Tomorrow could be the end of a pursuit of child support that has lasted more than a year. There have been six court appearances, attended mostly by my attorney, and now comes the trial. These legal rituals are not new to me. I’ve been in a revolving door to courtrooms, law office conference rooms and mediation most of the five years since I ended my marriage.
The ideal is to stay as far away from the judge’s bench and attorney’s fees as possible. I would love that — I relished the eight-month stretch when I did not have any contact with my lawyer. But since this is the situation, I’ve gotten good at court prep.
That involves spreadsheets, phone calls and emails, calendars, prayers for resolution, exercise, meditation and even more spreadsheets. But it also involves clothes.
What you wear to court is critical, not just in how you present yourself before the judge, attorneys and the opposing party, but also in how you feel going through the hip-high swinging doors into it all. My pre-court ritual includes planning an outfit that will help me slip into a confident, calm, savvy, neutralized me.
I’ve narrowed it down to two outfits tomorrow. One is a black dolman-sleeve dress, black patent belt, charcoal pearl tiered necklace and red patent heels with tie at the toe. Another is a bright Pan Am blue shift dress with, blue pearl-ish necklace and ring with nude pumps. What’s the formula for this — and every — outfit I wear to court?
Here is what guides me as I pull from my closet.
1. Choose one power piece. If a pair of lipstick-red pumps help you walk taller, start with those. Just choose an all-black or neutral palette for the rest of your outfit. If you command a room while wearing a vibrant jade dress, choose neutral shoes and tote. Same goes with a scarf or bag or blouse with a pop of color. Most importantly, keep it to one power piece. That’s all you need.
2. Choose tone-on-tone jewelry. You will look pulled together and still pull off a classic, beautiful look by pairing your dress (or blouse or sweater) with simple jewelry that blends in tone. Save your garish, blingy and statement pieces for a celebration dinner after court. Instead, pull out your black jewelry for a black dress, royal blue for royal blue, cream for cream.
3. Pick pearls. An attorney friend told me in the early days of my divorce that she’d observed during her frequent trial dates that judges responded more kindly to women in pearls. She always wore pearls, and advised clients of the same. It’s clearly not scientific, but I took the anecdotal advice to heart and pull out my pearls (or beaded necklaces that are pearl-like) whenever I’ll be in the courtroom.
4. Wear one little thing that settles your racing heart. I like to put on a tiny heart ring my son gave me so I can glance down and remember that it is all about making the best life and homes for him possible. My friends have sent me tiny pendants I’ve tucked into my purse or slid on to a bracelet for the reminder that I’m loved and supported from afar.
5. Make sure it all fits fabulously. You will feel better about yourself if your clothes fit properly. Ignore the size on the tag and make sure there are no gaps at the bust, no pulling at the hips, no fallen hems, rips or snags. Heels should not be sky-high and you should feel sure on your feet as you walk in them. Add any moleskin, cushion inserts or heel pads you need to make standing as comfortable as possible.
6. Top it with a trench coat and classic tote. Wrap up the sophisticated package that is you in a tidy, tailored topcoat. Don’t be afraid of a little color that you carry over to a bag that’s the right size for carrying files, a notebook, and a pair of fold-up flats if you are commuting by public transportation or walking from the car garage — somewhere between clutch and carry-on bag.
7. Take a step back and look at yourself: Do you look professional? Do you feel comfortable? Is your look pulled together enough to prompt you to feel the same way inside? Good. Perfect. You’re gorgeous, you’ve got this, you’re ready to go.
Which outfit gets your vote?