Giant sunglasses, designer dresses, and four-way handbags—I’m not referring to the outfits on the Met Gala red carpet last week, but I’m referring to the fashion scene currently outside of London’s High Court.
As the high-profile defamation case between Colin Rooney and Rebecca Vardy unfolds, it’s not only Peter Andre’s “Chibulata” that is causing the uproar. The wear choices for both women proved to be amazing. From Rooney’s £1,565 Mugler jacket worn by a Gucci Loafer (the other foot is in orthopedic shoes), to the black Vardy Prada midi bag and Givenchy bag, no expense has been spared on Wagatha Christie’s wardrobe.
While the designer labels are no surprise (both women have net worths in the millions), the looks themselves are a departure from their typical glamorous styles. Cocktail dresses and blow-dryers were replaced by strong, sharp-shouldered jackets, elegant dresses and demure knots, all covered in the obligatory dark glasses of “I’m famous, don’t look at me”. And the message is clear: These women are capable of action and have the shoulder pads to prove it.
Vardy and Ronnie aren’t the first to use dressing tactics when appearing in the courtroom. In fact, celebrity dress-up has become a well-intentioned fashion phenomenon, and gets as much, if not more, attention than the catwalk actions.
When German social activist Anna Delphi went on trial in the New York Supreme Court in 2019, an Instagram account was created to document her outfits. With more than 58 thousand followers, annadelveycourtlooks showcased designer collections: Michael Kors dresses, Yves Saint Laurent blouses, and Victoria Beckham pants.
That same year, singer Cardi B turned her multiple court visits into a catwalk by donning a series of dramatic outfits including a pink Salvatore Ferragamo jumpsuit, a floor-length mink coat and a feathered cape.
Although the courtroom is definitely a funky fashion opportunity, it is a fashion opportunity nonetheless. Just ask Winona Ryder who, after donning a black and pink Marc Jacobs dress while trying out the heist in 2001, participated in the designer’s spring 2003 ad campaign.
However, dressing the first-list court isn’t just about showing off your fashion credentials; There is a symbolism behind the style, too.
No stranger to disagreements with the law, Paris Hilton has repeatedly swapped out her blush and pink party girl image for a healthier one during her court appearances. Her outfit, consisting of little black dresses, elegant skirt suits, and sweet headbands, is carefully designed to show off a responsible look. The same fashion formula was used by Hilton’s girlfriend Nicole Richie, who channeled chic Audrey Hepburn in a classic makeover and vintage sunglasses after pleading guilty to drunk driving in 2007.
Some of the outfit’s messages are not underestimated. At a court hearing in 2013, Lindsay Lohan went all-out “You Won’t Melt Butter” in a head-to-toe white outfit by 3.1 designer Phillip Lim, with a string of white rosary beads added for good measure. Angel white was also Naomi Campbell’s favorite color when testifying at the war crimes trial of former Liberian Governor Charles Taylor, in 2010. The model wore a conservative knee-length dress, finished with a cardigan.
If white is an attempt to express innocence, then black is undoubtedly a sign of the “don’t mess with me” attitude. When Sienna Miller took over the tabloids for the 2011 Leveson investigation, she did so in a black dress and killer heels. Likewise, model Linda Evangelista chose a black battle dress as a three-piece skirt suit for her settlement case with the billionaire father of her child, François-Henri Pinault.
The most influential case in the black court comes from Nigella Lawson. During the 2013 fraud trial against her personal aides, a local goddess arrived at Isleworth Crown Court to testify wearing an army-inspired long black coat and black boots. This piece was a pure flick of her signature black eyeliner and an intense look. Celebrities dressed in the most challenging court? definitely.
Frankie Gradon is a freelance beauty and fashion journalist