You may be nervous about an upcoming court appearance. Perhaps you are a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit or you have to go before a judge to determine child custody or the terms of your divorce. Part of planning your case should include deciding what to wear and making sure that it is appropriate for the courtroom.

 If you have an upcoming appearance, you need to make sure that you dress the part to impress the judge. Whether you like it or not, it does matter what you wear to court. You may have several questions about what you can wear and what is suitable for court. Can you wear jeans in a courtroom? What about tattoos or a beard? Can you come wearing athleticwear?

Why does it matter?

There are no specific laws regarding what you must wear to court.  However, a court or jurisdiction can make rules on what type of attire is appropriate. It is important to respect the court and their positions. They will be properly dressed and probably wearing suits. You want to fit in and draw as little attention to yourself for your clothing choices.

Your clothes make your first impression on everyone in the courtroom. You get to decide what that impression is. Are you someone who dashed out of bed and forgot about your court appearance? Or are you someone who respects the judge and came prepared and respectfully dressed? If you want to win your case, it is best to be the latter.

What not to Wear to Court

You want to look polished and put together. Do not dress too casually. Many courts will not even let you enter the courtroom if you show-up dressed inappropriately. Some forms of inappropriate clothes include torn clothing, visually revealing outfits and shorts. Jeans are also usually inappropriate unless you do not own any other pants.

It is also not appropriate to wear outfits that are not suitable for the courtroom location. These would include things like clothing you would wear out for a night clubbing or sporting events gear. You also don’t want to show up in gym clothes or come straight from a workout. Take a shower first and get yourself prepared for the judge.

Loose-fitting and too-tight clothing are also frowned upon. It is not the best first impression to make if it looks like you don’t know how to wear clothes that fit. Make sure to try on the clothes before your court date. Sit down in them, stand in them, walk around wearing them. Do they fit you well in all positions or can they be too revealing?

 Don’t forget to also plan what footwear and accessories you want to wear. Avoid flip flops or tennis shoes. If possible, do not wear any open-toe shoes. Skip wearing tons of jewelry or large accessories that may draw too much attention. It is also smart to test out any shoes or accessories for noise. You don’t want to be the person in the courtroom with squeaky shoes or a bag that makes a loud noise every time you open it.

What to Wear to Court

When in doubt, always dress as conservatively as possible for a court appearance. In law school, future lawyers and judges are told to dress in suits for court appearances. If you have a nice suit, this is the time to wear it. If you do not have a suit and do not want to buy one, there are other options.

Dress as if you were going to a job interview. For example, women should try to wear pants or an appropriate skirt with a conservative top with sleeves. Do not go sleeveless. Men should wear a nice pair of pants and a button-down shirt. Wear a matching tie if you have one. A conventional sweater is appropriate for both men and women if it is winter or the courtroom is cold.  

Women do not have to wear heels, but you should wear something that would be considered business professional like flats. Men should also wear shoes that are business appropriate. Keep accessories to a minimum. Glasses are okay to wear but leave your sunglasses outside or in your bag. Make-up should look natural and toned down.  

Finally, hygiene matters. Do not come to court with wet or messy hair. Take the time to dry and appropriately style it. If you have facial piercings or visible tattoos, try your best to take them out or cover them up for your court appearance. Unnatural hair or nail colors are also not recommended. Finally, make sure that you do not smell like pot or alcohol. This is especially true if your case hinges on one of those substances.