A Doughty Street junior has set up the first legal outfitter dedicated to designing courtwear for women.
Karlia Lykourgou has set up Ivy & Normanton, which is named after Ivy Williams – the first woman to be called to the Bar in May 1922 and Helena Normanton, who was the second woman to be called. Just a few years earlier, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 had come into force, meaning women could became lawyers for the first time.
The idea came about when Lykourgou started her career as a barrister. She went to buy collarettes but only saw that there were two options for women’s shirts, compared to several for men.
“I tried on one of the shirts and found that it didn’t fit properly. It was baggy and uncomfortable,” Lykourgou said, “I thought it seemed unfair that there aren’t as many choices for women.”
Determined to find a solution, the criminal barrister designed custom made shirts for women who attended court – whether this be barristers, clerks or judges. Using the expertise of her father – who is in the clothes trade business – she designed shirts that were more suitable for women.
She designed a tunic shirt, a shirt that can be worn with a wing collar and a day collar and collarettes that did not snag on hair. She has also designed geometric lace, as the only ones available to women at the moment are floral or plain.
“As a criminal barrister, it is important to be comfortable in the courtroom. The last thing you want to be thinking about is your clothes. I felt it was important to design something that is comparable to what is available to men,” Lykourgou said.
While the idea spawned when Lykourgou was in the infancy of her career – it has taken almost five years to come to fruition. Speaking to The Lawyer, Lykourgou said she had the means to design the garments but didn’t have the time.
Her online store has been open for business since the start of this month and Lykourgou said she has been overwhelmed by the reception.
She said: “There has been an overwhelming response very quickly. I wasn’t prepared for the level of response. I am thrilled and terrified at the same time.
“Female barristers and women who attend court should just be able to get on with the job and be comfortable with what we wear. At the moment my main concern is making sure that the garments are produced in a fair way and the workers are treated well. I had my first shipment before coronavirus and will have to think of the next order.”
Lykourgou started her career at 3 Temple Gardens, before moving to Doughty Street in July last year. She has a criminal practice, including some expertise in extradition and criminal public law, as well as an interest in international law.