August 4, 2010

Can lady lawyers wear peep-toe shoes?

That's the hot question of the day.

What do I think? I worked in a big Wall Street law firm — Sullivan & Cromwell — from 1982 to 1984, and I can remember the shoes I wore back then. I was especially fond of 2 pairs of closed-toe T-strap Ferragamo shoes — 1 brown and 1 tan. I had a pair of black Bruno Magli pumps — low-heeled — that were very comfortable and useful. I had beautiful Perry Ellis black suede high heels with thin, buttoned straps. I still have those fabulous shoes in my closet. They were by far the most expensive shoes I'd ever bought. I remember the price: $210. And I had beige Evan Picone shoes that were sling-back and — yes! — peep-toe. It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with them. Maybe I missed a dress-for-success memo, but they were beautiful, dressy-looking shoes. They looked perfect... a quarter century ago.

31 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

Ohmigod! You can still remember, in gross, gory, detail, SHOES from 1982-84!

Talk about a gender-based difference!

Palladian said...

I thought lawyers in fancy law firms were supposed to wear white shoes?

LonewackoDotCom said...

That reminds me of a movie someone told me someone else saw once, back in the 70s, in another country: Peeptoe & Johnson.

When you finish laughing, take a peep at this. TeapartyDumb has never been so smokin' hot.

mrs whatsit said...

When I was working as a judicial law clerk in a state trial court in the mid-1980s, right after I got out of law school, I saw a judge severely scold a woman lawyer for wearing open-toed shoes to court -- from the bench, in open court and in front of her client. I was aghast; coming to work in the courthouse for that judge and several others day after day, it had never occurred to me that there would have been anything wrong with wearing open-toed shoes -- but fortunately, I guess, I didn't own any back then.

David said...

I had a lady trial lawyer girlfriend at one point who was quite good looking. She was also a very good lawyer. At work or in court she always had her make up right, always wore clothes that showed off her figure without being trampy, always had sharp high heels. Sometimes with open toes (and perfect toenail polish.)

She knew she had an asset and used it well.

Ann Althouse said...

"I saw a judge severely scold a woman lawyer for wearing open-toed shoes to court"

Let's be clear. By open-toed, do you mean peep-toe, that little toenail-sized hole? Really having all your toes out, sandal style is different.

Also, were stockings worn? I always wore stockings. It would have been ridiculous not to. And no women wore pantsuits then.

MadisonMan said...

If that's all they're wearing, I don't think anyone will notice the peep toe aspect of the shoe.

deborah said...

Not in court.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that it also depends on where you work and the dress code there.

In my firm, we have big offices in Phoenix and Las Vegas, and I do see open toed shoes there. Neither though is NYC, Boston, or D.C. If you aren't going to be in court or meeting clients, the dress code is not that formal. Very nice, but not formal. The west is just not as formal as the east.

I would suggest though that Sullivan & Cromwell, even now, is probably extreme in this realm. 130 years old now (my firm is slightly less than half that), 12 offices in maybe 7 countries, etc. White shoe law firm if there ever were such a thing.

kristinintexas said...

I, for one, would love to see the Althousian lawyerly shoe collection.

Bruce Hayden said...

I thought lawyers in fancy law firms were supposed to wear white shoes?

I don't think that has been the case for a long time, but hearkens from a time when they did. And, I have no doubt that at one time the lawyers at Sullivan & Cromwell probably fell into that category.

Now days, it would just look presumptuous and ridiculous at the same time.

According to Wikipedia::

According to William Safire, the phrase derives from "white bucks", a type of laced suede or buckskin shoe with a red sole, long popular among upper-class New Englanders, especially at Ivy League colleges. Originally, it reflected a stereotype of old-line firms populated by WASPs, but the phrase has since become innocuous. In the case of investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Lehman Brothers), the term now refers to not only WASPs but also American Jews. However, it is still defined by Princeton University's Wordnet as "denoting a company or law firm owned and run by members of the WASP elite who are generally conservative," which shows that the original connotation has not changed entirely.

Oh, and according to that article, S&C is one of the 17 firms considered as "white shoe".

Irene said...

Ferragamo shoes are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I bought many pairs when I lived in Italy, and I wore them for years. I, too, remember those pairs from the mid-1980s. Sweet.

On my first day at work at the big law firm, a female partner gently told me, "No open toes. And, of course, stockings every day." Back then, we would not have thought to go without stockings. Peep toes, as you note, are a different beast. I wore peep toes to the office--and to court--often without any trouble.

JAL said...

Why not?

MamaM said...

The Mr M can remember the shoes he wore in the 80's. Steel toed work boots for on the site work and two pairs of the same style dress shoes he wears today. He's not big on style but manages to function with little to no shoe angst.

He does not wear peep toes, and we can all thank our lucky stars for that, because he has weird toes.

WV consl...Is a consl with peeps cheep?

Franklin said...

"I thought lawyers in fancy law firms were supposed to wear white shoes?"

I don't care what color or style of shoes you wear, all I care about is that you get that fucking legal issues memo to me by 10am tomorrow.

We're closing in 62 hours with or without you - if you can't hack it I've got Whitencase on deck.

Biglaw?? Phaaa. You wish. You're a fucking vendor to me - might as well be selling me toner.

bagoh20 said...

"Let's be clear. By open-toed, do you mean peep-toe, that little toenail-sized hole? Really having all your toes out, sandal style is different. "

I'm missing a section of brain, or maybe higher education does learn you stuff.

mrs whatsit said...

Ann, the shoes the scolded attorney was wearing were definitely peep-toes, not sandals -- just a little wedge in the center front of the shoe. As I recall, they were very nice, neat heels with a tortoise-shell effect. She certainly must have been wearing stockings or I imagine the judge would have jailed her for contempt -- in those days it would have been unthinkable to go out in professional dress without them (and even now . . . but that's opening a whole new can of worms.) To add a little detail, the judge who did the scolding was older and a bit of a jerk and seemed to be having trouble figuring out how to deal with the influx of women into the profession -- though in the year I worked there, he was unfailingly gentlemanly to me.

But that was a different time. In that city at that time, women lawyers almost ALWAYS wore dark, plain suits and those awful blouses with floppy bows at the neck. Suits with skirts, of course, never ever EVER pants. It was years later before I started seeing women lawyers in court in pants (or wore them there myself, good lord) or in dresses or anything other than the Navy or Gray or Black Suit Uniform.

Now, I can think of at least one female appellate justice who regularly wears gorgeous peep- or open-toed shoes. They look great under her robe. As for lawyers -- maybe I'll start a little research study!

And white shoes, Palladian -- only after Memorial Day and before Labor Day. (oh boy, yet ANOTHER can of worms . . . )

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

"I saw a judge severely scold a woman lawyer for wearing open-toed shoes to court"

Let's be clear. By open-toed, do you mean peep-toe, that little toenail-sized hole? Really having all your toes out, sandal style is different.

Also, were stockings worn? I always wore stockings. It would have been ridiculous not to.


You are a lady.

Lynne said...

"Can lady lawyers wear peep-toe shoes?"

Not if you're representing Dick Morris.
That would just be creepy.

Kirstin said...

Federal court is more formal than state court, at least in California. I think that peep-toe shoes are acceptable for law and motion in state court. They might not be a good idea for jury trials or any federal court appearances.

Wearing pants seems like a bigger issue for a woman.

Christy said...

Mrs. Whatsit, until I moved north to Baltimore, I always thought it was Easter through Labor Day. We always wore new white shoes with our new Easter Dresses. I've been known to carry two pairs of shoes with me to funtions the weekend before Memorial Day just in case the fashion police show up to scare me.

I remember well the spectator pumps I wore in the 80s.

BTW, when did "Lady" become acceptable usage again? Can I stop feeling bad for using it now?

Kathryn said...

Ann,

What a small world; I worked for Johnson & Higgins at the same time. We worked on the Sullivan and Cromwell retirement plan fund investments.

Those were the days. Harry's at Hanover Square, that bar at the seaport right underneath the Bridge. And of course, shopping at Barrie Pace for fabulous clothes!!

Mark O said...

Ann worked with Ed and Oliver?

mrs whatsit said...

Well, if we are going to talk about shoes, SOMEBODY has to link to the Manolo, so I guess I'll do it -- what he does not know about shoes, after all, is hardly worth knowing. Here's his general rule on shoe-appropriateness:

"In the fact, the Manolo has only the single rule: If the shoe looks good, the shoe must be worn!"

And here's his opinion on white shoes after Labor Day (though he doesn't clear up the Easter-vs-Memorial Day aspect of the controversy):

http://shoeblogs.com/2006/09/01/manolo-the-columnist-46/

Beldar said...

Hmm, I didn't realize you were an S&C alum, Prof. A.

I was a summer clerk there in 1980, after law school graduation but before judicial clerkship. I confess, however, to having no present recollection of how my female counterparts were dressed, much less how they were shod.

From a male point of view, if they didn't sell it (prominently) at Brooks Brothers (or some even more conservative bespoke tailor), one probably wouldn't have felt comfortable wearing it at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Ann Althouse said...

Brooks Brothers is great for men. Just stick to whatever they have and you're fine.

Of course, if you have a trim body, you give something up. Those suits are designed to disguise pot bellies. If you don't have one...

Irene said...

Ha ha! Here is a Brooks Brothers skirt, modeled with peep-toe pumps and no stockings.

Clear toe polish.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Did you know there's an entire shopping center dedicated to selling shoes to professional women? It's called... (drum roll, please) the Peep-Toe Biz Mall.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

A young lady I heard of, going to Columbia Law I think, won an International Mock Court Competition and was going to intern at Sullivan & Cromwell; their fees were like $650-750 an hour. How to dress; I believe you probably had that down.

Ann Althouse said...

I've been told that a lawprof shouldn't wear sandals, but I've often worn sandals teaching.

sara's fashion shoes collection said...

If you could only have one pair of shoes in your closet, I'd recommend that it was a pair of black pumps. If I was allowed to suggest a second pair, it would be a pair of pumps in a light neutral color, like beige or tan. These two shades would work with nearly anything in your closet, and of course, basic pumps are classics that will work with everything from jeans to suits. Christian Louboutin