Everyone has the freedom to choose the clothes they want for their trial. It is part of the right to a free trial.
Unfortunately, due to the stereotypes and the huge influence of people’s previous experiences and prejudices, the verdict may be influenced by these perceptions, ignoring certain evidence or relevant arguments.
Generally, the dress code for a trial is as formal and clean as possible. It is a formal event, but it is not festive. It should be impeccable, but it’s not an occasion to make fashion statements or wear distracting prints or graphics.
Clothing is an excellent opportunity for non-verbal communication because while the jury listens to arguments and testimonies from both parties, the clothes will be there and will cause an unconscious reaction in the jury. They may create a perception of who you are and how you feel. It may also be an opportunity to present yourself in a way that people may not perceive you. For example, a muscular man might want to wear light colors to be seen as approachable or at least not so “intimidating.” And a young woman who is starting her career as a lawyer may wear dark neutral colors that make her look professional and maybe even slightly older.
Clothes may not be the primary deciding factor in whether you win the case or not. However, they are an important tool that can help support your arguments and the work you do during your trial.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how clothing selection became relevant during an important trial that caused a lot of noise in the news, social media, and newspapers.
Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard
One of the trials that have received the most media attention, headlines, Tik Tok hashtags, and air time is the civil defamation trial of this couple that took place in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation after she published an article in the Washington Post where she said she was a victim of domestic violence. Heard didn’t mention Johnny’s name, but the article caused lots of noise in the media, and it cost the actor a significant loss of contracts, and projects, including the termination of his participation in the very famous Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
The trial started on April 11, 2022, and was live-streamed for several weeks. Since the whole legal process had a massive audience of people from all over the world, the body language, the words, the evidence, and of course, the clothes were deeply analyzed.
During the first days of the trial, the audience developed a huge theory that claimed that Amber Heard was replicating Johnny Depp’s clothes one day later. If Depp showed up on Monday with navy pants and a grey blazer, Heard wore the same thing the day after. The theory was supported with visual evidence that illustrated how Heard was repeating these clothing choices for several days.
When someone wears the same clothes as you, you find a sense of connection with them. A feeling that happens in the stadium where fans of the same team hug even if they don’t know each other.
It’s also what happens with uniforms; in fast-food restaurants, retail stores, and big corporations, uniforms help unite all team members at the same level. They have something in common, so it’s more likely that they will work collaboratively once they see this common factor between them.
Although this clothing theory was not confirmed or supported by any official source, it definitely makes sense that Heard would have liked to create this impression in Depp and his team. After all, Heard was accused of defamation, and through the trial process, more evidence was presented in favor of Depp’s team and arguments.
Another important aspect to consider is the natural makeup that Amber Heard used during the trial. Natural makeup helps her look younger, and it is more appropriate for a legal matter that is not festive, such as a trial.
Tied-up hairstyles tend to make people look older and very adequate in situations where you want to be seen as someone with authority. Managers, supervisors, principals, political figures, and candidates use tied-up hairstyles in these situations.
Free hairstyles make you look more approachable. They are feminine and soft. Free hairstyles can be seen in Disney princesses, singers, preschool teachers, and figures who want to be seen as approachable.
In the case of Amber Heard, she had different hairstyles during the process, with a tendency to leave some free hair next to her eyes. The softer and kinder she is perceived by the jury, the more likely she could have been perceived as a victim.
Formal attire in menswear can be very restrictive and still full of prejudices. Men with long hair are often seen as dirty or unprofessional. There are very few colors men can use for formal attire without being seen as “feminine,” “not manly,” or at the very least, that he is not serious about what he says and does.
Johnny Depp is known for his style with long hair, scarves, and hats that blends bohemian with cowboy style in a very sophisticated way.
During the trial, it was important that Depp followed an appropriate dress code without hiding his style. After all, many of his fans were supportive of him during this process, and it was important for him to be recognized during the trial regardless of the final verdict.
Johnny presented himself with a very tied-up ponytail and neutral color suits. But he let his authentic style shine with the jewelry, the glasses, and the tie and handkerchief. The colors, shapes, and combinations were aligned with his authentic style. This helped us see the same Johnny Depp in the trial we’ve seen on several red carpets and award events throughout the years. It’s about being consistent with your own style without being disrespectful to the event you are attending and the people you are meeting with.
But Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were not the only characters in this trial. Their lawyers played an essential role as they led the questionnaires and showed evidence to the jury in the best effort to support their client.
Let’s take a look at some of the clothing selections of the legal teams and what the clothes communicate about them.
Camille Vasquez - Johnny Depp’s lawyer
Camille Vasquez was part of Johnny Depp’s legal team during the trial. She stood out for her strategies to ask revelatory questions and present specific evidence to the jury. Vasquez is 37 years old. Her father is Colombian, and her mother is Cuban. She has previously represented other celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, and Leonardo Di Caprio.
In a very sexist country like the United States, where only 37.4% of lawyers are women, there are a lot of expectations and criticism toward female lawyers. Their work is often overlooked, and their words and reactions are deeply analyzed as they can be seen as “too emotional” or “too weak.” In a live-streamed civil trial, Camille Vasquez did a wonderful job challenging stereotypes about Latinas in the United States.
Vasquez presented herself with neutral colors, natural makeup, and simple jewelry that wasn’t too distracting but elevated her outfit. She got major attention in Tik Tok, where some of her most outstanding moments were mentioned and praised.
But the most Political Fashion moment for Camille Vasquez happened on the day of the final verdict. The lawyer showed up to court wearing a full white power suit, a clothing selection that she didn’t wear previously during the entire process and is quite unusual for court. White is soft, pure, and clean. It symbolizes virginity in bridal dresses, a state of mind in many meditation practices. So why would Depp’s lawyer choose white for this important day in the trial?
Even though the verdict wasn’t known until it was delivered, many guesses and significant assumptions were made previously to imagine what the jury would ultimately decide. It was, in many ways, the last opportunity to communicate with the jury anything that hasn’t been said already or that needs to be emphasized. This was Vasquez’s opportunity to show an image of innocence in front of the jury, being on the “good” side of the confrontation, and telling through the clothes to the jury who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” of this story are. It was a risky choice, but the end result was ultimately on Depp’s side, who celebrated the victory with his legal team.
Elaine Charlson Bredehoft - Amber Heard’s lawyer.
Amber Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, has over 30 years of experience focusing on employment law, including race and sex-based discrimination cases. She played an essential role in the trial and conducted several moments that were commented on in the news and social media.
Elaine Charlson’s Political Fashion
Bredehoft decided to wear a soft color for the day of the verdict as well. She wore a lavender blazer, but instead of embracing the softness of the lavender tone with a light tone like beige or white, she styled it with a black top. This creates a very heavy contrast that ends up being a confusing midpoint between soft and harsh.
Clothes will be present regardless of location, date, and the situation that leads to a civil trial. They are an excellent tool for non-verbal communication, and we can leverage their potential to align them with the message we want to communicate to the people seeing you.