LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Melissa Ann Graham-Hurd | Jan 28, 2011

How to Dress for Court

First Impressions Count

While it is true that it really isn't fair and it does not change the facts of your case, first impressions do count and we want the Judge or Magistrate to see you as fitting their perceptions of someone who is mature, responsible and believable. The people in the black robes are people, too, subject to first impression foibles just like the rest of us.

First impressions are lasting ones. The hearing officer’s first impression will be made on how you appear, at first glance, and will set the tone for how you are perceived throughout the case. Showing proper respect for the Court will lead to the Court respecting you.

What Should You Wear?

You don't need to wear fancy clothing, but anyone who shows up to Court in less than decent attire will be at a disadvantage. The Court is our stage and we are all, in some way, actors performing our roles to convince our audience that we are the ones who should be believed. You do not have to purchase new clothing. Whatever you wear, be sure it is clean and neat, and that it fits you and the image you want to project.

Metal Detectors

On entering the Courthouse, we will have to pass through metal detectors. Handbags, briefcases and everything else carried are put on a conveyor belt to be scanned. People entering the Courthouse walk through the body scanner. The deputies will confiscate pen knives, pepper spray, nail files and anything else they think might be a weapon, and if you have these things, you will have to leave them with the deputy with your photo ID, and pick them up on your way out of the Courthouse. They will keep knives larger than the county permits, however. It is best not to take these things to begin with.

In order to pass through the body scanner efficiently, please do not wear large belt buckles, metal belts, steel-toed footwear, biker-chain wallets, dozens of bangle bracelets, and other things that would make the alarm sound. If you have an implanted medical device, we can inform the deputies who have been trained to deal with those special situations.

Remember that all metal must pass through the conveyor belt, in a basket provided or in your own bag, including credit cards, coins, keys, aluminum foil surrounding chewing gum or cigarettes, lighters, pens, cell phones, calculators, and so forth. Any of these metal objects in your pockets will sound an alarm and cause you to empty your pockets and pass through the metal detector again and again until there is no alarm or until a deputy uses a hand-wand of your body and clears you. It is best if we can pass through the first time cleanly to minimize delays.

Examples

Some examples of what you should be thinking when getting dressed on the day you go to Court:

  • Dress like you are meeting your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents for the first time.

  • Dress like you are trying to hide in a room full of bankers.

  • Dress like you're going on a job interview at a library.

  • Dress the way you think the Judge/Magistrate dresses when she/he is not in court.

  • Dress like a teacher on parent-teacher night.

  • Dress like you would when going to a bank to apply for a personal loan with nothing but your word and a handshake.

  • Dress like we aren't allowed to speak and the Judge has to decide which side wins based on how they're dressed.

  • Be clean and don’t over do it on the fragrance.

  • Do not wear excessive jewelry.

  • Do wash your hair and refrain from distracting styles

For the Ladies:

  • Do not wear anything that will expose your midriff or belly.

  • Do not wear anything overly tight, whether it is slacks/pants/dresses/skirt/shirt.

  • Do not wear shorts.

  • Do not wear denim.

  • Do not wear T-shirts, with or without slogans/advertisements.

  • Do not wear sweatpants/sweatshirts/jogging outfits.

  • Do not wear short skirts, keep them preferably knee length or longer.

  • Do not show your breasts or cleavage.

  • Do not wear “hoochie-mama" high heels.

  • Do leave the body jewelry at home.

  • Do cover the tattoos.

  • Do wear hosiery with skirts, socks/knee hose with pants.

  • Do keep your underwear unseen, including bra straps.

  • Do wear a nice top that fits and shows none of your assets, and a nice skirt or slacks that fit and cover your body appropriately.

For the Gentlemen:

  • Do not wear shorts.

  • Do not wear denim.

  • Do not wear T-shirts, with or without slogans/advertisements.

  • Do not wear sweatpants/sweatshirts/jogging outfits.

  • Do not wear baggy pants where the crotch is at knee level.

  • Do not wear hats or caps.

  • Do not wear work boots.

  • Do not wear sandals.

  • Do leave the body jewelry at home.

  • Do cover the tattoos.

  • Do wear clean socks.

  • Do keep your underwear unseen.

  • Do wear a nice shirt with a collar, a tie, and slacks that fit you.

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