I am often appalled by the outfits I see women wearing to various courthouses in Southern California. Not just to pay a bill at the traffic window, but to actually attend mediation or to appear in front of a judge.
Don’t “Come As You Are.”
Whatever you were wearing when you got out of bed that morning, is not what you should wear to the courthouse. You have one chance to make a first impression, and that impression should not be of you wearing a camisole top, pajama bottoms and Ugg boots. Nor should you be wearing wrinkled clothing, sportswear, or too-short or too-tight clothing. It shows a marked lack of respect for the people who are going to pass judgment either for or against you. A little preparation the night before can go a long way. Always come to court in clothing that has, at a minimum, been ironed first.
Sex Appeal Has No Appeal.
Why, oh why, do so many women dress for court as though they are planning to go to a bar or a brothel immediately afterward? All dressing sexily at court does for a woman is to convey a sense that she’s desperately seeking the attention of any attractive male… Your priorities at court should be focussed on your case – not on a potential mate – and your dress should reflect that.
Mind Your Footwear.
In keeping with the two extremes above: wear footwear that’s neither too casual, nor too provocative. No flip flops or tennis shoes, and I would suggest avoiding sandals of any kind. A nice, low- or mid-heeled pump is appropriate at all times; you can never go wrong with that option. A peep-toe with a closed heel is also attractive, but just about as relaxed as your footwear should get.
Mind Your Audience.
You aren’t dressing to impress a man, or a woman, in a sexual sense. You aren’t dressing to impress your ex, or your attorney, or even your ex’s attorney. Your audience is the mediator handling your case, or the judge ruling for or against you. Dress to make a good impression on your audience, not your advocate or your opposition.
Mind Your Message.
The message you want to send with your clothing can be that you are a business professional, respected in the community… if in fact that is what you are. Often suits are a bad idea for someone to wear to mediation, as the mediator is the person in the position of power; a suit can send the message that you are trying to be the authority in the room, particularly if you are wearing power colors. You cannot go wrong, however, with a demure presentation. You want the mediator, or the judge, to look at you and think, “Sensible. Dignified. Respectful.”
Mind Your Lawyer.
Some attorneys are a bit timid when it comes to addressing their clients’ wardrobe choices. I have advice I will specifically give a client, if I think he or she needs that advice. If you are going to court, by all means, ask your attorney what you should wear. You’ll find your attorney has plenty to say, even if he or she wasn’t willing to volunteer the information before you asked.