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What Should I Wear If I Have to Go to Court?

Going to court for the first time can be intimidating. You may be nervous about your case and have no idea what to expect. To make matters worse, there are strict procedures to follow and it can be stressful to speak in front of a judge or jury. Further, it may not always be clear what the rules are or how you should act in a courtroom.

For many, simply not knowing how to properly dress for court can create a lot of anxiety. After all, you want to give your best impression, so you may be wondering, what should I wear? Can I wear jeans to court?

While everyone has their own sense of fashion, the attire you pick out for court should demonstrate that you have respect for the legal process. It needs to show that you are taking the matter seriously.

However, what this means is not always crystal clear and the court you are appearing at may not have a specific dress code in place. If this is the case, you should dress to impress. This means choose clothes that you would wear to church or a job interview. Here are some basic guidelines to follow.

Review the Local Rules

Courts have rules in which attorneys and parties to a lawsuit must follow. These rules may specify what type of dress is and is not allowed. For example, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles local rules state that you may not dress in an inappropriate manner that is “distracting to others.” While this might seem vague, there are some basic principles to keep in mind.

Generally speaking, most lawyers wear suits even when this type of dress is not required. While you might not need to dress this formal, you should consider whether or not what you are wearing could be considered distracting. An example might be an outfit that reveals too much skin or a graphic t-shirt with obscene or offensive images or language. If you are found in violation of the rules, you may be asked to leave the courtroom, which could have a negative impact on your case.

Basic Tips on How to Dress for Court

When thinking about what to wear, consider outfits that are neat and respectful. Make sure that your clothes fit. If you have gained or lost weight recently, it might be a good idea to purchase new clothes if that is an option for you. Be sure to wash and iron the items, and don’t forget about personal grooming.

Hair should be trimmed and styled appropriately. If you have long hair, it should be pulled back. Your nails should be neutral-colored and men should have any facial hair trimmed and groomed. If you decide to wear makeup, it should also be neutral. Tattoos should be concealed if possible and any facial piercings should be taken out.

What Not to Wear to Court

With the above guidelines in mind, there are a few mistakes to avoid in order to ensure that your outfit is not too distracting, and that it shows respect for the court. First, don’t wear any clothes that reveal a lot of skin. Examples would be a shirt with a bare midriff or tops with plunging necklines. Short skirts and shorts would also fall under this category, as well as tank-tops or t-shirts. Jeans should also be avoided.

Next, try not to wear workout attire. This would include sweatpants, yoga pants, and leggings. Sneakers, flip-flops or very high heels, like stilettos, should also not be worn. You should remove any potentially distracting jewelry as well as sunglasses.

Hats should also not be worn, however, there may be an exception for religious head coverings. If you are concerned about whether your headwear is acceptable you can ask the court or reach out to your attorney for advice.

Best Options to Wear to Court

Now, while you want to look your best for your day in court, there is no need to spend large sums of money or stress about getting it exactly right. Just try to choose the most professional and conservative clothing you have in your closet. For men, this typically means a suit with a tie. For women, this could be a pantsuit, conservative dress, or skirt and a blouse.

If you have dress shoes, wear them. If not, clean and simple black sneakers are a good alternative. You might also consider some basic accessories for your outfit, such as a wristwatch, small earrings, and simple necklaces or bracelets.

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