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Are You Dressing for a Court Appearance? The Do’s and Don’ts of Court Room Dressing

A frequently asked important question by clients who are due to be involved in Court proceedings is; How should I dress?

Importance of Appearance in Court Proceedings

Each of us on a daily basis subconsciously judges others or feels judged. A judgment is an opinion or decision based on thoughts, feelings and evidence. These initial judgements are made within seconds in the court room by the audience (Judge, Opposing Party or Jury). The conclusion can be positive or negative.

Corporate Image Consultants understand that within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, our brain makes decisions about a person’s intelligence, socio-economic status, education, competence and trustworthiness. These snap decisions are based on initial impression of a person’s appearance and heavily influence our ongoing perception of that individual. Therefore, the initial impression you make when you first appear in court is key to ensure that others do not leap to harmful, negative or unfair judgments about you. It is imperative that your body language, voice, clothing and general appearance do not allow the audience’s subliminal mind to make unconscious adverse inferences against you or distract from the message you need your audience to hear. Just think of how many times a politician’s general appearance and demeanour has led you to form an opinion or their competence or swung your vote.

Key elements of a Court Appearance

Don’t distract your audience

• It is important that your court audience can concentrate on what you say, so limit the opportunity to distract them;
• If you have tattoos you may choose to cover them with clothing;
• If you have body piercings you may choose to remove or cover them with clothing.

Dress comfortably and conservatively

• Court hearings can span between a few minutes to a whole day so the key rule is that you must feel comfortable;
• Make sure all clothes are washed, clean and unstained;
• If you feel comfortable wearing a suit then select a conservative dark suit and white shirt;
• Do not distract the audience with loud patterned shirts;
• Ties should be plain or lightly patterned. Avoid loud ties;
• Opt for a knee length, midi or maxi skirts or dresses;
• If you don’t usually wear or feel comfortable in a suit then a coordinating shirt, blazer and (trousers/ skirt/ dress) combination works well;
• Ensure all shirts are tucked in;
• Don’t wear oversized clothing;
• Wear a belt to ensure trousers stay at the waist level;
• Do not display underwear bands;
• Do not wear shorts;
• Do not wear t-shirts with logos or slogans printed on them.

Be groomed

• Brush hair;
• Ensure facial hair is groomed;
• Brush teeth;
• Trim or manicure fingernails;
• Do not opt for nail art or bright nail varnish colours, as they can be distracting;
• Do not wear too much aftershave or perfume.

Footwear

• You may be asked to give your evidence standing or alternatively you may be at court for the entire day so it is imperative that all footwear is comfortable;
• Do not wear flip flops or beach shoes;
• Do not wear sandals;
• Do opt for closed toe or court shoes;
• Do opt for Brogues;
• Avoid trainers.

Jewellery

• Do not wear excessive jewellery as it distracts your audience;
• Do not wear bling jewellery and watches;
• Do not wear expensive watches

No Hats

• Do not wear hats (save for religious headgear – which is permitted);
• If you do wear a hat you will usually be asked to remove it. The reason is that the wearing of a hat in a court room is perceived as a sign of disrespect.

Minimize pocket or handbag bulk

• It is imperative that you are comfortable at court, so do not try and jam all your worldly belongings into your pockets or handbag. They will distract and annoy you.

Mobile telephone

• Do ensure your mobile phone is switched off and is out of sight.

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