You’ve heard the adage about getting only one chance to make a first impression. When it comes to the courtroom, your appearance might sway the judge. While justice is blind, those implementing it usually are not. Although your choices of clothing, hair, and jewelry won’t make or break your case, they can influence it, so it makes sense to make the best decisions you can. Check out this list of tips for what to wear for court.
Even if your judge doesn’t place much stock in appearance, he or she will notice if you dress in a way that’s disrespectful of the court. In general, when you go to court, you need to be as neat and tidy as possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy a whole new ensemble to wear. It does mean not wearing your grungy jeans and a torn t-shirt to court. You can check your local court’s website to see if there is a suggested dress code. If it’s not on the main page, look for the juror section for what to wear for court; anything that’s recommended for a juror to wear is going to be appropriate for you to wear, too. Keep in mind that showing disrespect to the court, whether via your appearance or your actions, could get you thrown out.
Don’t Be Flashy
You might take a lot of pride in your appearance, and that’s fine. If your appearance includes facial piercings, flashy hair, and facial or neck tattoos, you might consider toning it down a bit for court. Remember that you want to be taken seriously; while you might be very serious about the matter at hand, your appearance might deceive the judge into thinking you aren’t. Take out the piercings, comb back your hair (you might even consider temporarily dyeing it a more natural color), and cover any potentially offensive tattoos with clothing or makeup. Yes, it’s unfortunate that your appearance could negatively affect your case, but the fact is that it might, so it makes sense to do what you can to remove anything that makes you stand out in a potentially negative way when considering what to wear for court.
If you were called in for a business meeting, what would you wear? That’s a good question to ask yourself when planning what to wear for court. Of course, all companies differ in how formal they expect their employees to be dressed, but in general, there are certain styles that are accepted and certain styles that are looked down upon. A man could wear a suit and tie. A button-down shirt and tie with dress pants is another good option. Women should wear a blouse and an appropriate-length skirt or pants with low heels. A business suit is also appropriate for either sex. Choose basic colors; navy, black, brown, and muted shades are best. Consider that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, so leave the fuschia and lime green at home.
What Not to Wear
There are some items that are inappropriate when considering what to wear for court. It’s best to avoid jeans if possible, and absolutely avoid jeans that are dirty, stained, torn, or otherwise not professional-looking. Don’t wear anything too tight; this goes for both sexes. Make sure that your clothing fits well. Women, choose a top with a reasonable neckline, nothing that plunges or shows cleavage. Avoid shorts or short skirts. Halter tops and tank tops are also a no-no. You’ll want to cover most of your skin from your shoulders to your knees; hands and, in some cases, forearms are the exceptions.
While some accessories are appropriate, others are not. Stud or small hoop earrings are fine, as is a single necklace and a bracelet. Leave your sunglasses and hats in the car; they’re not appropriate for the courtroom. Don’t wear anything that alludes to drug use or anything else unsavory. Don’t wear flip-flops or old sneakers if possible. Wear dress shoes if you can. Women should wear flats or pumps with a low heel.
Your hair should be neat and clean. Short hair should be smoothed down so it’s not flyaway. Long hair should not be in your face. Either put it up or make sure that it’s held back so it doesn’t look messy. Makeup should be simple and natural-looking. All in all, when considering what to wear for court, think about a business setting on go based on that.
Remember Your Attitude
Your appearance is not only about what you’re wearing and how you do your hair. Keep in mind that your attitude should be professional. Don’t chew gum. Watch your language; even though the topics might make you feel tense or stressed, maintain your composure as much as you can. Sit straight up in your seat without slumping or slouching. One good tip is to act the way you’d act at a job interview. Before answering questions, take a breath or two to allow yourself to collect your thoughts. Speak slowly and clearly. It’s tempting to rush through your words because you might have a lot to say, but that makes it hard for others to understand you. Having a good attitude and taking the steps to have the respect that the courtroom requires can positively impact the way the judge perceives you.
Although appearance isn’t everything, planning what to wear for court can go a long way in the courtroom when you are making your case. Read up on the topic and go through your wardrobe to make sure that you have everything you need in advance of your court date. Lay out your outfit and accessories the night before. Be sure that your clothing is ironed and ready to wear. This will help alleviate your stress as you get dressed, which will, in turn, allow you to appear more confident and put-together.
Above all, remain calm and make sure that your appearance is respectful to the courtroom. While your appearance is what will make the first impression, the rest of your case hinges on you telling the truth and conducting yourself well. Talk to a legal program or resource center if you need guidance on what to wear but aren’t in the position to hire your own attorney or get family law help to help you better represent yourself.