~ court dress for tall courts: new robes for Australia’s high court judges ~


Melville Weston Fuller the Chief Justice 1908 (US Supreme Court)


It’s the most learned gentlemen of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Fuller Court (Chief Justice Melville Fuller) of the 1890s-1910 era.

It was also the Plessy v Ferguson Court that created the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” which institutionalized segregation in the United States until overturned in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.

Is it just me or are the Justices’ robes kind of unkempt, baggy & ill-fitting?  Too much fabric perhaps.?

Could be that they’re sitting.

Indeed, a few look like they’re wearing dressing gowns or bath robes. Mourning robes? Halloween garb?

I suspect some assistance with dressing & presentation before the photo shoot would have been helpful.  And it was the early 1900s.


A clipping from The Daily Picayune in New Orleans reporting on the 1892 arrest of Homer Plessy for riding in a ‘whites-only’ car. Right: The members of the United States Supreme Court who would decide Plessy’s case, leading to the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. (Photo courtesy of Supreme Court of the United States)

In 1892, Homer Plessy took a seat and made a stand all at once


It’s the most learned gentleman of the High Court of Australia in 1903 all lawyered wigged up & robed including white neckties (jabots).

Perhaps if the Fuller court had worn powdered wigs & jabots they might have presented somewhat less dishevelled.  Amazing what a wig & jabot can do!

Alas, such oddities are not now worn by justices of the High Court in Australia who now wear black gowns when sitting in court instead of the traditional attire of a robe, jabot and wig.

In fact who wears wigs in what court in Australia can be quite a minefield to traverse these days.

In the High Court of Australia, justices wear plain black robes with zippered fronts over normal attire. They do not wear wigs, collars, bands or jabots. The robes are similar in appearance to those worn by Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, although they are more elaborately tailored. These robes have been worn since 1988, when the High Court abandoned the previous court dress of black silk robes, bar jackets, jabots or bands and full-bottomed wigs and lace cuffs on formal occasions and bench wigs for ordinary business attire.


Barristerial witches & their Juniors, the Quid Pro Crows

In this post I mentioned the public intrigue with what we wear in Court . . . .

Then there’s the inevitable questions and comments about lawyers’ court room clothing and attire much of it understandable.  Certainly there is intrigue with what we wear.  “Why do you wear that stuff, you know, that wig thingy, the frilly white thing and that black cloak dress garb?” or “How do you stop the wig falling off?” or “Is it itchy? or “Why do you dress like a witch?

My email handle is attributable, in part, to lawyers’ court dress in Australia.


And sewing a lawyer’s robe for myself is definitely not something on my ‘To Do’ list.  Not even close.  You may enjoy this post Can You Imagine Sewing a Lawyer’s Robe? where I talked more about the robes we wear in Court.


Indeed it was this incident where my powdered wig fell off (almost) that I came to the firm belief that all this garb is quite unnecessary, a hindrance at times.  The French wear the robe, white jabot but no wig.  I am definitely not in favour of keeping the wig, jabot and gown and prefer the American system of simple, professional business type dress for Court without all the barristerial pomp and circumstance . . .  and may God save the powdered wig! Hmph!


Anyway, time for something serious. In this somewhat intriguing world of court attire in Australia, specifically the Tall Court robes, you might enjoy this most interesting and detailed blog post by a weaver named Kay Faulkner. Ms. Faulkner was involved in the design and weaving of the new robes for the High Court of Australia (the Tall Court) completed near the end of 2016. I share here a few images from her blog as well as the link to the post about the new robes wherein she gives us not only a peek into the processes of designing and creating the fabric for the High Court gowns but the gowns themselves. Well worth the read.