The shape of things to come: innovation, dress and women in law

The shape of things to come: innovation, dress and women in law


Dana Denis-Smith

CEO, Obelisk Support and founder of the First Hundred Years project. 

Sometimes innovation comes in the shape clothes.

For most of the past century, women in law have been conscious of forcing themselves into a system designed for and by men. Nowhere is this more visible than in the traditions of legal dress. The launch of Ivy and Normanton, the first courtwear outfitters aimed solely at women, sets out to redress the balance - taking us into a next hundred years of law that I hope we will see shaped more by men and women working together for everyone’s benefit.  

What women look like is too often used as a way to distract from their purpose and to maintain their “otherness” in professional spaces.  Women are frequently expected to adopt uniforms and garments designed for men. Sometimes this has serious physical repercussions, with items ranging from body armour to PPE frequently causing the female body discomfort or even failing to provide sufficient protection to the women wearing them.  Whilst the ramifications of ill-fitting clothing in the legal world are not as serious for a woman’s physical health, they are seriously important to her professional reputation.  Looking back through the history of women in law, we can see from society’s ongoing fascination with the image of the woman lawyer how what she looks like has been us

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About the author:

Dana Denis-Smith is the CEO and founder of Obelisk Support, a legal services provider offering flexible legal solutions to FTSE100 and law firms with highly-skilled lawyers. Obelisk Support was listed as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Europe in 2018 by the Financial Times.

 A TedX speaker, Dana regularly speaks at industry events and in the media on gender equality, entrepreneurship and legal technology. In 2019, she was recognised by the Legal 500 for Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services and in 2018, she was voted Legal Personality of the Year at the LexisNexis Awards