By Patrice Truman, Esq.
Did you hear? Orange is the New Black received the most Emmy nominations of the year for a television comedy series. In the courtroom, change that title to Wear Anything But Predominately Black.
Counsel, lose the black suit or dress at trial! This recommendation is primarily addressed to female counsel in the courtroom. [But note to male counsel: A black suit has an undertaker feel to it, just as the wide pin stripe suit negatively connotes a slick, untrustworthy person derived from the gangster movies.]
In post trial interviews, jurors have stated that the black suit or black dress, worn day after day by female lawyers becomes drab and depressing to look at because it casts a dark pall over trial. (And silhouette face lines?) There is no reason for female counsel to imitate the black colored garb worn by the judge to signify authority.
Believe in, celebrate, and wear color! A female trial lawyer can be perceived as serious, intelligent, and a worthy presence in the courtroom with a wardrobe of color. Jurors notice wardrobe style because it provides a distraction from the side bars and certain other monotony that accompanies each trial day.
So what colors are appropriate in the courtroom for the suit or tailored dress with accompanying jacket? Beige (elegant), deep hues of purple (regal), midnight blue (power), and navy blue (reliability), cantaloupe (freshness), and others such as camel, lavenders moving into the grays or teal toward subdued green. In the end, think of the color wheel that flatters but avoid bright red. Bright fire engine red still connotes hot and smoldering, attention grabbing sexual innuendo.
How about a pinstripe suit? No, avoid imitating opposing male counsel’s dress. Femininity has power, so celebrate it, especially when the holder of it demonstrates confidence, organization, and civility in the courtroom. Perhaps that’s why some jurors have referred to female counsel wearing black as “black widow”, Morticia (of Addams Family fame), or Cruella Deville. Indeed, wearing black does not promote counsel’s credibility especially when the demeanor attributes have gone missing.
The exclusion of predominate black should not be replaced with bold prints. Prints and patterns are okay, but they need to be subdued and classic. A suit with a patterned tweed or subdued pale plaid may work to convey professionalism, but a flower print on a longer length dress will not convey a courtroom style. As for hem length, remember your theme of professional elegance, in accordance with your body type. If in doubt, seek out an opinion from another professional woman on how you are perceived in a certain outfit.
Pant suits, okay? Yes! See discussion above. Black skirt with contrasting colored blouse and jacket, okay? Yes! See above.
Here are a few more suggestions to consider: Avoid showing cleavage because the female lawyer needs to be mindful of showing respect for the court; no open toed shoes or strappy shoes because feet can be elegant and stylish without trying to appear sexy; unless one has great legs both in shape, weight, and free of spider veins, it is best to invest in some expensive panty hose. Not wearing nylons is just a current fad, keyword here being fad. Jewelry can be subdued or more pronounced depending on personal preference, but just shy away from the sparkling diamonds and any gaudy, overbearing jewelry.
Just remember that confidence is power and power includes femininity. So, use color to work for you in the courtroom, and save the black wardrobe for the evening, After 5.
Article written by: Patrice Truman Jury & Trial Consulting for Truman & Associates