After spending long hours prepping a case, your courtroom wardrobe may be the last thing on your mind. That’s a mistake. Facing a judge, jury, or opposing counsel, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your outfit should be a help, not a hindrance. So what are some courtroom fashion tips for female lawyers?

Tailored to a T

If you’ve ever been gobsmacked by the outfits displayed on a television legal drama, there’s a good reason. It’s not that the actors playing lawyers were wearing designer labels or sporting four-figure ensembles. No, TV wardrobe departments often purchase clothing second-hand or at low-priced department stores. The real secret is tailoring. 

Experts cut and sew every item to fit performers perfectly. That’s why even a $20 skirt looks high end. Apply this styling secret to your courtroom wardrobe. Fit is everything. Tight outfits are constricting. If you are questioning witnesses or offering summations, you need to be able to move. Similarly, loose-fitting outfits are distracting –– you don’t want the judge and jury focusing on your apparel.

Next time you shop, budget tailoring into the purchase price. If you shop at a discounter, take the new item to a tailor. Chances are one of your firm’s senior partners can recommend one. Your dry cleaner might offer tailoring services as well. Of course, high-end boutiques and department stores usually offer this service in-house.

Be Background

Even if you love shopping and dressing up (and many of us don’t), do you really want your outfits to be the focus of courtroom conversations? Sure, some high-profile attorneys have developed a “signature” look. Yet they often win cases in spite of their appearance, not because of it. 

Your talent should do the talking. Bright colors or bold prints aren’t a great idea. Muted colors, especially shades of black, blue, or gray are ideal. Pantsuits, dresses, and jacket-skirt combos are recommended courtroom attire. Skirt length should be below the knee. Your pants should sit comfortably on your hips without falling too low if you need to bend. You wouldn’t give a summation without practice. Your courtroom clothing requires similar attention. Spend time at home moving in your planned outfit. 

Conservative is the courtroom fashion buzzword, but some areas are more accepting than others. If you are a newcomer, pay attention to the populace. A small visible tattoo is acceptable in many locales but verboten in others. Generally speaking, suburban courtrooms are more laid back than urban settings, where dark suits rule. 

Accessories

Ostentatious displays of wealth won’t win over juries. Noisy bangles won’t go over with the judge either –– the gavel should be the loudest thing in the room, not the bracelet you got on holiday. A single pair of small earrings, a ring, and a watch if you like. A small broach isn’t inappropriate.

Footwear

Perhaps the best thing you can do in a courtroom is be kind to your feet. Don’t wear a pair of new shoes during an appearance. Take time to break them in. Stick to flats or a chunky heel. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an office where you can sport trainers or sandals, recognize that most courtrooms aren’t as accepting. Above all, leave the high heels and stilettos for the weekend.

Finally, if you are appearing with a client let them know their attire is important too. Although it might feel awkward, it’s a conversation you need to have. Make sure they understand that shorts and t-shirts are out, but so are obviously pricy outfits –– especially if they are accused of a financial crime. Your clients don’t have to dress like lawyers –– a floral print or simple dress may be ideal for some. Best-dressed, celeb-heavy lists are driven by search engine optimization (SEO). Whether you’re a sole practitioner or part of a multinational firm, adept lawyer SEO can elevate your profile without flashy clothing or over-priced outfits.