I’m a prosecution witness in my ex-boss’ sex crimes case. It’s a relatively simple role, but I’m afraid of it. What should I wear to stand and testify in open court? — Kate, Los Angeles
We spend a lot of time thinking about and reacting to what litigants and trial defendants are wearing. Consider the reaction to Amber Heard’s pinstripe suit and 1930s bouffant during the Depp-Heard defamation lawsuit, and Johnny Depp’s three-piece suit and tight-fitting ponytail. Or the review given to Elizabeth Holmes, who traded black turtleneck sweaters for bland jackets and skirts during her fraud case.
But much less attention is paid to what the other actors in the series are wearing, which of course is also important – for both external and internal reasons.
Anyone who takes the stand is likely to influence the views of the judge, jury and audience, whether they accept it or not. On a subconscious level, we all make judgments about those around us based on silent clues: deciding whether it is trustworthy, credible, trustworthy, self-aggrandizing. When it comes to true credibility, this urge only exacerbates.
At the same time, standing in front of a courtroom can be a very frightening and terrifying experience. Clothes can be a source of strength and security.
Most courts have their own dress code, but they usually dictate what not to wear. For example, in the Supreme Court of Calaveras County, California, “No one shall appear in court barefoot, shirtless, wearing a tank top, shorts, sunglasses, or any dress that reflects badly in any way. court and decency.
This, of course, still leaves a number of options.
Most lawyers recommend being as impartial as possible when it comes to imagery in a courtroom; You want the focus to focus on what you say, not what you wear. (Note: This is different from being as conservative as possible.) So no bright colors, loud prints, dangling embellishments, or clothing that requires endless pulling, adjusting, or other hassle. The same approach applies to accessories, especially shoes and jewellery.
As Debra Katz, civil rights attorney and co-founder of Katz Banks Kumin puts it: “You don’t want a jury to make any assumptions about a witness based on what the witness is wearing or the stereotypes they hold. You don’t know what biases exist, so you want to avoid anything that might trigger an emotional response.”
Even the smallest detail can send a signal – for example, an American flag lapel pin or a religious symbol. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear such items, but you should consider how they can shape perceptions of who you are and frame testimonies of real events.
A friend testifying in a similar situation said she chose a car jacket over a simple sweater and skirt because it made her feel safe. This worked because the jacket was light wool, almost like a duster; It would seem a little strange to put a hedgehog inside.
Ms. Katz points out that it’s a case that most lawyers can turn to for big court moments; witnesses may have a similar outfit. Indeed, when Kate Moss, who knows a thing or two about the messaging power of clothes, testified via video in the Johnny Depp case, she did so in a black pantsuit and white polka dot blouse with little makeup. visible gem
He looked almost like a model witness.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s question about fashion, and you can send it to her at any time. email or twitter . The questions are organized and summarized.