In the 360 Review, Corporette examines a “professional woman”s” attire and critiques it from all perspectives: underling, boss, friend.
We must admit, we stopped watching FX’s series Damages after a particularly preposterous deposition scene. However, we were impressed with Aussie actress Rose Byrne’s portrayal of Ellen Parsons, the naive young lawyer who finds herself playing with wolves. Her style reflects some of her naivete: She seems to think that having absolutely no personality will make her seem professional. Accordingly, most of her choices are either black suits with beige blouses, or occasionally a white shirt with a black blouse. It’s 100% professional — the most daring thing she does is wearing dangly pearl earrings — but given that her brutal boss, played by Glenn Close, dons them in half of her scenes it could be another example of Parsons towing the line.
The Good: Parsons always looks professional. And she has great hair.
The Bad: Parsons has no personality. If we were her supervising attorney, this girl has doc review (or in-depth statutory research assignment) written all over her. If we were her junior, we’d think this girl has devoted her life to the firm and must be avoided at all costs because she would expect us to do the same. If we were her friend, we’d read up on signs of serious depression before talking to her.
Our take: Maybe the character’s preferred color scheme is a symbol of the character’s world view: as a naive young lawyer she comes into her firm all idealistic and full of dreams; the world looks very black and white to her. But we think if that were the case she’d be wearing rose-colored glasses in at least one scene. No, we think this is a stereotype: professional woman gives up her personality in order to get ahead. We’d proscribe lots of color, stat, and refer her to the old BBC episodes of What Not to Wear — Trinny and Susannah always said either wear black with black, or color with color. We wish the writers would at least give us a wacky weekend persona — pigtails, Converse, something — that explains her need to dress with no personality. But no….
Let’s take a look…
She kind of looks like a Palmer girl here from the “Simply Irresistible” video. Red lipstick is a nice splash of color, though.
Hmmn. Beige with black. Bo-ring.
OK. Beige with black AND white.
Nice puff sleeve and sweater-vest combo, but again: black and white.
We’ve posted two shots of this outfit so you can see how truly daring this is for this character — a blousy drape. Whoa.
And here I was, loving this show for many reasons — including the fact that I felt like Ellen’s wardrobe reflected my own! I felt it was pretty realistic and relatable. I definitely have my uniforms and it’s mostly neutrals. I have one bright jewel-toned shirt I wear to work … sometimes. On very hot days. :) In cooler months I practically live in button-downs and sweater-vests. Sad and depressing? Maybe. But, a big weight off my mind to know I can look polished, put together, and “safe” no matter what I’m wearing? Definitely. Then again, I’ve always been the type to express myself through my hairstyle and color. Giving THAT up has been tough.
Regarding “Damages”: Funny story (to me) regarding what may or may not be the deposition scene you mention. I had the opportunity to meet some of the writers and producers of the show and they said they re-wrote some key depositions scenes because the consulting attorneys said the scenes weren’t realistic. To me, the writers seemed almost acutely aware as they could be (as TV writers) of the realities of attorney life. They brought up an issue that’s become increasingly apparent to me lately — the clash between trailblazer women attorneys who sacrificed so much (like Patty Hewes) to pave the way for the next generation, who want it “all” (the life, the kids, etc — like Ellen Parsons). I’ve encountered that in my own experiences. The writers were tremendously respectful and it was apparent they had done real-life research, which made me like the show even more. FWIW, is all I’m saying. :)
I can’t wait for Season Two of Damages! I admit I also liked Ellen’s wardrobe. I think when you’re just starting out and have only recently begun to be able to afford good quality clothes, you have to start by accumulating basics. I thought they were very realistic in her wardrobe–all those outfits look like things I would buy to begin my professional wardrobe. Although I would add more interesting jewelry and shoes.
The dep scene where Patty Hewes lets her witness go off on a tangent about tantric sex and then lets the witness get sideswiped with a whole “perjury” thing, which Hewes knew about all along? That was rewritten? Wow. Maybe the original deposition scene ended with, like, a car chase.
Re: wardrobe — Better safe than sorry, I guess, but mix it up a *bit* — carry a red briefcase or something. ;) I still think that nothing is more boring than black and white. An outfit of all white speaks of optimism, of purity, or in the case of the revamped The Parent Trap, that you’re obsessed with your wedding from 14 years ago. An outfit of all black hints at any number of things: an unfinished PhD in something deep, a fashionista side, a dark-let-me-ponder-the-universe side. Black and white just says waiter to me.
On the clash between Hewes and Parsons… in real life that’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I think it all comes down to priorities — Hewes loves what she does and has prioritized it above everything else. As an added bonus, the women of Hewes’s generation had something to prove — that it could be done. As a result of that generation, I think Parsons’s options are wider than what Hewes’s were, and that field of choice just makes it more likely that Parsons will choose to leave the law if it does not immediately strike her as something that she truly “loves.” I think the concept of loving what you do has also changed through the years.
Ha! I stopped watching Damages for exactly the same reason! Well, that and my fiance didn’t seem to enjoy it when I kept yelling “Oh puh-leeeeeeezzzz!” at the screen every few minutes . . . He thinks Law & Order is boring, but at least they get it RIGHT.
I’ve never really watched Law and Order — any interesting dressers on the site to profile? We think we know who we’re doing for the next 360, but we’re still trying to figure out other good characters to profile.
Not really for L&O . .. But what about Maggie Dekker on Eli Stone? (Apparently I can tolerate lack of legal reality in a show that also features musical choreographed dream sequences starring George Michael.)
Well you have to think though that she is a recent college graduate. I’m not sure about law school but in college I wore A LOT of jeans and t-shirts. Half the people around me were wearing pajamas to class every day. So coming from that it has to be a bit of a shock to have to dress up. I just graduated and though my job is pretty casual I’m sure I’m not super trendy in the way I dress (though I wear way more color than she does). She’s probably just getting some very basic business professional things to wear that are safe for the time being. She doesn’t want to rock the boat with her clothes too much, also it is her first year and she’s not exactly sure what is truly appropriate quite yet.
i think what she is wearing is incredibly appropriate. she’s not a receptionist to a dentist, she’s a lawyer. it’s not just impressing her boss, it’s always about how you portray yourself to the client. i think the show dresses her in neutral colours because theres a whole of what – 3 women in that firm? no wonder she doesn’t want to wear pink to the office. also, she is very pretty which makes people less inclined to take you seriously, especially that in conjunction with her youth and clients/colleagues who are 20+ years old than her.
Well, if we look at the pictures you posted here then yes, her attire choices are not the most favorable to her (and she is a very pretty young lady). But, I think, overall, and now with the second season gone, she has done a good job. I like her style (I love the way Patty dresses too, in fact, she once wore a pink and whitish twill jacket, PINK!! and she made it look great) and I would like to dress like that if I had a choice in price$. I do agree she did not start very strong with those beige and black suits, but she’s done a lot better now.
WOW! I am watching season 1 and 2 back to back on video and Ellens personality and wardrobe did a 180! She went from school marm to looking like shhe work for Vouge. It was like the change in devil Wears Prada. The funny thing is season one and 2 is suppose to be only about a few weeks apart.
Her make-up is darker. More of it and her arms is even skinnier. she looks like she droped 15 pounds. She looks weid now because her stick arms dont match her head :(
Bring back damages fashion. I would love to see a season 2 review!