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If you’re Googling “what to wear to a court hearing?” it’s likely that you have a court date on the horizon. At some point in their lives, most people will have to appear before a judge. In fact, there are approximately 100 million cases are filed each year in state trial courts and 400,000 in federal courts. Whether you are fighting a speeding ticket or fighting for your rights in a child custody case, it’s important to note that the proper courtroom attire actually does matter. Your appearance when you arrive in a courtroom communicates whether or not you take the matter at hand seriously.

No one wants to be judged solely on their appearance and they shouldn’t. But in a courtroom, your appearance underlines the argument your attorney is making on your behalf. It is important that you put the best you forward when you appear before a judge and jury. There are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when appearing before a judge. 

Do courtrooms have dress codes?

Yes, some U.S. courts may require a certain dress code and explicitly forbid clothing deemed inappropriate. Many courts simply state that persons entering the courtroom be properly attired. So, it’s important to know if the court your case is being heard in requires a dress code. Typically, courts have this information available on their websites or you can consult with your attorney. 

Still, even if a court does not require a specific dress code, or forbid certain items, you still want to keep in mind the value of first impressions. 

While the notion of first impressions may seem like an archaic way of thinking in a society moving closer to acceptance, courtrooms still place significant meaning on appearance and etiquette. This applies to everyone entering a courtroom including attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants and even spectators.

Why does your appearance in a courtroom matter?

When judges and juries are determining credibility, one of their biggest influences is appearance. A judge is much more likely to believe what you’re saying if you show up to court in a nice blouse and slacks than if you appear in Cookie Monster pajama pants. For example, if Child Protective Services is accusing you of neglect, showing up to court in a nice suit and groomed hair will convey that you take care of yourself, so you’re capable of taking care of others. 

Pro Tip: Dress like you have respect for the court

Whether you’re going to be a witness, juror, plaintiff or defendant, your favorite t-shirt is not the place for a courtroom. The general rule of thumb when going to court is you should dress conservatively. Second to arriving on time, the way you dress is important to show the judge you respect the court and its time. Over the last two decades, the standard of dress in courthouses seems to have declined. However, just because you see others in sweat pants and fuzzy slippers walking around the courthouse, doesn’t mean you should commit this same fashion crime.

What does conservative dress mean for women?

When you walk into a courtroom, the goal is to look professional and trustworthy. 

Women should dress business or business casual. Wearing the following will make a good impression in a courtroom: 

  • Business suits (dress or pants)
  • Cardigans or blazers over bare arms
  • Solid color blouses
  • Conservative dress shoes

Finally, hair should be neatly groomed. Long hair should be pulled away from the face. This will help avoid distracting or nervous behaviors. 

Women appearing in a courtroom should avoid:

  • Low-cut blouses
  • Loud or busy patterns
  • Too short skirts or high slits
  • Tight-fitting or form-fitting
  • Too much or overstated accessories

What to wear to courtWhat does conservative dress mean for men?

Men don’t have to break the bank for a brand new suit when they make appearances in court. While a suit and tie are the best choices, they aren’t the only choices. Men also have the option to wear business casual. 

When making an appearance in court, men should wear

  • Slacks 
  • Sports coat
  • White or solid color button-up shirt
  • Hair styled in a well-groomed, neat manner
  • Limit jewelry to one ring and a modest watch

Men appearing before a judge should avoid:

  • Short-sleeved shirts
  • French cuffs and/or cufflinks
  • Sneakers
  • Flip flops or slides

Neither men nor women should show up to court looking disheveled. It’s important to remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you’re unsure about what to wear to court, consult with your attorney. 

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

While it may seem small in comparison to the case you’re going to court for, what you wear can actually affect the outcome of your case. If you’re appearing before a judge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wear a suit and tie. However, if you show up in flip flops and sweat pants, the court may get the impression that you don’t really care about your situation. 

No matter your legal needs, The Carlson Law Firm has an attorney ready to assist.

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