Dallas Fashion Consultant, Julie Bartlett, answers the question: “What is the appropriate apparel for attorneys in the courtroom today?”

Dallas Fashion Consultant, Julie Bartlett, answers the question: “What is the appropriate apparel for attorneys in the courtroom today?”

We expect our courtrooms to uphold the highest standard of the law, and the attorneys we hire to represent us to do the same.  Oh, wait,  maybe that’s just in the movies.  At least we can see them dressed well in pretend court.  Unfortunately, it’s not this way in too many real courtrooms, today.  Over the last several years there has been a growing trend for attorneys to enter the real courtroom wearing what can only be described, even by judges, as “inappropriate attire.” For male attorneys this includes loud, politically marked or theme based ties. Also considered inappropriate are tennis shoes, shirts with advertising, cargo pants, or anything that could have been worn at the gym.

For female attorneys, inappropriate attire includes revealing skirts, low cut blouse s or tops, spike heels, excessive jewelry, and shirts with men’s ties.

Where do these fashion complaints come from? Strangely enough they come from judges around the country. In a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette article by Daniel Malloy and Paula Reed, they wrote that judges attending a conference in Indianapolis complained that male and female attorneys are dressing too casually for the court. “The courtroom is a place of honor and great importance and should be respected” many of the judges agreed.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Ashly Jones, stated that Illinois judges interviewed about this casual dress trend by attorneys were dismayed and some were insulted. An example one judge gave was of a male attorney who liked to wear ties with Disney Characters on them. When approached by the judge he stated this was just an attempt at being playful and approachable. The judge let him know that it was also sending the signal that he believed the proceedings in the courtroom to be “Mickey Mouse,” trivializing the court. Another example was a female attorney who wore skirts so short she had difficulty sitting without revealing the facts of her case.

There is clearly a lack of professionalism and respect for the court.

Proper attire in the courtroom has been a neglected subject in law schools, and the lack of guidance offered by some law firms has helped create the issue, some judges believe. Style and choice of dress in the courtroom should show that an attorney has respect for themselves and commands the respect of others. Clothing should not detract from nor confuse the points an attorney is stressing to put before the judge and jury.

Here are some courtroom clothing Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Don’ts for Men:  No loud colored ties or ties with political or cartoon characters and no subliminal messages (Smiley faces, etc.). No brightly colored or loud shirts. No sandals. No excessive or expensive jewelry. Do not wear ill-fitting suits, slacks or shirts and do not leave your jacket unbuttoned. Do not wear heavy cologne (this is easy to do) and do not wear shoes that are worn on top or bottom.
  • Do’s for Men: Keep suits dark (two or three piece are both fine) with white or soft colored shirts. Everything should be tailored to fit correctly. Ties should be conservative and the color should correctly match suit and shirt. Slacks with matching jacket and shirt are also appropriate. Shirts should be starched, pressed and remain tucked in.  Make sure that shoes are dark, clean, polished, and without holes or cracking. Keep a clean, pressed suit at your office in case there is an unexpected call to the courtroom.
  • Don’ts for Women: Again, as with the men, no loud or bright colors.  Do not wear brightly colored or open toes shoes or spike heels. Do not wear men’s business suits with men’s ties. Powerful yet feminine is the way to go. Do not wear strong perfume or conspicuous hairstyles.
  • Do’s for Women: Keep the suits dark and the blouses light.  Skirts should be of modest length, just below the knee or no more than two inches above the knee. Blouses should not fall below the top of the cleavage. Make sure everything is tailored to fit properly. Keep jewelry simple. Shoes should be closed-toe and not a distraction from the business of the court.

Proper, clean and respectful attire in the courtroom says much about an attorney’s attitude about his or her job and acceptance of the tremendous responsibility that job entails. Have you witnessed any out of order attorney apparel lately?  Share your story with us.

As your Dallas Fashion Consultant and Personal Shopper, it is my mission to help my clients always look fabulous, without being a slave to the whimsical ways of fashion trends.  I am passionately committed to making sure my clients always look their very best in order to help them achieve their personal and business goals.  If you have any questions or are interested in a personal consultation, please give me a call at 214-223-2200.