It’s the night before your court hearing. Earlier that day, you met with your lawyer to discuss logistics, including what you should wear as you appear before the judge. She told you to wear clothing that is more formal than what you wore to the meeting: faded, distressed jeans, Converse shoes, and a t-shirt from the last concert you attended.
What does this mean exactly? You question if she meant a suit or formal dress. Maybe she meant khakis and a polo? You wonder how fancy you need to dress to best present yourself in front of a judge.
Your next thought may be to wear your most expensive or treasured items of clothing to help you feel your best. However, that $2,000 zebra-print designer shirt that makes you feel confident and happy might not be the best choice. Instead, think respectful and conservative.
Keep It Simple
In a sense, absent the theatrics, you want to play the part. Remember the 2022 defamation trial involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? Critics claimed they were dressed to suggest. Usually, wealthy and famous celebrities prefer to sport high fashion and distinct attire. However, since the case’s main issues included drug and alcohol abuse, the two individuals chose to dress as “sober” respectful members of society while honoring traditional courtroom customs. Looks included neutral and dark tones, high-collar shirts, and hair pulled back.
Business casual, somewhere between formal and casual, is the suggested look for a courtroom. Examples of formal wear would be a long dress or tuxedo, while examples of casual wear would be jeans and a t-shirt. Business casual is in between these two ends of the spectrum. Examples of business casual dress are shown in Image 1. Oftentimes businesses and workplaces also follow these standards for an everyday dress policy, hence the name. As you can see, the clothes should be modest and conservative. The clothes should also be clean, wrinkle-free, and fitted appropriately.
Wear minimal makeup, simple jewelry, and closed-toe neutral-colored shoes. Do not wear hats, sunglasses, bright colors, or excessively patterned fabrics. Some courtrooms do not allow food or beverages, cell phones, or bags because of security concerns, so do not plan to pack your house for the event. A good idea would be to check the court website or make a phone call to the court administration where your hearing will be held to ask what you can bring inside.
Dress For Good Decorum
Many courts explicitly forbid inappropriate clothing as part of their dress code stated on their website and provide their own dress codes. Oftentimes courts also have rules on what attorneys and officials must wear. For example, in the State of North Dakota, counsel or a court official must refrain from wearing clothing suited primarily for sports or leisure time activities for court appearances. North Dakota Court Rule 10.1(b)(5) Conduct in Court.
Now that you have your business casual outfit set out for the next day, you can sleep a little better knowing even if you’re nervous on the inside, you will be prepared on the outside. Your appearance shouldn’t make or break your case, but when you show the court respect, you are helping yourself and your case.
When our clients need to appear in court, we make sure they are prepared. Our team at SW&L Attorneys can assist you with preparation and professionalism. To contact us, call 701.297.2890 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Vanessa Friedman, Parsing a Costume Drama, The New York Times, May 19, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/19/style/amber-heard-johnny-depp-clothes.html.
 iStock, Business Casual, Vasilyevalara, January 31, 2017, https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/winners-business-team-gm640052774-115718559, Stock illustration ID: 640052774.