Gwyneth Paltrow and the birth of courtcore

The fascination with the trial of Gwyneth Paltrow(Opens in a new tab) should come as no surprise. A major-league actress embroiled in a lawsuit saga over a ski accident(Opens in a new tab)? Each component calls for intrigue. But an even larger fixation landed not on the specifics of the case, but on the details of Paltrow’s wardrobe inside the courtroom.

The actress turned wellness advocate showed up each day donning curated outfits: sleek, neutral-toned suits; cozy knits; A-line skirts and crisp white button-downs; and bouquets of gold jewelry – many belonging to her own brand(Opens in a new tab) – with each ensemble. Brand names were hardly visible in her repertoire, instead mirroring the Succession-decreed “stealth-wealth” subtlety. Accessories included a water bottle that’s garnered an arguably obscene amount of attention(Opens in a new tab) (videos under this category have 133 million views on TikTok(Opens in a new tab)) and a Smythson notebook(Opens in a new tab) in luxe blue lambskin.

Fashion critics took note of Paltrow’s choices. GQ(Opens in a new tab) said she “dressed brilliantly”. Vogue(Opens in a new tab) described her looks as “pared-back, pristine, and perfectly pitched”. But it was the New York Times’(Opens in a new tab) resident critic Vanessa Friedman who labelled Paltrow’s chosen aesthetic: “a new style subgenre that ought henceforth to be known as courtcore”.

Courtcore, as defined by subsequent internet discourse, is a style of dressing for the courtroom: a niche set of sartorial choices that can be found in celebrity-centric trials like Paltrow’s or in the realm of popular culture. And while Paltrow’s trial may have spurned the term, the concept is not new. How people – especially women – dress in the halls of a courtroom and in the presence of the law has captured public interest before.

Fashion experts at British womenswear brand Karen Millen(Opens in a new tab) found that many popular Google searches for courtroom style have focused on lawyers and public figures such as Amal Clooney, Michelle Obama, Camille Vasquez, Kamala Harris, and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. The average monthly global searches for each of these women, in relation to their courtroom style, is high, with questions ranging from Clooney’s “courtroom fashion” to Obama’s courtroom hair and makeup.

Amal Clooney attends a court session in the Tora prison in Cairo in 2015.

Amal Clooney attends a court session in 2015.
Credit: Mohamed Elraai/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The courtcore obsession isn’t limited to the real world: Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde); Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle in Suits); and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington in Scandal) have received significant attention for all their closets. Woods’ Barbie-inspired hues and Y2K mini-dresses are iconic. The more traditional, even demure, outfits of Zane and Pope still encapsulate the principles of power-dressing: tailored midi-skirts, patent heels, and clean silhouettes.

Actress Reese Witherspoon acts in a scene from 'Legally Blonde'.

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods.
Credit: MGM/Getty.

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane in 'Suits'.

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane in ‘Suits’.
Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images.

For those in the public eye, style has always been paramount to personality. Dressing to portray or configure a statement about oneself is fundamental, but perhaps even more so within the walls of a courtroom. For women in particular, there is an element of misogyny and judgement here: the heightened attention to women in the courtroom can be an unfortunate consequence of deeper-rooted mistrust. What some people are trying to depict about themselves here holds meaning, more so than what an airport ensemble, for instance,(Opens in a new tab) ever does. From Anna Delvey(Opens in a new tab) to Naomi Campbell(Opens in a new tab), this principle has been understood and played with.

In the case of Paltrow, her clothes – chic and clean – were meant to be unpacked(Opens in a new tab) in the midst of a media circus. With her rendition of #courtcore, she presented a deliberate persona. Her privilege was not veiled(Opens in a new tab), nor was it too ostentatiously laid out. And with each look, she laid out a blueprint for the next celebrity-centric, social-media-documented trial. If nothing else, going viral for your wardrobe is a nice distraction from a previously pending lawsuit.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button