After colour and shape, it seems to be all about injecting personality, and texture, which are two things I had never really thought of at all. I haven’t even got a clue what colours suit me, except that an old lady approached me once and said 'always wear blue'. Recently my skin has been bad and my hair colour has gone a bit reddish so I probably do need to know how to tone those things down. Michelle says it is not about always wearing blue, but knowing what kind of blue - warmer or cooler, for example. Another good tip she gave me - although it sounds silly- is to imagine you wearing the item rather than the model. Does the model have your colouring and haircut, for example?
It is about sustainability too - working out what you already own and building on it, and not making mistakes in what you buy. I like this ethos a lot.
There is a lot of information about Michelle’s services on her website, michelleblake.com, and Anna says it is fine for me to direct all the solicitors in England and Wales to her insta, so keep up with her lovely looks @thecuckoolawyermum.
*Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article