Are you heading to court soon? Do you have to appear before a judge? Are you facing charges for a crime? You probably have a lot on your mind. But one thing you shouldn’t forget is how to dress for court. It’s a very important consideration, one too many people neglect all-too-often.

Think about it: Courtrooms are very solemn, dignified places. Inside courtrooms, laws get enforced and people’s lives can be changed forever. The law is serious; it deserves respect. That means you have to dress right.

Does that mean you have to wear a three-piece suit or a ballroom dress? No!

Courtrooms are not formal dances or funerals. You should look appropriate and respectful, not dressy or showy.

What to wear: Men in courtroom, attorney uniform What to wear: Men

Men heading to court should dress at a minimum in “business casual.” Now, this doesn’t mean you can show up in sandals and a T-shirt. “Business casual” isn’t that casual.

According to Princeton University’s career services, business casual means “dress pants, a collared shirt and a belt,” as well as “blazers, tailored sweaters and leather shoes.”

Even better, men might consider wearing a suit and tie if they have one. It’s not strictly necessary, but suits look very nice, and they show that you are taking the court very seriously.

Few things are more offensive to judges and juries than someone who disrespects the court.

What to wear: Women, lawyer uniformWhat to wear: Women

Women should aim for stylish yet modest attire: Dresses and skirts that fall below the knee, nice blouses, jackets, suits for extra formality.

Footwear should be modest, as well—no open-toed sandals. High heels are not necessary but cannot hurt.

Taking care of your clothes

Almost as important as what you wear is what shape your clothing is in. If you show up in an expensive suit that is nonetheless wrinkled, stained or otherwise dirty, you’re not going to look much better than if you showed up in jeans and a football jersey.

A week before your court appearance, pick out the outfit you’re going to wear. If there are any stains or blotches on any of the clothes, you’ll have time to get them dry-cleaned before your court date arrives.

Iron your clothes well. For a quick tutorial in how to iron well, see this article at lifehacker.com. Iron your clothes the night before so that you’re not scrambling for time in the morning. Once you’ve ironed them, hang them up in a place where they won’t get ruffled or wrinkled again.

Make sure there are no rips, tears, missing buttons, loose threads or discoloration on any items of clothing.

rules for Courtroom AttireGeneral rules for Courtroom Attire

Some additional rules to follow:

Don’t wear baseball caps, bandannas, outrageous jewelry, sunglasses, gloves (for men), or any other unnecessary and distracting accessories.

Make sure your clothes fit. Baggy, hanging clothing is no good; neither is too-tight clothing. Many dry cleaning businesses will alter your clothing for an affordable price.

Again, pick out your outfit well ahead of time so you can have these changes made—don’t wait until the night before.

Dress neutral. Don’t wear loud, bright colors—orange jackets, rainbow skirts, or anything similar. Neutral, basic colors are what’s necessary. Suits should be brown, grey or black.

Do I have to spend a lot of money?

Not at all! In fact, as mentioned above, you want to avoid looking too dressy—the courtroom isn’t a ballroom. You want to appear clean, well-dressed and respectful.

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a new shirt or pants at the moment, you can still dress well—thrift stores and secondhand shops offer plenty of excellent clothing at affordable prices. Suits, shirts, pants, ties, dresses, skirts and other items of dress can all be found at stores like these.

courtroom, court, Maryland Why does it even matter?

It’s worth asking: Why is dressing up for the court even necessary? Well, as WikiHow explains, it’s important to portray yourself as “an upstanding, model citizen with only the best of intentions.” You want the judge and jury to see you as “someone who has steady employment and [is] a societal rule follower.”

It’s not hard to understand why. If you’re going before a judge and jury to try and convince them of your innocence, it’s going to be harder to take you seriously if you’re dressed sloppily, if your clothes are filthy, if you’re wearing a ripped T-shirt and jeans that are four sizes too large.

Anyone might look at such a style of dress and think, “Is the person who dresses like this really someone I can take seriously?” A good style of dress communicates that you yourself are a serious person worth listening to.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you need legal representation, you should call defense lawyer Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291. Randolph Rice can help you develop your defense and figure out your next moves—including what you should wear!