Recently, some readers had a discussion about judicial robes — and I realized, we haven’t had a discussion on judicial attire! We’ve been rounding up courtroom attire for women lawyers since 2008, but we’ve never opined on what to wear as a judge. So let’s round up some resources for stylish judges wondering what to wear — and where to get it.
Where to Get Judicial Robes
Most readers have noted that their judicial robes are ordered by the court, so they don’t get to choose.
(If you do have the option of ordering your own robe, you may want to check out some of the stores that specialize in “high quality” ones, including Judicial Attire, Judge Robes, and Judicial Shop.)
For judges who DO have some choices to make about their judicial robes, the readers had some advice. One reader opined:
My advice…. Definitely go with snaps, not zippers and I highly recommend getting pockets. There are also different weights. Go for the lightweight version. The fabrics are gross polyester and you just learn to live with it.
If you’re wondering what kind of cuffs to choose for your robe, the readers also had advice there.
One reader said to “[a]void sleeves that are full at the wrist opening. They get caught on railings and everything else.” Another reader advised to go for tapered, not cuffed — “the cuffs never fit comfortably over long sleeve clothing.”
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What Else to Wear With Your Judicial Robe or Gown
There are a lot of different words for the collars that women sometimes wear with their judicial robes. Some might call them jabots, tabs, flaps, “court bibs,” collarettes, and “neck doilies.”
(What, you weren’t researching those terms in the attempt to find something stylish to wear with your gown?)
There are also a ton of homemade and vintage ones on Etsy that honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by using terms like “dissent collar.” And, in fact, her Wikipedia page is full of great photos featuring several of her collars and jabots; TIME magazine also did a roundup.
One of her more famous collars was a necklace from Banana Republic — it’s still available for sale as of 2023. For some reason none of my links are working — if you search the Banana Republic site for “notorious,” the necklace comes up.
(According to The New York Times, the original has been donated to the Smithsonian.)
Where to Get Other Judicial Attire Like Jabots, Tabs, Flaps, or Dissent Collars for Judicial Robes
There are actually a TON of international companies that specialize in these kinds of collars — after all, many lawyer graduation ceremonies require this kind of look. Because Americans can wear whatever they want to law school graduation (and lawyers don’t wear gowns when they appear in court), these collars are more appropriate for U.S. judges who want a more stylized look.
In our recent post on where to find fake collars for work outfits, a reader chimed in to sing the praises of Les Rabats Joies (pictured above!). Here’s what the reader said:
An absolute MUST for “dickies” is rabatjoies and their sister company lesapparats, a small Canadian company that has just started up in the last couple of years. They also do robes and court attire for lawyers. They have a huge gorgeous offering of custom collars in every variety imaginable.
They make gorgeous-looking flaps and tabs!
According to the website, Les Rabats Joies started when the founder “Loriane, who was studying at the Bar School, asked her grandmother Nicole to make her a nice Tab for her swearing in. Not one to do things by halves, Nicole imagined several models, which she lovingly made for her granddaughter. One thing led to another and Loriane’s colleagues became interested in the products.”
The company has expanded and has now been delivering court clothes for Canadian lawyers for 5+ years. They note that they can do almost anything:
Whether it’s for a custom made gown with the most beautiful accents and pure silk lining, a magistrate’s gown according to your instance, a jacket with or without sleeves, with open or closed back, gown shirts, unique flaps for her & him, in short! We are your new reference for high end court clothing. Distance doesn’t matter to us. Our creations have been traveling for a long time throughout Canada, France and even Australia.
(Their sister company, Les Apparats, focuses more on fake collars or dickies to enhance regular work outfits like sweaters.)
Another store designed for women jurists is Ivy & Normanton, intended for barristers and judges in the UK. This collection is named after the first woman to be called to the Bar of England and Wales, and the first to practice there. They specialize in legal attire for women, particularly British barristers.
Their collections include collarettes, collars with bands, and legal wear shirts with features such as tuxedo fronts, double-cuffs, and day collars.
They also rent wigs and gowns for the call ceremony!
If you’re feeling crafty, there are actually a variety of DIY tutorials out there, like this one from What the Craft, or this one on YouTube.
As noted earlier, there are a ton of vintage and handmade options on Etsy. In particular, seller LeenGreenBean has a number of handmade options, such as the crocheted dissent collar pictured below.
It’s Ok to Just Wear a Judicial Robe!
It’s also worth noting that while some women judges choose to wear jabots or collars, many do not. In the 2022 official picture of the Supreme Court of the United States, none of the women are wearing any additional collars or jabots — just necklaces.
Further Reading about Judicial Attire
- Fashion Brought to Justice: A Guide to Accessorizing Your Robe [The National Judicial College]
- Behind the Gavel, a Sense of Style [The New York Times]
- What Do Judges Wear Under Their Robes? [Judicial Attire]
- What Is a Jabot, and Why Do Barristers Wear Them? [Lawyers Monthly]
- Portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Favorite Collars and the Stories Behind Them [TIME]
- How to Restore Your Judicial Bib [YouTube / Shalom Emejulu]
General Resources for Women Judges (aside from Corporette, of course)
- The Jabot — an Above the Law podcast focused on the intersection of women and the law
- (no longer updated, but:) Underneath Their Robes — one of the O.G. legal blogs with “gossip about the federal judiciary,” by then-anonymous David Lat, writing as Article III Groupie
- and, just for kicks: What Judges Wear Around the World [YouTube/J.J. McCullough]
Anon for this judge
I got a very expensive custom made robe when I was first appointed (we have to supply our own robes) but the sleeves literally wore out after a few years. The backup robe I got at the church supply store is still going strong many many years later.
I have been known to wear scarves and statement necklaces over my robe (back when statement necklaces were a thing).
I was in London a few years ago and stopped by a shop where they sold robes and wigs and it was fascinating! I was quite tempted to buy one of the gorgeous silk robes but of course that’s not my culture (I’m in the U.S.) so I sadly just looked.
Anonymous for this one ;)
This is so timely for me because if everything works out as planned, I will be a judge very soon. Judges in my jurisdiction do not wear these kinds of collars usually, but can order their own robes and customize. One or two judges have them embroidered with their name but to me that looks a bit too much like a uniform with a name tag, and one male judge has his shortened and padded so he looks taller and broader. It doesn’t really work well though, he just looks like he’s wearing a short robe.
I think you can order robes just about everywhere if you really want to. Who is checking them so closely? I remember having a school uniform as a child that was a very itchy synthetic and my mom found me a natural fabric that looked very similar and had it made up to look like the same uniform dress. Where there is a will, there is a way!
Judges here also don’t always wear robes – only for jury trials or criminal or family proceedings. You wouldn’t do it if you’re dealing with just lawyers. But I do think you want to wear something underneath that is clearly visible, if you are wearing a robe, so it’s clear you have something on underneath. Pockets are a must with everything, of course. Oh and robes really lend themselves to big statement brooches – this is something I am kind of excited to pursue if everything works out.