Right now in popular culture, we're fascinated by women who seem to have gotten away with something. Whether it's Elizabeth Holmes fooling investors and the media, Anna Delvey claiming to be a German heiress, or Lori Loughlin's alleged college admissions scam, we can't stop looking at these women — and more specifically, what they are wearing.
On Wednesday, former Vogue staffer Yvonne Bannigan, who is accused of stealing more than $50,000 while she worked as Grace Coddington's assistant, was sentenced to do three years probation. A noted fashion enthusiast, she wore a black-and-white-polka-dot dress for the occasion. Last month, Loughlin was photographed on her way to a court appearance in Boston. The actress, famous for her role on Full House as Aunt Becky and a slew of Hallmark Channel films, took the opportunity to sign autographs for fans outside the court house. She wore a light brown statement suit with a ribbed gray shirt and a pair of leather round-toe boots, topped with a pair of smart-looking eyeglasses.
Loughlin isn't the only famous woman championing a certain aesthetic for their court appearances. Early last week, alleged scammer Anna Sorokin (née Anna Delvey) was to appear in front of the New York Supreme Court but was a no-show — because she didn't have the right outfit. According to The Daily Beast, Delvey is working with former Glamour magazine editor Anastasia Walker to pull together looks for her courtroom appearances.
Her courtroom outfits have even inspired an Instagram account, Anna Delvey Court Looks, that's amassed over 3k followers. The comments range from support with "yes give them docile doll anna" to speculation about whether she is plotting on a new business venture. "Maybe she’s decided to wear it all the time to start a trend," one user wrote of Delvey's choker. "I could very easily see her serving her time and then getting actual investment for a legit business. [...] I think she expects to move past this," the person continued.
For her last two court appearances, Delvey wore delicate, feminine looks. A white lace dress for her final court date, and a black frock belted with a bow for her sentencing. Both looks seem to aim to make her look innocent despite the litany of charges — a ploy that's just as manipulative as the crimes she's been accused of.
Not everyone is as impressed by Delvey's outfit changes, particularly Judge Kiesel. Because Delvey's outfit had not been delivered to Rikers Island Prison, Delvey refused to come before the judge wearing the court-issued black pants and white shirt. “Either the clothes go to Rikers, or she shows up here in black and white,” Judge Kiesel said. “This is the last day we’re playing with clothes.”
The courtroom outfit has long been a subject of fascination. Historically, defendants and plaintiffs alike wear muted, pared-down pieces of clothing to appear solemn in front of the judge and jury. Few courtroom looks have garnered the type of media attention that Lori and Anna now enjoy, except for Naomi Campbell's Azzedine Alaïa dress and Lindsay Lohan's manicure that was a literal Eff You to the judge. What does it say about our culture, and these women, that the courtroom outfit has become akin to a red carpet moment?
With the swarm of photographers, endless news coverage, and celebrity status afforded to defendants like Anna Delvey, it's not surprising that people are treating court appearances like red carpet moments. It's a way for celebrities to act as their own historians, turning every public moment into a photo opp, a headline, a chapter in their memoir, or a visual flashcard about their narrative which they want to control.
By diverting attention to their clothing, they're shifting the focus away from their (alleged) crimes and onto their exterior selves, their taste, and their access to money and luxury. Anna Delvey's fixation on what she wears — and her refusal to show up to court because of her outfit — is blatantly disrespectful to our legal system. And perhaps if Loughlin had spent more time reading her plea deals and less on what she was wearing, she wouldn't be facing more prison time.
Already, courtroom looks are inspiring press releases, Instagram accounts, and trend recaps. The question is ... how far will it go? Once people start using court appearances to promote their fashion lines, for example, we'll really be in trouble.