Short skirts go to court

Media watchdogs blame television for everything from increased violence to illiteracy. I blame TV for the Ally McBeal effect.

Last week, I was waiting in a district courthouse for my turn to be called as a potential juror. I had arrived a few minutes late, and after retrieving my belongings from the metal detector, I found a seat on a bench that stretched the length of the lobby.

Unlike big urban courthouses, this one was smaller, more casual. My vantage point was ideal for observing lawyers, clients, witnesses, and other prospective jurors. And, because time hung heavy, I began to look at what people were wearing.

The male lawyers wore basic dark suits and conservative ties. No surprise there. But the women lawyers were another story.

The outfit of choice for both older and younger women was a fitted jacket and a very short skirt. My eyebrows rose. Could it be that these women were dressed similarly by coincidence, or did it have something to do with the TV show "Ally McBeal"? Short skirts have been the fictional lawyer's trademark since the show first aired - and they've inched higher every season since.

I've known that teens respond to fashions in music videos, and 20-somethings borrow looks from "Friends" or "Sex and the City." But professional women trying to imitate Ally McBeal's legginess?

Perhaps the upside to the Ally phenomenon is that women lawyers feel confident in wearing what they want, instead of sticking to stodgy suits.

As it happened, I wasn't chosen for jury duty that day.

And I've reached no verdict on short skirts in court.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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