Here is a post that first appeared in 2010. I decided to reprint it today for two reasons: first, I haven't written about professional appearance issues lately, although that is one of the most popular topics that brings people to this little site. Also, these are my favorite shoes.
It's time to write another post with fashion advice, just because it's been a while since I commented on why appearance matters for women lawyers. Today's fashion topic is narrowly focused on shoes and the conundrum women face. It's not so hard for you men: all you need are four pair (see this advice from AskMen). But let's face it, that won't get a professional woman very far.
I must admit when I was a young lawyer and also had three kids to shoe, I myself only had three pair of work shoes: black pumps, blue pumps, and sneakers to wear while commuting. Oh, and I had a pair of riding boots. One day in preparation for our annual women attorneys' mentoring lunch at the firm, the entertainment committee came by and snapped a surprise photo of each woman, so we could play a fun game called "match the shoes to the lawyer." I was wearing my manure-covered riding boots with jeans the day of the photo shoot. Of course at the bonding lunch every other woman's shoes were stylish, new, and clean. I was mortified and vowed that day to commit the rest of my professional career to finding and wearing super beautiful shoes that were shiny and clean. Ok perhaps that's a little exaggerated, but I have made much more effort since then to actually find interesting shoes to wear that didn't kill my feet. I'm better at the former than the latter, but what's a little pain when the shoes are killer cute.
Here's the conundrum part: one can be too racy with shoes. I've heard clients comment on inappropriate particularly high heeled and racy shoes worn by particularly young and attractive women lawyers. Probably the younger and more beautiful the lawyer, the more plain the shoes should be. It's all about the message and image one wants to impart, like every other aspect of a professional woman's wardrobe. If you're old and frumpy like me, racy shoes send a different message than if you're young and beautiful, so be careful out there.
One final bit of advice: if you hate shoe shopping as much as I do, spend some time with the online shoe sellers. They'll send you any number of shoes to try on in the privacy of your own home, and at the same time you can test the commitment of your significant other. Or you can be committed by your significant other. So, as I said, be careful out there.