Can you wear “interesting” suits to court — colorful, patterned, fanciful, haute? (You know, kind of like in our weekly Suit of the Week feature?) Reader E asks — specifically wondering about this teal LK Bennett suit that Kate Middleton is wearing here and here — and I think it’s a great question for all the women lawyers:
This is a lawyer-specific question – can you wear interesting suits to court if it’s still a suit? I agree with previous suggestions here that a dress/blazer combo, unless its meant to be a suit, is not formal enough for court. But, my question is, what about things that are true suit sets but are more interesting – like an AT tweed suit, or the LK Bennett dark teal dress and jacket suit set that Kate Mid. has? Or do you think court suits have to be black/grey/navy and totally plain? Thx!
I can’t wait to hear what the readers say here. (Psst: We’ve shared tips for expanding your suiting collection in the past if you’re actively looking for suits like this!) For my $.02, I always think of my reaction to an article years ago about a young public defender who wore Balmain (at the time, their blazers had super pointy shoulders) and other couture suits to court. The impression it left on me was a bad one — it seemed like she was not showing any respect for her clients or the fact that she was there to represent THEM, in life-altering matters, before stodgy judges and juries who may or may not have approved of her fashion choices (or her designer budget). Plus, as readers have pointed out in the past, wearing ostensibly designer, moneyed things in front of juries can be a bad move, particularly if you’re a public defender.
NOW: A crazy/trendy Balmain suit is one thing — a dark teal LK Bennett dress and jacket is another. But where is the line? And are there different rules for “first appearance before the court” and “day 30 of a 6-month trial”? For my $.02:
- Remember, if you’re appearing in court, you’re representing someone else. Honor that relationship by keeping the focus on your arguments and their situation, not on your personality or your clothes.
- Treat early appearances like an interview. If it’s early on in anyone’s relationship (yours to the client, the client’s relationship to the judge or jury, YOURS to the judge/jury) then treat it like an interview and go with the “hit ’em with my smarts” approach to interview attire: classic, tasteful, inoffensive — so your brain can shine, and the focus can be on the arguments you’re making on behalf of your client.
- If it looks like you’re in costume, don’t wear it. Period. This may apply to vintage couture, overly girly suits, or more.
- Stick with standard rules for trends at conservative offices: if you wouldn’t have worn the shape five years ago, reconsider it. If it’s body baring, don’t wear it. (I’d include a skirt suit with a miniskirt, or a shorts suit, unless you are a lawyer in Bermuda.) If it’s illogical, don’t wear it. (I’d call exposed toes in winter illogical, and possibly a cape blazer as well.)
With regard to the teal LK Bennett suit (still available! jacket dress) — it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous suit, and I think the color is muted enough that you can get away with it. Readers, what would you say — can you wear interesting suits to court? Would you wear them; where are your lines for when a suit is TOO interesting to wear to court?