Accessories after the fact

You can never have enough hats, gloves and shoes, a shell-shocked Patsy, the glossy mag editor, tells the chat show cameras in an episode of 'Absolutely Fabulous'.

She's talking accessories, and accessories, as every reader of Jackie in the 70s will remember, are the essential finishing touch to the perfect “outfit”.

Then, they were red plastic belts with matching crocheted hats, rows of plastic bangles (never bracelets, always bangles) and a sprinkling of glitter on the cheekbones.

But that was the 70s, before clutter became a dirty word. In the 80s less was more and the only accessory you needed was a personal organiser – a Filofax.

They said a lot about who you were – possibly the first time a utilitarian object crossed the divide into the “things to be seen with” category.

Those days, too, have passed into the V & A Museum. Personal organisers were just glorified diaries, after all. Why did we feel they were so precious, so new, so different?

No, what you need now is a Psion organiser. These things are selling well – particularly to lawyers.

A pocket-sized computer-cum-diary, the organiser can tell you the dialling code of a Japanese suburb at the press of a button. It includes a database, word processor, time manager all in a box “the size of your spectacle case”.

Marketing for them, according to Psion's press officer Steve Pang, was aimed at ABC1s. But the idea was to lose the 80s yuppie image.

They should not shout out that you are successful, the way personal organisers used to do, he says.

Of course, they almost certainly do that. One solicitor at a City firm describes them as purely “a partner thing”.

The search for the typical lawyer accessory is a little more difficult.

Law Society cufflinks are said to be selling well, but that could be just a quirk of the moment. Wing collars, wigs and bands are compulsory wear for barristers so they do not quite fit into the frivolous adjunct-to-your-clothing category.

However, barristers do have one up on solicitors when it comes to extras, because of the additional paraphernalia their work requires.

One barrister, William Vandyck, of 1 Paper Buildings in London, says a certain kind of street cred can be gained from the state of the wig (the more yellowed with age, the more formidable the advocate) and the wig receptacle (a proper battered wig tin is more likely to psyche out your opponent in the robing room than an old Tupperware sandwich box).

As for portable telephones, he considers them to be a waste of time.

“There are great things now called pay phones which only cost 10p. The marvellous thing about portable phones is that nobody uses pay phones any more,” he says.

His own personal choice of accessory is an electronic chess set, which he uses on long train journeys to courts around the country.

The trouble that most lawyers encounter is dress uniformity. Suits, dark or grey, are the unwritten dress code in virtually every firm. The subject of women wearing trousers in City firms is still a hot issue. The staider, the more in touch with your own gender, the better.

So, to break out of the rigid dress code, women lawyers have to turn to the headscarf.

Sarah Wardley, a solicitor at Freshfields in the City, says some women see them as an escape from dress constraints.

“They are the equivalent of the tie,” she says, adding that at least they can be removed or added in response to the work in hand. “They do make you feel a lot more like a person.”