Beyond the Black Suit
Dallas, TX (by way of Austin)
I started writing Beyond the Black Suit at the end of my 3L year of law school, when the left side of my brain (logic) was over worked and I needed an outlet for the right side (creativity). I was interning at the District Attorney’s office, after interning all over the place, and I needed to figure out how I was going to dress for my soon to be new professional life after living in nike shorts and shirts. As it got closer and closer to the Bar Exam I said screw it and wore black suits. After
hell the Bar Exam was over and I was in that lovely limbo of having graduated but not being licensed yet, I capitulated again and stuck with black suits because that’s all I thought I could wear.
As a woman who likes to dress like one, the black suit became the bane of my existence. I decided to change that. So many women in professional settings think that all they can wear is a black suit. Or that the most ‘fun’ they can have is a navy or tan suit. Don’t get me wrong, navy suits sometimes make me all warm and fuzzy inside, but we have to know there is more to formal work place attire than a black suit. I made it a priority to find work wear options that do not include a black suit.
You’ll see a suits on here from time to time, hey there’s a time and place for everything right? I won’t deny, there are steady basics of black, navy, and tan but it’s the options that I like exploring. Not every outfit that’s on here can you wear to a professional workplace; some might only be for casual atmospheres, and some might be squarely in the (work) conservative offices. There are also many times you’ll see me in a sleeveless outfit, which might not fly in your office, just think about throwing on a blazer or cardigan to make the outfit work for you! My work place incorporates all three levels of dressing. When I’m in front of a jury I’m in strict business professional, when I’m in meetings or negotiations I’m in business conservative/creative, when I’m in my office slogging through files I’m in business casual.
I graduated from undergrad at Texas A&M (Gig em Aggies!) and got my law degree from SMU in 2014. I went straight into prosecution and I’ve never looked back. People always ask what is like being an Assistant District Attorney and my five second response is ‘think law & order without the dun dun.’ Obviously it’s not like that but you can see more about what my day to day is like through Instagram stories (@katherinenolden); I like to post snippets of my day or musings with the hashtag #reallifelawandorder.
I have an English Bulldog, Winston, who I got my 1L year of law school, and I have a lab mix, Teddy, that I adopted my second year of work. We affectionately call Teddy my quarter-life crisis because I went to work one day and came home at 2pm with Ted. I am a history nerd so Winston and Teddy are named after great historical figures: Churchill and Roosevelt. They each have a miniature framed picture of each man on their respective kennels (seriously) and Winston has a Union Jack bowtie, while Teddy dons an American flag tie. You’ll see both of them on my Instastories all the time and can see Winston come to work with me because he works with victims at my office. If you’d like to read more about how Winston, my English Bulldog, became my officer’s therapy dog see the story I wrote for the Texas Prosecutor, titled the Texas Paw-secutor.
In addition to being a history nerd, I’m also a Harry Potter freak. I have a HP tattoo, the first page of the series is art in my living room, and there is HP art in my office. Many people in my office have no idea because they haven’t really looked, it’s great to see their reactions when they realize what is hanging over my desk! I traveled to London to see HP & the Cursed Child on stage, have read every book multiple times, and will put serious money on myself in HP Trivia.
Quick FAQ with the ADA:
How did you get into law?
I wanted to get my doctorate in History but was talked out of it by my History Advisor (an honest to goodness British accent, graduated from Cambridge, elbow patches advisor) I then decided on law but going in I wanted to be a family law attorney. After figuring out family law wasn’t my thing (nor was wills & estates, tax, insurance, or any type of civil) I interned with the US attorney one summer and knew I was meant to be in criminal prosecution after I was actually excited to go to work in the mornings.
What do I need to do to get into law school?
That is a tough question because there isn’t any one road to law school. If I had to give my top three tips for getting into law school they would be: 1) focus on becoming a well rounded person in school, that includes grades & volunteering & working. 2) Write a kick ass personal statement, keep away from the three D’s: death, divorce, and disaster. I wrote about playing Quidditch. Seriously, I did. 3) Take a LSAT prep course, do not try to do it on your own. I took Kaplan and then taught for them during law school and I couldn’t recommend them enough.
What do I need for my first job wardrobe?
Check out this capsule wardrobe post. Remember quality counts, not quantity. When you’re starting out money is scarce, so you can find pieces at Target, Old Navy, Forever 21 etc but if you can, invest in the classic pieces, and use those stores to add dimension to your wardrobe as your style grows and changes.
What do you always have in your bag?
A notepad, chapstick, pen, sharpie, highlighter, sunnies, and a book – thank goodness for ereaders (even though I prefer tangible books).
Choices for coffee, mixed drink, wine?
Mocha, gin & tonic with cucumber, red zinfandel.
Where is your favorite place you traveled and ‘where’ is on your list?
My favorite place I’ve traveled was probably Ireland, it was enchanting, everyone was so welcoming, and I felt very much at peace in the country. On my list: Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, Australia, Morocco, South Africa, Maldives, India, Brazil, Chile, Norway, Iceland, and Egypt.