Gwyneth Paltrow has prevailed. The low-stakes, high-octane ski crash trial closed briskly, leaving behind a mountain of memes, bereft spectators and a lot to mull. Should the enjoyment of wine-tastings be valued at a mere $300,000? Should we try the bone-broth diet? And where can we find an unsparing catalogue of everything Paltrow wore? The answers are no, no and everywhere.
Detailed breakdowns of the former actor and wellness guru’s wardrobe have inundated the Internet. In the last week, news of war and escalating tensions have had to jostle with fine-combed accounts of Paltrow’s muted outfits; her $65,000 gold chain, pristine Celine tote, and choice selections from The Row have all been duly itemised. Naturally, numbers have been crunched and intrepid data scientists have served us the figures: she wore midi-skirts exactly 33% of the time and colour, a paltry 17. Which all begs the question: why do we care so much?
Paltrow is just one in a long line of celebrities whose courtroom style has been sliced and diced by the public. From the snow white suit of Anna Nicole Smith to the schoolgirl frocks of Anna Delvey—whose trial outfits spawned dedicated Instagram accounts—our fascination with court looks, or “Courtcore,” has gone largely unexamined. Perhaps we watch because it is in the courtroom that the sacred promise of fashion is tested—can clothes really change your life? In the hallowed halls of justice, facing stakes far graver and more concrete than a bad day, we wonder if a well-timed oatmeal cardigan really can tip the scales.
Of course, this is par for the course in the industry, where a gaggle of professionals dress stars for the dock, always hoping to cement a character or question one. It certainly paid off for Paltrow, who emerged from litigation victorious and ennobled, sweeping out with a devastatingly stylish “I wish you well.” Her incognito luxury wardrobe (83% neutral) projected an air of unassuming affluence and clean, lofty innocence; a strategy also employed by Silicon Valley grifter Elizabeth Holmes, when she ditched the red lipstick and Steve Jobs-esque black turtlenecks for the ecru tones of the reasonable woman. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison though she had requested 18 months.
So the answer seems to be complicated, as does the formula. For celebrity defendants walk a tightrope, they must dress the part but it cannot seem contrived. David Beckham reported for judgement in an uncharacteristically ill-fitting charcoal grey suit, the portrait of sober deference. In a caricature of frumpiness, Felicity Huffman, more associated with cocktail dresses, wore a sensible “mum” cardigan over a woollen grey dress for her tearful guilty plea. Neither were spared. Beckham lost his driving licence for six months and Huffman did her time.
The girlish line of performance is similarly split. Winona Ryder’s Peter Pan collars and doe-eyed pinks scored her an acquittal and a Marc Jacobs campaign (ironically she was on trial for stealing a Marc Jacobs bag) while Anna Delvey’s pointed lace landed her in prison. Yet, it could be argued that the interest the latter drummed up with her looks in trial was a win in itself, paving the way for her current Soho Robin Hood persona. Ultimately, like so many other complicated and emotional matters, the question at the heart of Courtcore remains unanswered. But we’re thrilled to be asking them. Below, cast your eye on beloved Courtcore looks of yore.
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Lohan was a courthouse fixture in the early 2010’s and paparazzi coverage of her appearances verged on savage. Still, she was an early icon of the genre, with looks spanning docile cardigans, presidential suits and garish bodycons with stilettos. She made history with her microscopic manicure at a probational hearing in 2010, though she maintains that the statement was no more than a mindless doodle.
2 / 6
The world’s most famous heiress favoured pencil skirts and monochromatic cocktail dresses for her court appointments. A guilty plea for violating a driving suspension produced her most memorable mea culpa get up: a cropped, pinstriped blazer with a shrunken waistcoat and bell-bottomed dress pants, finished with a coy ribbon in her hair. In a stinging loss for fashion, she was sentenced to 45 days in prison.
3 / 6
The Soho darling and consummate grifter knew the power of a killer wardrobe. Delvey swanned into court in a carousel of coquettish designer looks, stunning everyone; one Miu Miu dress in particular prompted the investigative journalism that eventually outed the stylist responsible. Her chiffon frocks, ballet flats and signature Celine glasses have been lovingly memorialised at @annadelveycourtlooks on Instagram.
4 / 6
In 2019, Cardi B channelled Big-Bird-but-goth for her day in court, appearing in a trailing feathered coat equipped with a massive hood in the shape of a halo. In a winking nod to courtroom decorum, she was in full penguin underneath.
5 / 6
A jaw dropping triumph. The princess of the ’90s teen flick emerged from her shoplifting trial with nothing more than probation and a fine. Her beguiling sweetheart look was masterfully wrought; charged with pinching thousands in Marc Jacobs merchandise, she turned up wearing the brand and looked so good doing it they shot a campaign with her after.
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Anna Nicole Smith
The late Anna Nicole Smith was the progenitor and first mother of Courtcore. Hollywood’s earliest known proponent of colour theory, her spotless white suit has inspired countless imitators.