21st February 2024

Courtroom attire:

In the new feature film directed by Greta Gerwig, breaking box office records nationwide, Barbie, Barbieland is run by women including the presidency and the Supreme Court. Pink is the preferred apparel color especially Barbie pink, a cross between fuchsia and hot pink. Outside of Barbieland, can real world female politicians, lawyers and judges wear such a bold color and still be taken seriously and be believed?

History of the color pink for girls

Pastels arrived for babies in the mid nineteenth century including pink and blue. Prior to that, both boy and girl babies wore white (which could be bleached) dresses until age 6. Pink and blue weren’t gender identifiers until before WWI and it wasn’t until the 1940’s that pink was for girls and blue was for boys.

Prior to WWII, pink was for boys and blue was for girls because pink was considered the stronger color and blue was more delicate and dainty, although there were regional differences. In 1927 stores like Best & Co. in Manhattan and Marshall Field in Chicago branded pink as a boy’s color. Others like Macy’s in Manhattan and Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia identified pink as a girl’s color. The baby boom generation was the first to be raised in gender specific clothing.

Can pink reclaim its strength while maintaining its femineity?

Today, the color pink is generally associated with pink toys, like Barbie or a Disney princess in a pink gown. The color is associated with delicacy and femineity. The color once considered the stronger color of the two gender identifier pastels is today considered delicate and feminine but can it reclaim its strength beyond Barbieland, in the real world?

Advice for Women Attorneys Dressing for Court

Advice for women and witnesses in court is uniformly the same or as Gov. Whitmer, might say, “xeroxed”-neutrals, neutrals, neutrals.

From the American Bar Association (ABA) by Brenda Swauger “9 Tips on how to dress for the courtroom”:

1. Dress to the location: If attending a court hearing in an urban environment, opt for a solid dark suit—either navy or charcoal—with a white or blue shirt and coordinating tie for men. If court is in the suburbs, it’s still recommended to wear a jacket, but you can also appear appropriate if you opt for a dress pant, white or blue shirt and tie.

2. Keep in neutral: avoid bright colors such as red, pink and purple, and rather stick to navy, charcoal, white and light blue. Bright colors can be offensive to some judges and give an unintended impression.

3. Go Conservative

4. Keep it professional: Women clients and attorneys should consider wearing a pant suit, dress or skirt and shirt.

5. Consider a Trim: Clean your hair and clothes before court, brush and style short hair, and refrain from wearing brightly colored hair.

6. Fit is It: your garments should not be too big or too small. If the clothing is too tight or low cut, it can undermine credibility. I recommended skirt or dress hem lengths fall at the knee. Make sure pants are the right length, so as to avoid tripping and/or having to wear extremely high heels to accommodate.

7. Keep it simple: It’s best to keep accessories to a minimum, including jewelry, scarves and patterned shoes. I suggest small earrings, and if married, only a wedding ring.

8. Get smart-or not: Glasses and/bifocals can change your appearance and give the impression of intelligence. In certain cases, attorneys may suggest clients wear glasses in place of contacts.

9. Subject matters: Consider the subject matter of the case when planning what your client should wear. If your case is related to a financial matter, attorneys should advise defendants to dress down, not to overplay brand names and cutting-edge styles. By wearing expensive clothes, jewelry or accessories, you could give the wrong impression, ultimately even affecting the outcome of your case. Dressing a domestic violence survivor vying for child custody and supervised visits in a floral print dress and cardigan sweater versus a power suit should play more sympathetically with a judge.

The biggest danger of not dressing the part is not being perceived as honest.

Notably, the photo of Ms. Swauger, author, accompanying her article for the ABA shows her wearing a pink pant suit with a fuchsia shirt.

The Barbie Governor

The Honorable Governor Gretchen Whitmer, governor of the state of Michigan, and a possible future candidate for president of the United States, wears hot pink suits and fuchsia with magenta lipstick. Governor Whitmer calls a dark suit, white top and pulled back hair, the “xerox model” for women’s dress. “Fuchsia is my power color” (quoting her mother, the former state deputy attorney general) who was told, “you can’t wear fuchsia to court.”

Barbie, the Movie Message

If the message of the movie is really that all of us are Barbie and Barbie is all of us, , doesn’t that include attorneys and judges alike? Why can’t we be believed and seen as credible and professional and intelligent and powerful if we are wearing hot pink, fuchsia, or pink?

Tessa Ensler, the barrister played by Jodie Comer in Suzie Miller’s play, “Prima Facie” is given a fuchsia shirt by her working class mother to whom Tessa responds with an eyeroll. Later on in Act II of the play, Tessa, now a victim and a witness in her own defense wears the shirt as a symbol of her own empowerment.

Women in the Courtroom

The Supreme Court in Barbieland are all Barbies, and “there’s a Barbie for everyone.”, said Ana Cruz Kayne who plays a Supreme Court justice in Barbieland. “She’s a badass lady who loves justice,” Ana told HollywoodLife.

Isn’t that who all female attorneys really are? Badass ladies who love justice? Why can’t we do our work in a power color like fuchsia and still be seen as professional and powerful? Or must we as Governor Whitmer says be “xeroxed” and muted?