Dress to Impress – The Do’s and Don’ts of Court Attire

Image by Brian Patterson of Barnes & Roberts

A question we frequently hear in the law office is: “What should I wear to court? Do I need a suit?” If you own a suit, wear it! However, if you don’t own a suit and you have a court date approaching, here is a quick “How To” on court attire.

If you don’t own a suit:

  • Men should wear dress pants or khakis with a leather belt; a collared, button-down shirt (tucked in); a tie (preferably); and dress shoes.
  • Women should wear a dress, skirt, or dress pants; a blouse or dress shirt; and dress shoes (preferably flats or a low heel).

You should always dress professionally and conservatively when attending a court hearing. Here are a few rules that you should stick to when choosing your attire:

1. BE MODEST

For the women: This means you shouldn’t wear anything too tight, too short or too revealing. You want to be sure that your clothing does not reveal your shoulders, bare back, midriff, or cleavage. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though your conservative grandmother is watching. If she would not approve of your outfit, you should not be wearing it to court.

For the men: As for the women, make sure your clothing fits properly. Do not wear clothes that are too baggy or too tight. Be sure that your pants are around your hips and if your pants have loopholes, wear a leather belt. Do not wear earrings.

As a general rule, you should never wear jeans, flashy jewelry, or clothing with holes in it. Do not wear sandals, open-toed shoes, or sneakers. You should also remove all facial piercings. If you have tattoos, try to wear clothing that covers them.

2. DRESS NEAT

For the women: Avoid “messy” hairstyles. Try to style your hair so that it is out of your face. This could include a neatly brushed ponytail, bun, or using a clip to keep the hair out of your face.

For the men: Wear a collared, button-down shirt. Be sure to tuck your shirt in, even if it is a shirt that is designed not to be tucked. Be sure that facial hair is neatly trimmed or cleanly shaven.

As a general rule, you want your clothes to look neat and clean. Avoid wrinkles in your clothing to the extent reasonably possible. Do not wear pajamas or dirty clothes.

3. THINK CLASSY, NOT FLASHY

You don’t want to overdress in the courtroom. Although some believe the courtroom is the place to stand out and dress up to get that “win,” it is quite the opposite. Dressing up in bold, bright, or designer clothing to “impress” your judge will not guarantee you a win. In fact, some judges may find this to be disrespectful and offensive.

You want to wear neutral or “calm” colors. It is best to stick to black, dark grey, white, or navy blue clothing. Avoid bright colors and bold patterns.

Women should wear minimal makeup – less is more. Be sure that your nails are neatly trimmed and any polish is conservative, avoid flashy colors. Acrylics are fine, too, just be sure that their length is not distracting. Avoid jewelry that makes noise when you move such as bracelets that jangle together.


Your conduct in the courtroom is just as important as your dress. Here are a few simple rules on courtroom conduct:

  1. Do not use electronics.
  2. Be sure that any electronics that could ring, beep, vibrate, or otherwise make noise are turned off.
  3. Use your manners and be polite. Words like “please” and “thank you” go a long way.
  4. Do not use slang or curse words.
  5. Only speak to your attorney or someone who addresses you directly.
  6. Be respectful of the judge and their courtroom.
  7. When speaking to the judge be sure to address him or her as “Your Honor,” do not use “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
  8. Always stand when you are addressing the judge.
  9. Do not interrupt the judge or talk while the judge is talking.
  10. Do not argue. Never argue with the judge. Likewise, do not argue with the opposing party while waiting for your case to be called.

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