From Rebekah Vardy’s handbag to Nigella’s black coat: how celebrities nail courtroom chic

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Giant sunglasses, designer clothes and four-figure bags – I’m not referring to the outfits on the red carpet at last week’s Met Gala, but rather the fashion scene currently unfolding outside London’s High Court.

As the high-profile libel case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy unfolds, it’s not just Peter Andre’s “chipolata” that is causing a stir. Equally sensational the sartorial choices of both women. From Rooney’s £ 1,565 Mugler blazer worn with a velvet Gucci loafer (the other foot dressed in a medical boot), to Vardy’s black Prada midi and Givenchy tote, no expense was spared on Wagatha Christie’s wardrobe.

While the brands are hardly a surprise (both women have multimillion-dollar net worth), the looks themselves are a departure from their typical glamorous styles. Cocktail dresses and bouncy hairdryers have been replaced by sharp-shouldered electric jackets, elegant dresses and demure buns, all topped off with the obligatory “I’m famous, don’t look at me” dark glasses. The message is clear: these women are serious and have the shoulder pads to prove it.

Vardy and Rooney aren’t the first celebrities to employ tailoring tactics when appearing in court. Indeed, celebrity court attire has become a bona fide fashion phenomenon, garnering as much attention, if not more, than grandstand proceedings.

When German socialite and scammer Anna Delvey was tried in the New York Supreme Court in 2019, an Instagram account was created to document her outfits. With over 58,000 followers, @annadelveycourtlooks presented the designer ensembles: Michael Kors sheath dresses, Yves Saint Laurent blouses, Victoria Beckham pants.

In the same year, singer Cardi B turned her many court visits into a runway by wearing a series of dramatic dresses including a fuchsia Salvatore Ferragamo trouser suit, a toe-length mink coat and a feathered cloak.

Paris Hilton arrives at a Miami courthouse (Photo: Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald / Tribune News Service / Getty)

While the courthouse is certainly an unconventional fashion opportunity, it nonetheless is. Just ask Winona Ryder that she, after wearing a black and pink Marc Jacobs dress during the shoplifting trial in 2001, she went on to star in the designer’s spring 2003 ad campaign.

However, A-list court wear isn’t just about displaying fashion credentials; there is also the symbolism behind the style.

No stranger to clashes with the law, Paris Hilton has repeatedly swapped her image of a fluffy pink party girl for a healthier one during her court appearances. Her uniform of little black dresses, neat suits and sweet headbands is carefully constructed to portray a responsible look. The same fashion formula was used by Hilton’s friend Nicole Richie, who channeled Audrey-Hepburn’s elegance into classic gear and retro sunglasses after pleading guilty to driving under the influence in 2007.

Some clothing posts are not that underestimated. At her court hearing in 2013, Lindsay Lohan said “the butter didn’t melt” in a head-to-toe white suit by designer 3.1 Phillip Lim, with a set of white rosaries added for good measure. Angelic white was also Naomi Campbell’s color of choice when she testified at the war crimes trial of former Liberian ruler, Charles Taylor, in 2010. The supermodel sported a traditional knee-length dress, finished with a prim cardigan.

ISLEWORTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Nigella Lawson arrives to testify in the trial of her two assistants Elisabetta Grillo and Francesca Grillo at Isleworth Crown Court on December 5th 2013 in Isleworth, England.  (Photo by Danny Martindale / WireImage)
Nigella Lawson arrives to testify in 2013 (Photo: Danny Martindale / WireImage)

If white is an attempt to convey innocence, black is undoubtedly an indicator of an attitude not to mess with me. When Sienna Miller took on the tabloids at the 2011 Leveson investigation, she did so in a black dress and stunning heels. Similarly, model Linda Evangelista chose a black battle dress in the shape of a three-piece skirt for the transaction case with her son’s father, billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault.

The case with the greatest impact on blacks in the courtroom comes from Nigella Lawson. During the 2013 fraud trial against her personal assistants, the maid goddess arrived at Isleworth Crown Court to testify of her dressed in a long black military-inspired coat and black boots. Her highlight was an immaculate flash of her signature black eyeliner and a stern gaze. Celebrity court attire in its most provocative form? Absolutely.

Frankie Graddon is a freelance beauty and fashion journalist

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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