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Although expectations have changed over the years, the legal field is still one of the more conservative professions when it comes to work attire. Unfortunately, many of the “rules" focus on gender norms and burden female attorneys. The wider range of clothing available to everyone these days muddies the waters even more, such as jumpsuits, athleisure, and leggings. Some brands have even perfected comfortable exercise fabrics cut into dress pants or suits.
When dressing for court appearances, the most important rules are those from the judges themselves. Since there are no set guidelines, a judge has the leeway to decide what they deem appropriate in their courtroom. But, there are a few tried and true ways to achieve a professional look. For example, wearing a jacket to court is usually a safe bet - whether it is part of a matching suit or not.
Below are a few other tips on navigating lawyerly dress codes:
There are no official rules on the colors you can and cannot wear in court, but the professional standard skews toward neutrals like black, navy, grey, and brown. As a rule, you want the court to listen to your argument, not look at your clothes.
Generally, tattoos are covered when possible. Firms with a business formal dress code already expect jackets or long sleeves, so for many folks, this will be easy to do. For court appearances, it's probably better to be safe than sorry and cover your artwork. However, some attorneys have made their tattoos a part of their professional identity.
The same guidelines may apply for visible body piercings – check with your firm or court's policies and decide for yourself if your piercings will interfere with how you present your work in court.
Leggings can still cause controversy in everyday life; so, it's no surprise we're generally told not to wear them in court. When worn with socially appropriate coverage (usually longer tops), leggings can usually pass as office wear. Worn as if you are heading for a workout, on the other hand, is probably not a good idea.
Wearing denim to court is generally frowned upon, but depending on your day-to-day work, you might be able to wear jeans to the office. This is a good time to look to colleagues.
Large law firms often have their own dress code, while small firms often skew more casual. So, the best place to start is by looking around at the people working near you. And when in doubt, lean toward more professional rather than more casual as a rule of thumb. In the end, what's important is wearing what makes you comfortable and able to best serve your clients. Use your best judgment, and save fashion risks for the weekend.
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