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My clients never ask me what they should wear to court. Perhaps it’s self-evident to many clients, perhaps there is too much to worry about besides clothing and it’s not on their radar. But I usually offer some guidelines, especially if certain judges are on the bench for that client’s day in court.
Why does it matter?
Some of our judges will send parties out of the courtroom if they feel a person’s clothing is not appropriate or is offensive. Being told to go outside and change when your case is called can be stressful and embarrassing, especially when it happens in front of your abuser.
I offer the following information based on years of experience in the Durham County Courthouse. Please note that I am not recommending that anyone go out and buy new clothes for court; rather, that you simply select your clothing with the following notes in mind.
- Nothing offensive, profane or vulgar. It’s probably best to avoid clothing with words or graphic designs altogether.
- No hats unless you need a head covering for religious or medical reasons.
- Avoid revealing clothing and clothing that is tight or sexual in nature.
- Try to avoid sleeveless or spaghetti straps. If it is hot and you want to wear items that are sleeveless, please bring a sweater or other removable cover to wear in the courtroom.
- No baggy pants, no undergarments showing. You will be told to exit the courtroom and pull up your pants if you wear them this way.
- Shirt tails tucked. You will be told to exit the courtroom and tuck in your shirt if you have a long shirt tail that is untucked.
- No slippers or loungewear/pajamas
While I certainly believe that you should be comfortably and dress in a way that allows for self-expression, court is a formal place, and dressing with care shows respect for the judge and the process.