When trying cases, the cardinal rule is: LOOK GOOD. Whether that be in front of a judge and jury, in person or on Zoom, it’s important to always dress to impress!
Women’s Courtroom Attire and Rules
Women’s fashion can be difficult in general. So, when you throw in a professional environment – that until recent years, has been historically dominated by men – into the mix, it can seem overwhelming. Fear not, the following article will help guide you to start building your staple lady lawyer wardrobe!
Do this: neutrals especially shades of gray and navy.
Not that: Clashing patterns and bold colors.
When trying a case, you want the judge and the jury to like you, but you don’t want to make it all about you. The focus should be on your client and your story. So, while we all want our “Elle Woods hot pink pantsuit” moment, it’s important that we stick to timeless classics and neutral colors when in the courtroom.
Grays and darker shades of blue are favored by male and female attorneys alike. Some like to stray away from solid black suits and opt for a charcoal gray or a pinstripe suit. However, in recent years black suits have become popular amongst female attorneys. Regardless of exactly which neutral you go with, a solid neutral suit will take you far throughout your law school journey and beyond.
Skirt or Pants?
Do this: Wear whichever you feel most comfortable in!
Not that: Be uncomfortable.
There once was a time where female attorneys could not wear pants in a courtroom. Now, you’ll see female attorneys wearing all different styles of suits.
The Skirt Suit
Skirts are the traditional de facto attire for female attorneys, as mentioned they were once the only option, and today are still a viable option of suit style. Typically pencil skirts are worn at or slightly above the knee with a matching suit jacket. They should be worn with pantyhose or tights and shouldn’t be too tight or too short. The skirt suit is a great option to have in your closet.
The Pant Suit
Made popular by a certain First Lady in the 90’s, the pantsuit is a personal favorite of mine. The pant part of the pantsuit can be worn in a variety of different styles. Some examples amongst many more are: Ankle, Skinny, Boot, and Wide-Leg.
The Suit Jacket
Do this: Experiment with different styles.
Not that: Mismatch the color of your jacket and bottoms.
Blazers and suit jackets come in a variety of styles and colors. When buying a suit that doesn’t already come as a set, it is imperative that you match the color of the jackets with whichever bottoms you choose to buy! Not all blacks are the same. Not all grays are the same. Not all blues or pinstripes or whatever shade are the same! The idea is to look neat and put together, and finding the matching jacket for your suit bottom works wonders in achieving this goal.
You can also play around with the fit of the jacket. A boyfriend fit is more relaxed and most likely only has one button, while double breasted blazers have four to six buttons. This is where you can experiment and see which style you like best and don’t forget to note which feels more comfortable!
Do this: Play around with colors, styles, and patterns.
Not that: Show too much skin.
The last part of a skirt suit or pantsuit is of course the top. You can really have fun with this part of the outfit. Unlike the suit itself, you can be bold with your color choice of top. You can also dabble into patterns (if you’re wearing a solid suit, of course!) Button ups are common tops worn by both female and male attorneys. Silk blouses and bodysuits are also popular. Have fun with your top but remember to err on the side of caution and opt for more conservative styles with higher cut necklines and sleeves.
Do this: Play around with different fits and conservative hemlines.
Not that: Wear something too short or too tight.
Dresses are another option available to female attorneys. Neutral colors are your friend here, but you can amp it up by opting for pinstripe or color block designs. Like the skirt, they should be worn at or slightly above the knee. Nowadays, midi-length dresses that fall mid-calf are also very popular. A dress can be paired with a long-lined blazer to cover the shoulders and appear more formal. Like the skirt, it is also advised that these be worn with pantyhose or tights and not be too formfitting.
Do this: BE COMFORTABLE.
Not that: Don’t wear stilettos or anything that you cannot actually walk in.
Shoes are so important. In a courtroom, you can expect to be on your feet any time you are speaking. This can turn into a lot of standing, and nothing is worse than limping around the Well while delivering your closing argument to the jury because you have blisters on your feet. Low heels or flat shoes are typically worn in neutral tones, think nudes and black.
Where can I find affordable courtroom attire?
My favorite place to shop for suits is Express. They often run sales on their pieces, and you can mix and match jackets, skirts, and different styles of pants from the same collection. Zara is another great place to start building your courtroom closet. While pricier, you can’t go wrong with Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, or J. Crew either. Pro Tip: check out the Factory Outlets for each of these stores for the ultimate discounts!
What about Zoom Court?
Many courts are reopening for in person proceedings, however it is likely that this hybrid world is here to stay. Zoom Court may be more comfortable if you’re logging in from your dining room, but it should still be treated with respect and professionality. We’ve all heard the stories and seen the videos of people forgetting that they are on camera and standing up only to reveal that they’re only dressed professionally from the top up. Don’t be that person. Either make sure that your comfy clothes are definitely going to be out of frame or bust out the entire suit.
Gentlemen’s Courtroom Attire and Rules
What are the basics?
If you are appearing in court, you must always wear the following: a jacket, dress shirt, tie, dress pants, dress shoes, and a belt. While there are different variations, there are certainly norms that all appearing in court should follow. Anything that you wear should look professional and serve a purpose. That purpose is to come off as likable and as trustworthy as possible. Your outward appearance is how you will be perceived by the jury. The following expands on some of the basics and will set you up for success.
Do this: Go to a store and have an associate take your measurements.
Not that: Wear jackets that are too big or too small.
The jacket you wear to court depends on the occasion. Any appearance in front of a jury calls for a suit, inclusive of a matching jacket and pants. When making a purchase try to buy a complete suit but when starting out, sometimes you can get away with a similarly colored jacket and pants. Make sure the jacket you buy fits properly. To find out your size and fit, go shopping at a store like Macy’s or Joseph A. Bank where an associate can take your measurements and recommend the proper size.
Do this: Buy comfortable pants in either solid colors or professional patterns.
Not that: Buy flashy pants that you can only wear with one outfit.
The pants you wear should be pressed and fit well. Stick with solid colors or conservative patterns when pairing pants with a jacket. Also, be mindful of how the colors and patterns contrast with one another. Make sure the pants you wear are ironed free of any stains. When wearing a suit, make sure you are wearing matching pants.
Do this: Stick with the traditional white and blue.
Not that: Flashy and distracting patterns.
Stick with solid white and blue shirts when going to court. While patterned dress shirts may be acceptable at the office, it can be difficult to properly coordinate the shirt and suit you are wearing. You can never have enough white dress shirts, so try to buy them when they are on sale. Stay away from lower-end shirts that will wear after only a few months of wear, keeping in mind that shirts can only be worn once before cleaning and will wear more quickly.
Do this: Modern neckties in solid colors or traditional patterns.
Not that: Ties with old patterns.
Make sure your tie is appropriate for the circumstances. Again, you can never go wrong with basic colors and conservative patterns when going to court. Avoid flashy tie knots and stick with the traditional half Windsor. The internet can be a wonderful resource when it comes to learning how to tie a tie. Watch a Youtube video about how to do it, and you’ll be an expert in no time. If you’re not comfortable wearing bowties, then this may not be the time to start but if bowties suit you, then indulge.
Do this: Classic black and brown POLISHED dress shoes.
Not that: Worn and beaten dress shoes.
Try to own at least one pair of black oxfords and one brown pair of brown oxfords. The oxford is a very versatile shoe that can be worn to court regularly. MAKE SURE to polish your shoes when you start to see scuffs and marks. Polishing your shoes shows the jury you care about how you look, and that you want to put your best foot forward (no pun intended). Polish can be purchased at the supermarket and sometimes comes in a kit, inclusive of shoe polish, an application cloth, and a shoe brush. First, take the laces out of your shoes, then open the can of shoe polish and rub the application cloth on the polish until you have a good amount of polish on the cloth. Then generously apply the polish to all leather areas of your shoes, making sure to rub it into all the nooks and crannies. Then take the shoe brush and vigorously brush the leather parts of the shoes with a back-and-forth motion until the shoes being to shine. Make sure to replace the laces.
Do this: Quality well-fitting belts that complement your outfit.
Not that: Flashy buckles and leather that does not match the shoes you are wearing.
Make sure your belt matches the color of your shoes or is at least close. Try to avoid Faux leather belts and buy cheaper leather ones that will last longer. Faux leather tends to stretch and crack quickly, exposing what’s underneath, leaving white stretch marks. Invest in quality leather belts and take care of them. They will take care of you.