How to Dress for the Courtroom
Dress for success. This can be said emphatically for those who are having their day in court, be it attorney, client, or witness. So often, people form judgments based almost entirely on their first impression of another person and can be a plus or a minus depending on the opinion formed. For example, should a client be dressed in poorly fitting, unpressed clothes with unshined shoes to match or an attorney dressed in a suit that doesn’t quite button over the midsection, a judge or jury could form the opinion of the person not being serious about the issues at hand, attaching small importance to the outcome. On the other hand, if a client, witness, or attorney is dressed in a clean, well-fitting outfit, one complimenting his or her figure and coloring, with shoes shined, hair combed, and a smile on their face it could go a long way to winning the inward praise of a judge or jury. Let’s take a look at some important dos and don’ts for how to dress in the courtroom.
• Wear clothes that fit well. Make sure the buttons button (and there aren’t any missing buttons), zippers zip, and hemlines, shirt sleeves, and trouser legs are the right length.
• Depending on the part of the country where you live should dictate the style of dress, including shoes. For example, western courts would find polished boots acceptable while east coast courts would require polished oxfords for men and polished flats or low heels for ladies. Generally speaking, large cities require a more formal dress than a courtroom in a small, rural town. Suits for men and dresses, suits, or skirts and tops for women (never pants, even dress pants) are worn in the courtroom.
• Dress in colors proven to stimulate positive confidence and calming emotions. Gray, navy, soft brown, light pinstripes, and tan work well for men. Ladies will find pastels helpful, especially blues, light green, lilac, teal, beige, and ivory. Choose colors that compliment your skin tone and hair color as well.
• Wear little jewelry except for a watch. Ladies, small earrings are best. A small purse is best too.
• Make sure your hair is clean and attractively styled.
• When needed, light makeup helps accentuate the face and eyes to show honesty and purposeful concern.
• Men, in most instances, should be clean-shaven, though facial hair is presently in style. If facial hair is your regular appearance, make sure it is trimmed and not obscuring your facial body language.
• Sit straight and stand tall to show confidence but not in a haughty or know-it-all way.
• Smile often to show respect and confidence that a judge or jury will make the right decision, of course, in your favor. This applies to attorneys and witnesses as well.
• Ladies, especially, need to avoid skits above the knees, extremely tight skirts and tops revealing a lot of décolletage. See-through materials can also be inappropriate.
• Wearing shoes without socks or nylon stockings can indicate a sloppy or uncaring personality.
• Don’t wear dangly or oversized jewelry. Flashiness can annoy a judge or jury.
• Don’t wear a loud color or design tie, scarf, belt, or headband, which can distract those making decisions.
• Don’t use body language that suggests anger, disrespect, or unwillingness to cooperate.
• Don’t wear bright or bold colors, as this can signify a readiness to fight. And, according to research, yellow can denote mental instability.
• Don’t forget courtrooms are often quite cold, so if you aren’t wearing a suit jacket, don’t forget a sweater.
Dressing for the courtroom is an important consideration. Experience has shown that doing some research before you go in front of a judge can help you as you prepare for how you will dress and look the day(s) of your court appearance(s). Knowing the age and marital status of a judge will usually influence whether he or she is conservative or modern, and this can help you plan to dress for success in the courtroom.