We know our readers are smart and understand that appropriate attire is necessary for court. We’ve listed some suggested and mandatory guidelines below.
In addition to these guidelines, we suggest you spend a couple of hours in your judge’s courtroom before your hearing to learn who they are and how they run their courtroom. Adapt your style accordingly.
If the judge is super formal, a full suit and closed-toe shoes may be appropriate. If they’re more down-to-earth, a suit might feel over-the-top, like you’re trying to hard. In that case, business casual attire or a church outfit might be best.
Also, think about the court issue at hand and how your clothing might influence the outcome or trigger your spouse or their attorney. (Judges are people, too, and they have their own biases to overcome.) For example, you wouldn’t arrive at court requesting spousal support with a brand new designer handbag on your arm — even if you purchased it for 75% off retail.
Tip: If you bring a witness or support person with you to court, they should dress well, too. This helps maintain decorum and shows that you (and those with you) respect the court and the law.
Most of what’s written below goes without saying, but sometimes, people need a little reminder.
The courtroom is a formal environment. Dress as you would when interviewing for a job or attending a church service. You could be barred from the courtroom if you violate the court’s dress code.
Men: Wear shoes with socks; long pants (with a belt if the pants have belt loops); and a tucked-in collared shirt and tie with or without a jacket. Pants should sit at the waist.
Women: Wear shoes; long pants or a knee-length or longer dress or skirt; and a blouse, sweater, or casual dress shirt.
Being asked to leave the courtroom based on your appearance could affect the outcome of your matter. You will NOT be allowed to enter the courtroom wearing the following:
- Hats (men) or hair curlers (women)
- Halter or tube top
- T-shirt or muscle shirt
- See-through top
- Clothing that exposes your midriff or underwear
- Ripped or torn jeans
- Baggy pants that fall below the waist
- Clothing with an emblem or wording that promotes illegal or inappropriate activity
- Clothing that depicts or promotes violence, sex acts, illegal drug use, or profanity
Other items to consider
If you wear or carry a smartphone or pager, turn it off while court is in session.
Do not text while court is in session.
Body piercings including (but not limited to) the tongue, eyebrows, nose, and multiple piercings in the ear should be removed or be very small and unobtrusive. Replace large, loud earrings in standard piercing holes with studs or small hoops.
Some judges are more accepting of piercings as an expression of individuality than others. Play it safe: Remove any questionable body jewelry before court.
Cover tattoos with long sleeves or long pants. If you have them on your hands or other conspicuous areas, there is obviously not a lot you can do to hide them, so do your best not to call attention to them. If you have a smaller design on your face, consider using concealer and foundation.
Make sure your hair is brushed and clean. If you have washable dye in it because you wanted blue hair yesterday, wash it out before court. If it’s permanent or semi-permanent dye, style it respectably.
If you are a woman with long hair, don’t opt for a messy ponytail or a crazy-elaborate style. Consider a neatly brushed ponytail or half-pinned style. You want it out of your face, and you don’t want it attracting undue attention.
Men shouldn’t look like they just rolled out of bed or removed a hat. Facial hair should be trimmed and neat.
If you want to wear makeup, wear it. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t.
If you’re not going to wear makeup, all that matters is that your face is clean.
If you are going to wear makeup, skip the false lashes, hot pink blush, bright red lipstick, and crazy contouring. Choose something light and natural.
Shower beforehand. Launder and iron your clothing. Dry clean them if necessary.
Use mouthwash, or stash mints in your purse or pocket in case your coffee breath is a little more rank than you’d like. Don’t bathe in cologne or perfume, but consider applying just a dab.
Nails should be clean, neat, and trimmed. Plan ahead, avoiding 3-inch acrylic nails, electric blue nail polish, and fancy nail art. Lean toward understated and neutral.
Dress for success
First impressions matter, but it’s not just about what others think. It’s also about how you feel.
Dressing well and looking good helps you feel confident. If you live a casual life and formal dress feels out of character, think about purchasing something new that makes you feel great.
Most importantly, you want to feel like yourself and as comfortable as possible so your true self (and the facts) shine through.