I am often asked how to dress for court. Lawyers have a clear rule: male lawyers wear a minimum of a jacket and tie and usually a suit and tie; female lawyers wear a suit or other professional attire. If you see an attorney wearing anything else, you will usually hear the attorney apologize for their appearance and that they only learned of the court hearing last minute.
While the court will not usually require you to dress a certain way, it is a good idea to dress in a way that shows respect for the court. For men, this would consist of a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt. Some men choose to wear a suit for trial. For women, this would consist of a nice pair of slacks or dress with a nice blouse or sweater.
I will now address what not to wear to court. You should never wear a sleeveless t-shirt, clothing with holes, shorts, baseball caps, headbands, and t-shirts with offensive sayings or pictures. Many courts will order you out of the courtroom if you show up wearing such things. Some will even issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to return on time wearing acceptable clothing. Clothing that would normally be acceptable at a nightclub may not be acceptable in court. Examples include skimpy black dresses and funky shirts, both of which may look good on the dance floor, but not so good in court. People may get some slack for wearing dirty work clothing, but it would be a good idea to apologize to the court and explain that you came straight from work. A better practice would be to bring a quick change of clothes and clean up and change in the court’s bathroom.
If you are incarcerated, dressing properly is usually excused, but can be a challenge for trial. For any pretrial hearings before the court, you will be arriving in jail-issued clothing. However, for a jury trial, you should follow the rules set forth above. A jury will judge you on how you look. If you look like a prisoner, they will think of you as a prisoner. This would not be a good way to start your case. Sometimes, your attorney will make arrangements. However, the better practice is to get your friends or family to bring your appropriate clothing for you to wear. Your clothing will likely fit better than anything your lawyer brings for you.
Many people tell me that they cannot afford to dress this way for court. The lowest cost solution is to purchase second-hand clothing. Looking for sales is a way to buy new clothing at a good price.
Some people object to wearing such clothing, stating that it does not reflect their personality. The courtroom is not the place for personal fashion statements. Attorneys save their personal fashion statements for their personal lives, but dress for success in the courtroom. Someone with a personal stake in the outcome in court should do the same.
If you have questions about this or other questions you need answered by an experienced lawyer, please call Attorney Daniel F. Gigiano at 330-336-3330.