On Friday 4 November 2022, there was a buzz about Temple as the Kalisher Trust (alongside Ivy & Normanton) hosted their first legal clothing fair.

The Prince’s Room at Middle Temple was transformed into a treasure trove full of new and nearly new court attire. Suits from Hobbs and Jaeger. Dresses from Next. Shirts from TM Lewin. Each pre-loved item kindly donated by a member of the Bench or Bar.

The legal clothing fair was the brainchild of Dame Anne Rafferty, former Lady Justice of Appeal and newly appointed President of the Kalisher Trust. The goal? To pass on (for free) unworn or unused clothing to those in the early stages of their career, who might otherwise struggle to afford to suit and boot themselves.

As well as offering pre-loved work attire, Ivy & Normanton were also on hand in its pop-up shop, where beautiful shirts, collarettes and bands could be purchased as well as other court accessories.

The atmosphere on the day was joyous. A constant stream of law and Bar students (as well as current pupils and those seeking pupillage) filled the Prince’s Rooms, ravaging the rails, picking out items they liked – some still unbelieving of the generosity of the profession and that everything was free.

In addition to suits and formal wear (including ballgowns and evening attire suitable for dining at the Inns), were a number of junior gowns that had been donated by recently appointed silks. Those interested were asked to complete a short form and the individuals considered most deserving were contacted a few days later with the good news.

This part of the clothes fair took me back to my time as a junior clerk (prior to undertaking the Bar course), when Judith Farbey (now Mrs Justice Farbey) had just taken silk. She heard that I wanted to be a barrister and as she no longer needed her junior gown, had decided to pass hers onto me. Ten years later, this is the gown I wear every day in criminal courts up and down the country.

For me, the significance of being given that gown wasn’t just that it meant I didn’t have to fork out £200 for a new one – although of course that was a big help. It demonstrated that, even at the very early stage of my career, there were people within the profession willing me to succeed. Me? A state school educated, mixed race woman who grew up on a council estate. It was completely mind-blowing!

Now, the popularity of apps such as Vinted demonstrate just how ‘in vogue’ the buying and selling of second hand clothes is, perhaps not surprising when considering the cost of living crisis and increasing number of environmentally conscious consumers. And so, we always knew (well, hoped) that this event would be a success. But if I’m being honest, while recycling suits and formal wear is something that benefits everyone (not least the environment and the bank balance of junior and aspiring barristers), what felt truly special about our legal clothing fair was that the profession demonstrated how much they wanted to help the next generation of barristers which was eye-opening and humbling in equal measure.

Next legal clothing fair: Friday 10 February 2023
Owing to the success of our first event (and thanks to generosity of Middle Temple) we will be holding another legal clothing fair on Friday 10 February 2023. Any donations will be gratefully received at Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LJ (DX34 Chancery Lane) marked FOA Danielle Manson.