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Perspective | During the process, Gwyneth Paltrow dresses as she would like to be


When famous people have to go on trial, one of the many crucial choices they face is how to dress. Should they bring with them the radiance and trappings of their outsized fame, or shrink to their evidently meager civilian self?

Appearing in the style of the entity known to the public can wield power – but it risks absurdity, under unflattering fluorescent lighting interspersed with lawyers, judges and courthouse staff in their everyday work uniforms. Adopting a more banal, scaled-down, appropriate look, on the other hand, can convey seriousness — but can also remind jurors and other observers, perhaps uncomfortably, that mega-celebrities are, after all, just weak and fallible human beings like everyone else.

This week, actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in a Utah court where she is charged with colliding with a fellow skier, 76-year-old retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, while vacationing in Park City in 2016. Sanderson alleges that Paltrow then fled and that the impact left him with broken ribs and permanent brain damage, and after initially seeking $3 million, Sanderson is now suing Paltrow for $300,000. Paltrow, in turn, is suing Sanderson for $1 and the cost of her legal fees, claiming that it was actually Sanderson who bumped into her.

Gwyneth Paltrow testifies that she was confused and then angry after a skiing accident

There is an ingrained belief in Paltrow’s defense that Sanderson’s lawsuit aims to exploit Paltrow’s wealth and fame, and this week Paltrow’s style choices in court seem to tacitly address that sentiment. With gold jewelry and luxe-looking riffs on traditional business silhouettes like the suit, vest and turtleneck, her hair loose and makeup modest, Paltrow has effectively divided the difference between understated decency and power glamour. She simultaneously telegraphed two messages that could very well have been contradictory: “Look, I’m just a mom trying to take her teens on a fun ski vacation,” and “Yes, I am rich and famous, and I won’t waste my time on this.

You don’t have to have Billy Flynn as your lawyer to know that if you are a defendant, you have to give the impression that you can’t. possible committed the act in question. Many famous defendants have striven for respectability, maturity, wide-eyed innocence or even pathetic regression during their days in court.

In 2005, Lil’ Kim ditched the candy-colored, dazzling ensembles she was famous for in favor of a crisp white blouse, conventionally pretty makeup, and a tan suit with subtle pinstripes—Midtown business executive chic—in federal court to appear on charges of perjury in connection with a shooting outside a New York radio station. When Winona was Ryder Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, who went on trial for shoplifting in 2002, noted her girlish headbands and her neat, elegant, knee-length skirts and dresses — but after Ryder was convicted, did they feel that way in her attempted manipulative wardrobe? glad it failed?

More recently, Harvey Weinstein arrived for his 2020 trial in New York unshaven and leaning on an orthopedic walker with tennis balls on his feet. “The decrepit Mr. Weinstein, his body stooped as he slowly rolls forward,” noted Jasmine E. Harris of the New York Times, “stands in stark contrast to his former image of a domineering Hollywood power broker now accused of rape.” and predatory assault. And Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who sued each other in court last year for defamation, wore tight, smart suits and sleek, off-the-face haircuts as they traded accusations of drunkenness and drug abuse.

Harvey Weinstein looks disheveled and frail. Do you believe him?

So far, Paltrow’s wardrobe selections have emphasized that she is in fact someone who goes skiing and could possibly be involved in a freak accident on the slopes; in particular, the cozy white turtleneck and aviator glasses she wore on Tuesday evoked 1980s apres-ski in all its glory, as depicted in 2021’s “House of Gucci.”

But Paltrow’s other style decisions seemed more consciously in tune with the moment. On Tuesday, the opening day of the trial, and again on Wednesday (when she wore a thick waistcoat with a belt), Paltrow took part in the long tradition of famous ladies wearing white to appear as defendants – the color of lambs, lilies, snow, doves and other remarkable symbols of peace, purity and innocence – like Ryder, Cardi B and Naomi Campbell before her.

Paltrow’s smooth, soft silhouettes also provided a subtle contrast to the claim that she had crashed into another skier and then jumped away. On Thursday, Paltrow wore a soft-looking, relaxed fit double-breasted gray suit over a thin crew-neck shirt of the same color. On Friday, as Paltrow sat listening to testimonials in a dark long-sleeved top with slightly puffed sleeves, pursed lips and protruding cheekbones, she looked friendly and unthreatening — though she was also a little annoyed at missing a Goop staff meeting, or a farm-to-table vegan lunch reservation, or a crystal sound bath.

All this, you might notice, for which she was also appropriately dressed. As if this court appearance had been dutifully squeezed in between other appointments.

The Most Awkward Moments From Gwyneth Paltrow’s Testimony

As Paltrow took the stand Friday afternoon, her serene disposition was punctuated by occasional tight, benevolent smiles and sips from a green-glass Mountain Valley Spring Water bottle. Listening intently and speaking intently, but sometimes looking up at her questioner with the same expression as a mother hearing a real whopper from her eight-year-old, Paltrow conveyed with her face and voice what she had already conveyed with her clothes: respect and compliance, but only as far as needed. As if she was anxious to get rid of all these unpleasantness and get on with the rest of her day.

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