There are dozens of articles and guidebooks on what female attorneys should wear when they’re in the courtroom. Wear a neutral-colored suit, go easy on the accessories, add a splash of color, and choose comfortable shoes. However, there is less advice on what not to wear in the courtroom, and restraint can be just as important as knowing which outfits are most appropriate in front of a judge or jury. Here are some tips about what NOT to wear in the courtroom.
No Open-Toed Shoes
You may absolutely love those sandals you found on sale last summer and they may perfectly match the power suit you have set aside for opening arguments, but no matter what, don’t wear them. They are simply too casual for the legal arena. Even if they are the most comfortable shoes you own, you do not want to give the judge or jury the impression that you’re taking your case lightly. Unfortunately, casual dress is often equated with not caring about your appearance. That could be far from the truth for you, but you can’t control others’ perceptions, so don’t give them the chance to hold your footwear against you.
No T-Shirts or Jeans
As with open-toed shoes, wearing t-shirts and jeans communicates that you don’t care about your appearance. Sure, you want to be comfortable, but there are certain standards that attorneys are expected to uphold, and the way they dress is one of them. No matter how casual the jury is dressed and no matter how casual your town or city is, t-shirts and jeans are a big no-no. You may think it’s important for a judge or jury to base their opinions solely on your argument and it shouldn’t matter what you wear, but unfortunately, that is not the reality of a courtroom. Even the most open-minded jury member will subconsciously judge you based on your outfit.
Even if you are wearing a pantsuit, you should pair your outfit with hosiery and fashionable (yet comfortable) shoes. This usually means heels or flats, but both footwear options preclude socks. They just aren’t fashionable for women. Of course, if you wear boots or another closed-toed shoe that won’t show your socks, you can wear them, but they should not be visible at any time. If you absolutely must wear socks for some reason, be sure to wear a dark color. White socks are a fashion faux pas for both men and women.
No Short Skirts or Ill-Fitting Clothing
Despite the progress that has been made in terms of what is deemed appropriate attire for women, there are still some articles of clothing that should not make an appearance in the courtroom. Short skirts and ill-fitting clothing are two such items. Short skirts are a distraction, whether they should be or not. Even female jurists may find revealing clothes to detract from your argument and presence in the courtroom. Ill-fitting clothing can be just as distracting, particularly if you wear dresses or suits that are too small. You don’t want your outfit to be the center of attention, and if it’s too revealing, that’s exactly what will happen.
No Strong Perfume
Fashion extends beyond clothing when you’re in the courtroom, so you need to think about the perfume you wear as you dress for the day. If you wear a scent at all, make sure you don’t put too much on because some people are sensitive to certain odors, and perfume is often one of them. You don’t want people to be concentrating on your perfume instead of on your work. Choose a mild scent and wear it sparingly. Musks, fresh scents, and clean fragrances are all types of perfumes that usually won’t be overbearing in a close space.
No Wild Hairstyles
Courtrooms are usually conservative in nature, so wild hairstyles and colors will stand out, even if they’re gaining more acceptance in public. As with your outfit, you do not want to call attention to yourself for the wrong reasons. When people are talking about your hairstyle, they aren’t listening to your argument or thinking about how they should vote in the jury room. Don’t be the focal point in the courtroom. Otherwise, your hard work gets lost.
When you’re an attorney, especially a female attorney, there is some pressure on how you look when you enter the courtroom. The outfit you choose and the accessories you use are important considerations when thinking about the impression you want to make on juries and judges. Take the time to select your clothing carefully to make that first impression great.
Still not sure what to wear? Master Style Coach Mary Nidiffer was recently interviewed on the Personal Injury Marketing Minute and in Episode #12 she explains what is and is not appropriate, along with a load of style advice.