The first day you step into court with your own brief is the opening night of your show. The role you have been preparing for all your life.
That makes your Call ceremony your first dress rehearsal. The moment you finally put on the costume of a barrister and get called to the Bar.
The clothes you wear to Call should therefore be as formal and professional as the ones you would wear to court.
The following guide outlines what you will need to attend Call in England and Wales:
For women, this consists of either trousers, a knee-length skirt or dress with a suit jacket. For men, this consists of trousers and a suit jacket. Both men and women can wear waistcoats but it is not a requirement for either. Single-breasted and double-breasted jackets are both acceptable.
Traditional suits are ones where the top and bottom of the suit are the same colour, made of the same material and typically bought as a set. Many women at the Bar buy separates i.e. bottoms from one place and a jacket from another. As long as they are the same colour and look smart, this is acceptable as a suit.
Women usually wear plain black or dark grey coloured suits and men often wear dark navy or grey.
A suit worn with a collarette
A suit made up of separates worn with a wing-collar and bands
Underneath the suit jacket
Men should wear a white tunic shirt with a wing-collar and bands.
Women can wear:
- a white tunic shirt with a wing-collar and bands
- a white tunic shirt with a collar and bands attached
- a white wing-collar shirt and bands
- a white or black top or blouse with a collarette
- a dress with a collarette
The suit jacket is worn over the top of the shirt/ collarette etc and buttoned up. The bands should be pulled out to drape over the front of the suit jacket.
A tunic shirt
A wing collar
A tunic shirt with a wing-collar attached with studs, and bands over the top
A tunic shirt
A collar with bands
A tunic shirt with a collar and bands attached
A wing-collar shirt and bands
The I&N Collarette with strings. Works well underneath a suit jacket with a skirt or trousers and a plain top or blouse.
The Classic Collarette without strings. Works well underneath a suit jacket with a dress.
The images in these diagrams feature plain collarettes, but there is no prohibition on collarettes and collars with different types of lace. Ivy & Normanton has a range of different laces for our collarettes including, traditional lace, loop lace and wave lace. If in doubt, check with your Inn.
These should be plain, black, formal shoes not trainers, sandals or similar. Women can wear heels but are not required to.Wig and Gown
The court gown is worn over the top of the suit jacket.
The wig (if required or permitted for your Call ceremony) is worn on top of the head. It should be worn forwards so there is no hair showing between the forehead and the front of the wig. Generally long or mid-length hair should be tied up or pinned back under wigs.
If you have afro, braided or dreadlocked hair and it is uncomfortable or impractical to wear a wig in this way, then firstly confirm if your Inn requires you to wear a wig at all. If you are required to wear the wig or want to wear it, then choose a size of wig and position that feels comfortable to you.
Barristers who wear the Sikh turban or Islamic hijab have a dispensation from wearing a wig. Some women choose to wear the wig on top of their hijab but are not required to do so. Hijab's worn in court should be either black or white in colour.
Ivy & Normanton court hijabs have been developed to be the right dimensions for tucking into collarettes and suits, and are comfortable enough to be worn all day in court. You can explore the range here
Diversity and Court Dress
As we welcome diversity in the courtroom, adjustments and additions are being made to accommodate the barristers wearing legal attire.
If the male/ female court attire outlined above does not suit barristers who identify as non-binary, then find a combination of court dress that works for you. The main requirement is a dark suit, dark shoes, bands of some sort, wig and gown.
If you would like to wear traditional dress for your Call ceremony, then this should be permitted by the Inn but you can call them to check if in doubt. The main requirement is likely to be formal traditional attire with bands of some description and a gown over the top, with or without a wig.
If you have a physical disability that makes traditional court attire uncomfortable or impractical then discuss this with your Inn. It may be possible to negotiate funding to get items made or altered to suit your needs, or for accommodations to traditional court dress to be waived, such as the wearing of the wig throughout the Call ceremony.
Although court dress is prescribed, there is still scope for personal preference. Ultimately you have to wear what you feel comfortable in.
Image credit to Lovejoyt Singh
Enjoy your day!