Career Style Advice – Stylish or Sexist?

July 2015

Two Bay Area personal style consultants decided to market themselves to female attorneys. To this end, they published an article titled “Beyond Black: Revising the Lawyer Dress Code for Women,” in The Marin Lawyer (PDF available here).

Style Rescue Stylists Jill Sperber and Susana Perczek

Cropped screenshot merged with photo taken from the official Style Rescue website (http://stylerescuebayarea.com)

These “Style Rescue” stylists are being accused of being blatantly sexist.

In their article, stylists Jill Sperber (also a lawyer) and Susana Perczek (an advertising executive) explain they were informed

“that female lawyers in Marin are not winning their cases in the Style Department.”

But because they do not rely on hearsay, the stylists conducted a “recon of the Marin County Superior Court on two mornings.” The article goes on to describe their fashion faux pas findings, which include “sneakers” and a “burgundy velvet blazer in spring, not worn ironically.”

The only female attorney who was deemed a “style ‘go'” by the stylists,

“jazzed up her basics (albeit all black) with visual interest (sparkly necklace, jeweled flats).”

The article contains a list explaining how to seek “legal redress” to discover personal style.

Deputy District Attorney Yvette Martinez wrote a scathing response letter to the newsletter’s editors. Two excerpts from her letter follow:

“We are strong, educated, dedicated, and vocal. Did you truly believe that we would certainly thank you for the unsolicited fashion assistance and skip off to the mall to buy ‘a silk or poly blouse in a flattering color or print to skim over trouble areas and include panache’? believe again.”

“Consider for a brief moment an article written by men suggesting that male attorneys ‘jazz up’ their attire to ‘watch (their) professional image improve immediately.’ Come on, Men, switch up those navy and grey suits and try a spring color palette! That would be rather funny, but it would not be published. Consider the same Dress Code for Women article written by a man. He would be ridiculed and publicly shamed.”

Note: Such ridicule for a male image consultant’s advice to women happened in January 2014 over at Above the Law (in an article titled Women Lawyers Advised Not To Dress Like Lady Gaga, Among Other Absurdities)

Should women take career style advice from these stylists?

These women met while working as style consultants at J. Crew. Their company seems fairly young but they have made efforts to reach out to ladies in the law. They have cleverly volunteered to host career style advice events like one at the Fashion Law Society of USF Law School.

I agree that some many women in the legal field can be better dressed. I also believe the same is true of men. Professionals in other fields can benefit from career style advice too. And while I think these stylists may have a good business plan, I think they need to present a better image for their business. If you are going to be a style consulting business that is critical of someone else’s fashion, I expect to be impressed by the before and after photos on your website. If the consultants have photos on their website, I also expect to be moved by their personal style. I did not expect to see only a handful of images that were likely taken by a tripod, for a blog.

My advice to these stylists is for them to take their own advice: it takes fewer than three seconds to form an impression, like it or not.

According to CBS San Francisco, the Marin Bar Association said it does not necessarily agree with each article in its newsletter. A rebuttal will be printed in its next edition.

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