Lori Loughlin's 'smiley' appearance at court criticized: 'This is not red carpet time'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Eyes were on Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman again Wednesday for their second federal court appearances, first in Boston, for their roles in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scam. And while a date with Lady Justice is very different than a red carpet, familiar terrain for the Hollywood stars, what the defendants wear still plays a big part.

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli at federal court in Boston on Wednesday to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

“This is a serious court proceeding,” San Francisco-based attorney Debra F. Bogaards — who has advised countless clients and experts on what to wear for court, depositions and mediations through her firm, Bogaards Law— tells Yahoo Entertainment. “The alleged federal crime in this college admissions scandal centers around fraud, which goes to one’s moral turpitude and character. It comes at a time that the country is hungry for a leader who has character, integrity and ethics. So, the defendants should be dressed in a manner to convey seriousness and understanding of the weight of the charges.”

Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Their arrivals

So did they? Huffman, who allegedly paid $15,000 to boost her elder daughter’s SAT scores, was first to arrive for her hearing, which were basically just to stipulate bail terms, but you could tell that she hadn’t been dragged out of bed by armed agents like she was last time. She had her hair and makeup done, and contact lenses in. A Celtic cross, not a new buy (we found photos of her wearing it, or something similar, way back in her Desperate Housewives days), was a focal point of her look, which also included a black suit with a shiny blouse. The subdued star was surrounded by handlers walking in, holding hands with one — not husband William H. Macy, but her brother.

The Fuller House star, who along with her husband Mossimo Giannulli is accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California designated as recruits to the crew team, is again the one that stands out. Video showed her arrival being very red carpet-like. Wearing her brown pants suit, she smiled as fans screamed her name (and one asked her to pay her college tuition).

The dos and don’ts of courtroom style

Bogaards, who wrote about the importance of courtroom attire for Plaintiff magazine’s “Dressing Your Client for Success at Deposition and Trial,” talked to us about what she saw that seemed right — and wrong.

Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli outside federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“Loughlin is way too smiley and wanting to greet her fans, but she is being rushed along by her attorneys/handlers,” Bogaards observes. While her camel pantsuit works — Bogaards advises her clients to wear gray, navy and brown to court because it helps them appear more honest — the light gray shirt below it is “too casual for the severity of the federal court appearance.” Instead, she would have suggested a button-up white starched crisp blouse to “convey a more rigid and formal message.”

Hair is as important as wardrobe — it should be neat and trim. While Loughlin seemed to have a fresh blowout, a more structured style — a low ponytail, bun or French braid — helps make for a more serious appearance.

But, generally, Loughlin “just looks too sunny, light and breezy,” Bogaards thinks. “This is not red carpet time. When you look at Loughlin smiling, I question whether she understands the severity of the charges.”

Folks on Twitter questioned this too:

Loughlin’s smiley demeanor continued inside the courtroom, others noted. (For what it’s worth, she happily greeted fans outside her Boston hotel and signed autographs.)

While Huffman’s black pantsuit makes for an appropriately somber look for court, Bogaards says a “navy tailored suit with a starched white colored blouse” would come off as more honest and put-together. “The blouse is wrong,” she says, “It looks disheveled since it is a silk material. It should lay right, which tailored cotton blouses do.” And, like Loughlin, Huffman’s untamed hair is distracting — though her “very serious” expression was on the mark.

Meanwhile, Huffman’s accessories — multiple necklaces, the hoop earrings and the giant bag — were all wrong. While the cross “conveys her good Christian character, I suppose,” Bogaards says she would have recommended “a more discreet small simple gold cross so as not to distract the jury or judge’s attention.” The hoops were too large and distracting — but not as much as the giant white bag.

“What could she possibly be carrying to court that she needs during the hearing?” Bogaards asks. “It’s not Let’s Make A Deal where she may be asked to search for a spoon or a hard boiled egg by Monty Hall. A small, black, non-designer purse would complete the tailored, conservative and serious-for-court look. The goal is for her to appear contrite, remorseful and shamed — that’s what the public wants and a proper neutral conservative look conveys.”

Felicity Huffman, along with her brother, outside federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Bogaards’s approved wardrobe list for women is a suit or dress with a cardigan. Arms should always be covered. There should be no low-cut blouse or cleavage, large patterns, tight-fitting or short skirts, stilettos or open-toed shoes. All designer labels should be left at home — down to a person’s shoes — along with any flashy jewelry.

‘It’s not that we are shallow’

What someone wears to court is important because you don't want the judge or jury to be distracted by a piece of your wardrobe, explains Bogaards. You want a thought-out, completed look and you don't want a single thing about it to be off.

“That's why we are talking about their appearance,” Bogaards says. “It's not that we are shallow and that we believe that clothing makes you. But I want the jury to listen to what my client has to say on the stand and not prejudge them based on what they are wearing or be distracted by it.”

Lori Loughlin outside federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

And Huffman and Loughlin are masters at showing off their perfectly polished looks on red carpets — after all, they’ve both been in showbiz since the 1970s and have stylists at the ready.

“When they are on the red carpet, they nail it,” Bogaards says. “They have on a glamorous dress that fits in the right places, the makeup, the earrings. Every single thing is suited for that glamorous look, It’s the same thing when you are going to trial. You need to have a complete outfit down to your shoes, hair and purse.”

And while we’ve seen celebrities and pseudo celebrities take liberties (from Martha Stewart’s fur and Lindsay Lohan’s Louboutins to fake socialite Anna Delvey Sorokin’s cleavage), they don’t get more leeway than your average person in court.

Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

“No, the rules are universal,” Bogaards says. “Further, with celebrities they know better. We know they hire stylists to get their glamorous image just right for the red carpet.” They should hire stylists “to get the right conservative image in court” as well.

Loughlin and Huffman have to decide whether to go to trial or work out a plea deal with prosecutors — with the deals reportedly stipulating that they get at least some prison time.

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