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If you have a court appearance coming up, you might be understandably worried about what you should (and shouldn’t) wear. You want the judge to get a positive first impression. You also want to respect the decorum of the courtroom. At the same time, you might not be able to afford a whole new outfit or you might have parts of your appearance, such as an unnatural hair color or a lot of tattoos, that you are afraid might negatively impact your case. Read on for tips on how to dress for court appearances and present yourself in court.


Neat and Tidy Dress for Court Appearances 

The most important consideration is that you appear in neat and tidy dress for court appearances. Wear clothes that fit well. A top that is too small or pants that are too large are distracting and look messy and unkempt.

For men, a long-sleeved button-down shirt tucked into well-fitting pants is a good choice. Wear a tie, too. If weather permits, you could wear a suit jacket. Make sure your sleeves are buttoned and that you wear a belt if your pants have belt loops. Avoid wearing jeans. Especially avoid wearing torn, dirty, or stained jeans. If you must wear jeans, choose dark blue or black and make sure they fit you well and are in excellent shape when considering your dress for court appearances.

Women have a bit more variety to choose from. Long pants and skirts are both acceptable. If you’re wearing a blouse, tuck it in. A sweater is also a good option. Jeans, t-shirts, and yoga pants or leggings are all inappropriate for court. Do not wear anything sleeveless as it is generally not an accepted form of dress for court appearances


Dress Conservatively

Wearing the proper clothing means dressing conservatively. Take a look at yourself in the mirror and be sure that you’re not showing too much skin. Men should fully button their shirts and wear an undershirt. Women should check to be sure that their neckline is modest. If you are a woman and you wear a skirt, check to be sure that it’s not shorter than about two inches above your knees. Raise your hands up and bend over to be sure that your clothing remains in place.

Keep in mind that no judge will fault you for looking too conservative, but you might be giving off the wrong impression if you dress for court appearances in something that the judge considers not conservative enough. Err on the side of caution and wear something you would not be embarrassed to wear to dinner with your conservative grandmother.


Wear Appropriate Shoes

You should wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in and that do not cause undue attention. Dress shoes are best. Men should wear them with socks. Women can wear pumps or flats. Sandals, flip-flops, and very high heels are not appropriate dress for court appearances. Choose shoes in neutral colors (brown, black, navy, nude). Avoid wearing sneakers. No matter what type of shoes you wear, make sure they’re clean and polished.


Keep Your Hair and Beard Neat

Your hair should not be a distraction. If it’s dyed a bright, unnatural color, consider dyeing it back to a natural hair color or wearing a natural-looking wig. Remember that it’s important to make a great first impression, and whether or not you agree with it, people are often judged by the way they keep their hair as well as their dress for court appearances .

Both short and long hair should be styled neatly and out of the face. Those with long hair can pull it back or wear it loose, but if it tends to get frizzy or to get in your face, pulling it back neatly is better. Men should keep their beards shaved or trimmed. If you have a religious reason why you cannot trim your beard, just try to keep it as neat as possible.


Go Easy on Makeup

If you wear makeup, keep it toned down for court. Use natural colors and skip the heavy black eyeliner or bright fuchsia lipstick. Check your teeth to make sure you didn’t get lipliner or lipstick on them. Also, keep in mind that if it’s likely you will become emotional, it’s best to use waterproof eye makeup and mascara (or skip it altogether). When considering dress for court appearances, it’s important not to forget smudged makeup can create a messy and unkempt appearance.


Keep Accessories Modest

Neither hats nor sunglasses are generally permitted in the courtroom. If you have a medical reason why you need to wear sunglasses indoors, share this information with the court staff as you enter. If you have a religious reason to wear something on your head, that’s generally fine unless it covers your face. If that’s the case, talk to your legal resource group and also a member of your clergy to find out what you should do.

If you have tattoos, it’s best to cover them. This is particularly true if they’re on your face or hands. Clothing will cover most tattoos and you can use makeup to cover the rest so plan out your dress for court appearances carefully. Remove facial piercings, too. A small pair of earrings is fine. A single bracelet and a tasteful necklace are also acceptable but don’t pile on the jewelry.


Don’t Be a Walking Advertisement

You might have strong political or social opinions, but the courtroom is not the place for them. Do not wear anything that might express your political opinion or even which types of social groups you are a part of. If the judge is of the opposite persuasion, you could be giving off a bad impression without even knowing it.

Know the gang colors and name brands in your area and avoid them. It’s very easy to unknowingly wear a brand that is associated with gangs, so look into this before you go to court. Since you should be wearing mostly neutral colors, gang colors should not be a problem, but it’s still good to know ahead of time what to avoid wearing.

Choosing your dress for court appearances can be stressful but by following the advice to dress conservatively and to make sure your clothes are understated and fit well, you’ll be likely to make good choices. Your legal resource group can help you by giving you suggestions, too. If you don’t have the funds for a new outfit, check out consignment shops or thrift stores. Borrowing an outfit from a friend is also a good option. Talk to your family law help group about it if you’re still having difficulty; they might have ideas that can help.


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