What to Wear to Traffic Court

Deciding on the right attire for a traffic court appearance can be more influential than you might think. In this guide, we’ll explore what to wear to traffic court, offering advice tailored specifically for court proceedings in California. Your choice of outfit not only reflects your respect for the court but can also subtly influence the perception of judges and others in the courtroom.

Whether you’re facing a minor infraction or a more significant charge, dressing appropriately is crucial to your court preparation. Read on to understand the nuances of courtroom attire and how to make a positive impact with your appearance.

The Significance of Your Attire in Traffic Court

While it’s true that judges aim to be impartial, the reality is that appearances do have an impact. How you dress for your traffic court appearance can subtly influence perceptions and outcomes. Here’s why paying attention to your attire is crucial:

First Impressions Matter

  • Creating a Respectful Impression: Your attire is often the first thing noticed by the judge and court personnel. Dressing appropriately shows respect for the court and its procedures.
  • Establishing Credibility: Well-chosen attire can lend an air of credibility and seriousness to your case. It communicates that you take the charges and the court process seriously.

Psychological Impact

  • Influencing Perceptions: Judges are human and, like all of us, can be unconsciously influenced by visual cues. Professional attire can lead to a more favorable perception, which can be particularly important if you’re speaking or presenting your case.
  • Color Psychology: Certain colors can evoke specific psychological responses. For example, blue is often associated with trustworthiness, while black can convey seriousness and professionalism.

Practical Considerations

  • Appropriateness for the Occasion: Different types of court appearances may call for slightly varied attire. For instance, what you wear to a trial might be more formal than what you’d wear to an arraignment.
  • Reflecting Your Situation: Consider the message your attire sends about your situation. For example, if you’re requesting a financial hardship waiver, overly expensive or flashy clothing might contradict your claim. If you are taking the stand to argue your case, you’ll want to look credible. If you’re asking a judge to allow you to attend traffic school — especially if your violation doesn’t make you automatically eligible — you’ll want to look studious and responsible
don't wear a lot of jewelry

Examples of What to Wear to Traffic Court

Navigating what to wear to traffic court can be simpler with a clear understanding of the dos and don’ts. Here are more specific guidelines to help you make the best clothing choices for your court appearance.


  • Fit and Comfort: Choose clothing that fits well. Ill-fitting clothes can be distracting and may convey a lack of attention to detail. Ensure your attire is comfortable enough for potentially long periods of sitting.
  • Conservative Colors: Opt for neutral or conservative colors like navy, black, gray, or beige. These colors are professional and less likely to distract.
  • Simple Patterns: If you choose to wear patterns, keep them simple and subtle. Loud or bold patterns can be distracting in a courtroom setting.
  • Layering for Adaptability: Courtrooms can vary in temperature. Consider layering your clothing, like wearing a blazer or sweater, which can be removed if needed.


  • Avoid Overdressing: While you want to look professional, avoid clothing that is overly formal, like evening wear, which can seem out of place in traffic court.
  • Stay Away from Casual Wear: Steer clear of overly casual items like t-shirts, jeans with rips or heavy wear, and casual sandals or sneakers.
  • Limit Accessories: Keep accessories to a minimum. Overly large or flashy jewelry can detract from your professional appearance.
  • Avoid Strong Fragrances: Strong perfumes or colognes can be overwhelming in enclosed spaces like courtrooms and may cause discomfort to others.

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Male and Masculine-Presenting People

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Male and Masculine-Presenting People

Acceptable clothing:

  • Nice jeans without rips or tears. They should fit well, without being baggy or sagging
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Polo shirts
  • Button-down shirts

Acceptable accessories: 

  • Clean sneakers or tennis shoes, without rips or holes
  • Dress shoes
  • Nice belt
  • Tie
  • Jewelry that is not oversized or very flashy

Acceptable grooming:

  • You should be clean and tidy
  • Try to get a haircut before your court date
  • Shave or tidy up any facial hair

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Female and Feminine-Presenting People

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Female and Feminine-Presenting People

Acceptable clothing: 

  • Nice jeans without rips or tears. They should fit well, without being baggy or sagging
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Skirts that are just-above-knee-length or longer
  • Polo shirts
  • Button down shirts
  • Blouses
  • Jackets or blazers
  • Casual dresses that aren’t too revealing.

Acceptable accessories:

  • Clean sneakers or tennis shoes, without rips or holes
  • Dress shoes
  • Nice sandals (avoid flip-flops)
  • Conservative heels (avoid stilettos and platforms)
  • Nice belt
  • Hair accessories like headbands or hair ties
  • Jewelry that is not oversized or very flashy

Acceptable grooming:

  • You should be clean and tidy
  • Make sure your hair is brushed and styled
  • Makeup should err on the conservative side. Avoid very bright colors, glitters, etc.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to present yourself in a way that is respectful and appropriate for the courtroom setting. Remember, the goal is to convey professionalism and respect through your attire, which can have a subtle but significant impact on your court experience.

What Not to Wear to Traffic Court

What Not to Wear to Traffic Court

While knowing what to wear is important, it’s equally crucial to understand what attire to avoid and why. Inappropriate clothing can negatively impact the court’s perception of you. Here’s a breakdown of what not to wear and the reasoning behind these guidelines:

Clothing That’s Too Casual

  • Graphic Tees, Tank Tops, Shorts, and Athletic Wear: These items are considered too informal for a setting as serious as a courtroom. They can convey a lack of seriousness or respect for the court’s proceedings.
  • Pajamas and Swimwear: Wearing such attire can be seen as disrespectful and may give the impression that you are not taking the proceedings seriously.

Revealing or Flashy Outfits

  • Short Skirts, Low-cut Tops, Crop Tops: Clothing that is overly revealing can be distracting and may not convey the professional image required in court.
  • Flashy or Oversized Jewelry: Excessive accessories can detract from the seriousness of your appearance and may not align with the conservative nature of court decorum.

Inappropriate Footwear

  • Flip-flops, Stilettos, and Platform Heels: Such footwear is either too casual (flip-flops) or can be seen as overly flamboyant (stiletto or platform heels), which is not suitable for the court environment.

Other Considerations

  • Hats and Sunglasses: These are often prohibited in courtrooms as they can be seen as obstructions to identifying individuals and maintaining eye contact.
  • Dirty, Ripped, or Ill-fitting Clothing: This can indicate a lack of preparation and respect for the court. It’s important to present yourself as tidy and well-groomed.

The Impact of Inappropriate Attire

  • Perception by the Judge: Judges, consciously or not, may form impressions based on attire, which could potentially influence their judgment of your character and case.
  • Influence on Court Personnel: Other court staff, including clerks and bailiffs, may also be influenced by your attire, which can affect the overall experience in court.

By avoiding these clothing choices, you demonstrate respect for the court and its procedures, which can positively influence how you’re perceived and treated. Remember, the goal is to present yourself as a serious, responsible individual who understands the gravity of the legal setting.

What to Wear for Different Parts of Traffic Court in California

In California, there are typically two parts to appearing in traffic court: arraignment and trial.

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Arraignment

The arraignment is also known as your first appearance. This is part of the process where you’ll appear in traffic court (typically on a due date indicated on the back of your ticket) to enter your plea.

Arraignments can take a long time. How this process often works is that everyone who chooses to enter a plea appears in traffic court on their due date, and judges and clerks will work their way through the list in alphabetical order.

Even though each person may only speak to the judge for a few moments, the paperwork and the process of moving through everyone on the day’s docket can take a while. You can likely plan on a long wait if your name is toward the end of the alphabet.

People who simply pay the fine for their ticket before the due date are not required to go to an arraignment. If you’re there, it’s typically to do one of three things:

  • Plead guilty to the violation, explain yourself to the judge, and ask for a reduced fine.
  • Choose to attend traffic school, or ask the judge to allow you to attend traffic school if you’re not automatically eligible based on the type of ticket you received.
  • Plead not guilty and ask for a trial.

What you wear to an arraignment depends on why you’re there. If you’re simply there to plead not guilty and request a trial date, you can wear anything that doesn’t violate the rules of the court (hats and sunglasses are often prohibited).

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Arraignment

If you plan to ask for a reduced fine or for the judge to allow you to attend traffic school, you should wear something smart and professional-looking. See the above list of examples for ideas — any of them would be acceptable to wear to your arraignment.

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Trial

The trial portion of the traffic court process is when you go before a judge and present your case. For this, looking clean, tidy, and professional is important. 

Refer to the example lists of acceptable and unacceptable clothing, accessories, and grooming from earlier in this article. Everything on the example list would be appropriate to wear to a traffic court trial.

Want to Avoid Traffic Court?

For many minor traffic violations, you can avoid traffic court altogether, and instead attend traffic school to mask the point on your driving record. If you’re eligible based on your violation, you can start as early as today! Attending traffic school can also be cheaper than going to court – learn how much is traffic school in California.

Best Online Traffic School is a California DMV Licensed Online Traffic School, and our course is accepted by all courts in California. We’re also one of the only traffic schools in the state to provide the course in English and Spanish with free audio narration.

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