A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Women: what to wear to court

Why have I written three blog posts this month about what to wear to court?  Does the court (or anyone for that matter) even notice what you are wearing to court?  The answer is yes!  It has even been noted in written judgments of the court:

On two dates when LD was being cross-examined, she attended Court in rather large, bright pink fuzzy bedroom slippers which was out of sync with her usual manner of attire, and certainly out of the norm for any reasonable person’s court attire.

Women should wear something to court that they feel comfortable in.  Something that fits well and can be described as “business casual” attire (something you would wear to an interview for an office job).

A good look for women (from top to bottom) is:

Wear a cardigan or blazer over any sleeveless top

  • A neutral coloured blouse, or dress shirt that is ironed, clean and properly fitted.  The shirt should not show too much cleavage (also consider that court may be stressful so wear a shirt that doesn’t show sweat);
  • A matching sweater, cardigan, or blazer;
  • An ironed skirt (no shorter than one or two inches above the top of your kneecap) or ironed dress pants;
  • My favorite thing to wear is a “suit dress” – they are very comfortable and you don’t have to iron a blouse (see above);
  • Tights (or nylons) if you are wearing a skirt or socks that match your shoes and pants; and
  • Conservative shoes (closed toe) that are easy for you to walk in.
Also consider, accessories:
  • A satchel, computer bag or briefcase to carry any documents (do not shove them all into your purse);

    Do not wear anything that indicates you disrespect the court

  • Jewelry (keep it simple, tasteful and modest);
  • Nylons (bring an extra pair in your purse).
Also consider, grooming:
  • Keep your makeup natural;
  • Do not apply makeup in the courtroom;
  • Keep your nails clean and neat;
  • Cover Tattoos;
  • Remove piercings (with the exception of an earring in each ear);
  • Keep your hair out of your face and neat looking.
When you are getting ready, focus on the idea: conservative, professional and trustworthy.   Outfits that invoke thoughts of summer, Lady Gaga, and fashion forward should certainly be worn with caution, and not without a second opinion.
It is important to note that different judges have different ideas about what is appropriate for court.  When I was in law school, a girl went to court in a suit with dress capri pants, and was told by a judge that they were not appropriate.
On the other hand, when  someone I know was working , she found out from a reliable source that not all judges felt it necessary to wear nylons in the summer (and we were all pleasantly surprised!).  In any event, I always err on the side of caution and wear nylons (subject to any last minute runs etc…see above).

Men: what to wear to court

There are lots of general guidelines online for men about what to wear to court, such as: what you would wear to church, an office job interview or “business casual”.  When preparing for family court, I advise men to wear something they feel comfortable in and that shows respect for the court.

However, these general descriptions can be interpreted in many different ways – something you feel comfortable in could be a bath robe, there are lots of different interpretations of “something that shows respect for the court”, and what you wear to church might not be what everyone wears to church.

I asked our resident fashion expert, Carey Davies, to help me create a head-to-toe list of what to wear to court.

A good look for men (from top to bottom) is:

  • A neutral colored dress shirt, ironed, that is clean and properly fitted (also consider that court may be stressful so wear a shirt that doesn’t show sweat);
  • A neutral colored suit jacket or sports coat as it may be cold in the courtroom (note: a “sports coat” is NOT an Adidas track jacket );
  • Ironed slacks (black, navy, grey, or khaki);
  • Dark dress shoes that match your pants; and
  • Dark socks that match your shoes.

Also consider, accessories:

  • A tie – if you wear a tie in your every day life, I would suggest wearing a tie to court.  If you don’t wear a tie in your every day life I would not suggest wearing a tie (it might get uncomfortable and look unnatural).  The tie issue is covered in more detail in this useful Wall Street Journal Article.
  • Cufflinks – again, if this is part of your normal day to day wear, you might want to include these.  If you are bringing an application and/or giving evidence to your difficult financial situation it is best to avoid wearing flashy accessories – no gold cufflinks or Breitlings.
  • A sweater – a dark v-neck sweater you can wear over your dress shirt might be a good idea if the weather is cold; or
  • A briefcase, laptop bag or satchel to keep your documents in (always best to be organized before you get to the court room).

Also consider, grooming (See Oprah’s top ten tips):

  • Remove piercings;
  • Cover tattoos;
  • Very light (or no) cologne;
  • Clean cut hair style; and
  • Tidy facial hair or no facial hair.

Getting dressed for court does not mean that you have to buy all new clothes.  There are probably things in your closet that will work well.  You can also consider borrowing something from a friend or relative.  If you feel more confident in a new shirt, there are usually some deals on men’s basics (going to court does not require a $300.00 shirt from Harry Rosen).  Finally, before leaving the house for court it may be a good idea to get a second opinion about what you are wearing – ask a friend who has good style and judgment, your lawyer, or your family (do not ask your soon to be ex-partner on the other side of your divorce).