What Should I Wear to Court?
What to wear to court is a question most people ask, especially if it will be their first time as a witness or having their case heard by a judge and or a jury. While individual states will often have different laws and guidelines for legal matters, what to wear to court is basically the same, no matter the state.
To begin with, the word “conservative” is best used to describe the overall dress code for court. In the present world of fashion, with holes in clothing and often cut or very tight with little left to the imagination, most courts have strict rules about what can and cannot be worn as well as makeup, jewelry, and hairstyles. Both men and women are cautioned on what to wear to court.
Men: while a suit and tie are fine, they are not expected. However, such items as shorts, cutoffs, tight jeans, muscle or tank top shirts, flip-flops, no socks, hats, and clothes with holes are not acceptable. Men are required to wear long pants, preferably slacks though classic jeans are allowed in most courtrooms. Pullover, pocketed shirts or a button shirt, long or short sleeve are best. If a tee-shirt is worn, be sure there is no writing on it and that it fits loosely. Ties are fine but not necessary. A sweater or sports coat can be worn, which is often a good idea as courtrooms tend to be kept quite cold. Shoes, with socks, need to be shined if leather and relatively clean if cloth or fabric. Unless a man has to wear an orthopedic shoe with a heel, regular heels are appropriate. Closed-in sandals can be worn but must be worn with socks. Jewelry should be modest, not flashy. Hair should be clean and, if long, pulled back in a ponytail or a man bun. And while tattoos are not clothing, they should be covered if possible. Again, the word conservative warrants almost an old-fashioned appearance.
Women: many women today feel exposing lots of flesh and wearing provocative jewelry, and makeup is the way to be noticed. And a woman may feel she will have an advantage if she can catch the eye of the judge. Courtroom attire for women will prevent the clothing of a woman from attracting the attention of a judge, jury, and any other person, such as an expert witness or opposing attorney. To begin with, modesty is the word of the day. Loose-fitting slacks or jeans, a below the knee skirt, or dress are acceptable. No shorts, leggings (unless under a skirt or dress), jeans with holes, halter tops, tank tops, tight tee shirts, or tight pullover sweaters are allowed. Blouses and pullover tops need to be comfortable rather than form-fitting. High spike heels or great, bulky, high platform shoes need to stay home. Bare legs are not allowed, so socks or pantyhose must be worn. Jewelry should be modest without dangly earrings and jangling bracelets. Make-up is fine without flashy eyelashes and fiery lipstick. A sweater or light jacket helps keep a lady warm. Sometimes a tailored suit works well in the courtroom for a woman. Keep hairstyles modest, as well as the minimal use of hair ornaments. Purses or pocketbooks should be small to medium in size and contain tissues as often emotional issues will cause crying.
Some additional tips for both men and women regarding what to wear in court are the color and design of clothing. Gaudy clothing in neon or sparkly colors is not a good idea. Soft colors such as blue, beige, burgundy, light yellow, brown, and light gray are easy on the eyes of those watching and also signify calm and poise for the person wearing them. Large, brightly colored patterns on shirts, blouses, or dresses can be distracting and possibly even annoying. Plaids, small stripes, and tiny designs can be pleasant to the eye.
The main goal of going to court is to be seen by the judge and jury in a positive light with the hope of gaining the outcome best suited to your needs. While it may seem awkward to dress for court as required, it is the way things are done. Remember, it is only for a day, and you do want to make the right impression!