When Sharon Bialek and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, stepped up to the microphone at a press conference to talk about allegations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, Bialek wore a demure, somber, black long-sleeved v-neck dress with a cascading ruffle over the left shoulder. Her jewelry was simple; her black rounded-tow pumps as businesslike as can be — a polished look for a sordid story.

While her clothes were reserved, Bialek’s words were anything but. She spoke in graphic terms, describing a 1999 encounter with Cain. Her attire belied the “tinge of circus atmosphere” that infused the event, as New York Magazine described it.

Gloria Allred has made a name for herself with stark and controversial cases — from representing Nicole Brown Simpson’s family to representing one of Tiger Woods’s mistresses Rachel Uchitel — Allred knows how to navigate, and possibly create, a media circus. And as any performer will tell you, clothes make a character.

Since the early days of her career, Allred has scarcely made a public appearance without a structured jacket. She is a member of the old-school female attorney camp, those firm believers in shoulder pads and the idea that masculine shapes command authority. Although she has embraced more color over the years, donning suits in primary shades of red and blue much like Hillary Clinton in her years as first lady, Allred keeps her fashion choices demure. And she has no qualms speaking out about those who do not hold her views on appropriate court room apparel.

View Photo Gallery: Gloria Allred’s court-approved fashion: The high-profile attorney who has built her career reputation as a women’s rights advocate has counseled her clients on the art of demure dressing.

In a March New York Times article, Allred criticized Lindsay Lohan’s attire for her multiple court appearances. “She walks into court like a movie star; apparently she hopes to be one,” said Allred, who did not represent Lohan.

“If anything, her outfits are alienating,” Ms. Allred said. “A court wants to feel that the defendant has a proper respect for the gravity of the occasion,” she said, adding wryly after a beat, “I suppose we ought to be grateful that she’s not wearing shorts.”

Allred told the Times she advises her clients to dress for court as if they were dressing for church. It was especially suitable advice for this occasion: Since Bialek’s debut took place at the Friar’s Club, rather than in a court of law, her attire required even more gravity to counteract the comedy club location. As for Lohan, who spent five hours in jail on Monday: her suggestive attire “may not be appropriate,” Ms. Allred noted. “But there is no law against it.”