Court dress

This isn’t surprising, not many uniforms have evolved through seven centuries. Read more about changes to court dress, the history and see some examples specific to different types of judges.

New judicial robes

In July 2007 the Lord Chief Justice announced reforms to simplify judicial court working dress in England and Wales. The changes, which included the introduction of a new civil gown, came into effect on 1 October 2008. Fashion designer Betty Jackson CBE worked on a pro-bono basis as the design consultant for the new gown.

Criminal jurisdiction

From 1 October 2008 High Court judges adopted a single set of red robes for criminal proceedings throughout the year, rather than different sets of robes for summer and winter. Apart from this there was no change to court dress worn by judges when sitting in criminal proceedings.

Civil and family jurisdiction – The new civil robe

Court of Appeal and High Court judges no longer wear wigs, wing collars and bands when sitting in open court in civil and family proceedings; the new civil robe is worn.

Circuit judges, in accordance with their wish, continue to wear the same gown and tippet less the wig, wing collar and bands.

In civil and family hearings in open court, all other judges wear the new civil gown.

The design favoured by a judicial working group incorporated coloured bands to identify seniority. The chosen colours were:

  • Heads of Division and Appeal Court judges – gold
  • High Court judges – red
  • District judges – blue
  • Masters and Registrars – pink

Financial implications

These changes were reflected in the dress allowances made to judges and substantial savings resulted. Whilst the one-off cost of supplying the new civil robe to judges was estimated at about £450,000 it was anticipated that annual savings in the region of £200,000 would thereafter be made.

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