Anna Delvey, Felicity Huffman, and Lori Loughlin Show the Serious Business of Dressing for Court
Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, Cardi B—all have faced the cameras sporting a variety of courtroom looks. But for Anna Delvey, if the outfit isn’t right, she’s not turning up.
It was around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the fifth day of the trial of Anna Sorokin, and the alleged “Soho Grifter”—accused of scamming friends, luxury hotels, and banks out of over $275,000—was M.I.A. from New York State Supreme Court.
Delvey isn't alone in being a public figure dressing for the dock right now: Felicity Huffman (channeling suburban drab rather than Hollywood star) and Lori Loughlin (fabulous coat, autograph signing) were both in court this week, charged in the college admissions-fraud scandal, showcasing divergent courtroom styles.
Though Walker, a former editor at Glamour, has dressed the likes of Courtney Love and G-Eazy, outfitting Delvey, her most infamous client, has proved to be a challenge. On this fifth day, Judge Diane Kiesel was impatient. Sorokin had not received her outfit for the day, and would not enter the courtroom in the standard, court-issued black pants and white shirt.
“Another clothing issue?” Judge Kiesel asked. She noted that Sorokin pulled the same stunt on Friday, refusing to show up because her outfit for the day was dirty. (Sorokin also claimed to feel ill.)
Sorokin’s lawyer Todd Spodek became the human embodiment of a shrug emoji, stammering and trying to explain that Sorokin’s designer threads had not been delivered to Rikers Island, her home of over a year.
But the lawyer insisted it was not his job to ferry outfits. “I can’t go to Rikers every day,” Spodek said.
“Either the clothes go to Rikers, or she shows up here in black and white,” Kiesel said. “This is the last day we’re playing with clothes.”
An assistant ran in with a pillow-sized paper bag full of options which court officers would bring to Sorokin. Like all bags brought to court, the bundle would have to go through a scanner to make sure it did not contain any dangerous items.
“Go in the bag and pick an outfit for your client, and the [rest of the clothes] go to Rikers,” Judge Kiesel told Spodek. “That’s it.” She punctuated her order with a sip from an iced coffee.
As the court waited for Sorokin to change, Spodek apologized to a court officer, insisting that dressing his client “is outside my role” as a lawyer.
Minutes later, Sorokin sent the ensemble—a white button-up, plaid pencil skirt, and black jacket—back to her attorney. “It’s not acceptable,” a male officer explained to Spodek.
“She said that?” the lawyer asked, wondering if the officer meant that he found the clothes inappropriate.
“She said that. ‘I don’t wear it,’” the officer chuckled.
According to experts, courtroom stylists are not new—they’re called lawyers.
“Attorneys have always been conscious of image things,” lawyer and legal analyst Elura Nanos told The Daily Beast. Telling an alleged offender what to wear is just as common as prepping them for testimony, or hiring a body language consultant to soften their image for a jury.
“We’ve always been advising clients on what to wear,” Nanos explained. “Stylists are taking that to the next level.”
Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred is known for her ubiquitous press conferences, where her frequently famous clients sit with camera-ready (and often cry-proof) hair and makeup. But in an email, Allred told The Daily Beast that she does not dress or style clients for court appearances.
“I simply suggest that they wear business dress and that they do not wear low cut dresses,” Allred wrote. The lawyer did not know of any stylists who specifically offer services to defendants.
Considering the fact that the average incarcerated person has an annual income of just $19,185 before entering prison, it makes sense that most navigating the legal system have more to worry about than who will provide their Miu Miu. (Before Court Clothesgate, Sorokin had worn the Italian label to trial.)
“Whether the client or the lawyer hires a stylist, either way the client is paying for that service,” Nanos said. “That’s an important point to make, because most criminal defendants, even in very newsworthy cases, are poor. Most are not going to be in a position to pay for a stylist, even if it would help them.”
The jury is still out on whether or not Sorokin is herself in a position to foot Walker’s bill.
The former assistant fashion editor at Glamour told Elle’s Rose Mintuaglio that she took the gig as a favor to her close friend Neff Davis, who befriended Sorokin while working as a concierge at the luxury hotel 11 Howard.
Davis served as a main source for Jessica Pressler’s viral New York magazine feature on the case, which was acquired by Netflix for a Shonda Rhimes-helmed series. A movie based on a Vanity Fair article written by Rachel DeLoache Williams—a photo editor whom Sorokin swindled out of $65,000 during a trip to Morocco—is also in the works.
Last June, Variety reported that both Margot Robbie and Jennifer Lawrence “expressed interest” in the film project. Meanwhile, Sorokin “has been making calls to various talent and producers regarding whom she would like to play her.” Presumably, those calls were made from Rikers.
Though Sorokin may be a fake heiress, she certainly has the command of a real one in court. She watches the proceedings often with pursed lips, and makes no effort to hide when she disagrees with what a witness is saying. Her behavior isn’t exactly distracting, but she did complain loudly enough about her arresting officer’s testimony that the cop stopped talking for a moment to shoot Sorokin a look.
While Walker copped to getting paid for her services, she declined to go into detail on where the check was coming from and how much it cost. “Anna is very lucky to have a team and people that support her,” Walker told Elle. “There are so many people that don’t.”
Sorokin’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, explained his decision to hire Walker to GQ: “It is imperative that Anna dress appropriately for trial. Anna’s style was a driving force in her business, and life, and it is a part of who she is. I want the jury to see that side of her.”
It might be a side Spodek would be smart to keep hidden. In opening arguments, the lawyer quoted Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” describing his client as an ambitious outsider. “Anna had to kick the door down to get her chance at life. Just like Sinatra had to do it his way, Anna had to do it her way,” he said.
The rather witchy black choker Sorokin wore to her trial along with said Miu Miu black minidress does not necessarily communicate a starry-eyed innocent.
“Courtroom fashion is very important when you have a defense where your case rests on some version of, ‘This person could not have committed this crime because it’s not in their nature to commit this crime,’” Nanos explained.
“I don’t know if [Walker] is really helping, given what I’m seeing [on Anna Sorokin],” civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom said. “You don’t need a stylist, you just need a lawyer to tell you what is and what is not appropriate.”
Bloom represented Blac Chyna in 2017 when the model served her ex Rob Kardashian with a restraining order, alleging domestic violence and revenge porn.
Despite the seriousness of the occasion, it was the conservative pantsuit Chyna wore to the L.A. courthouse that drew the internet’s attention. According to Bloom, who usually recommends clients wear darker colors to communicate seriousness, the bright ensemble was all Chyna’s idea.
“She said, ‘Let’s wear all white,’” Bloom said. “I don’t know if she even knew it was the color of suffragettes, it’s just a nice color. She wore all white and looked great.”
Though Chyna wanted Bloom to dress similarly in solidarity, the lawyer could not pull together an ivory ensemble in one night. “I had a blue and white dress,” Bloom remembered. “It was the best I could do on short notice.”
Since getting a pro bono fashion consultation with Chyna, Bloom added more white pieces to her closet. “It’s clean, fresh, and nice. I would have never thought of that,” she said.
Clean, fresh, and nice sounds like a good way to win over a jury—so long as the outfit is delivered on time.
On Wednesday, as Sorokin’s antics kept the court in limbo for more than an hour, one reporter whispered a teeny whine, “I don’t want to write about her clothes anymore.”
When Sorokin finally did emerge, she wore a white shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and black trousers. Perhaps in an attempt at style, she was wearing her now ubiquitous choker. The sliver of a black necklace poked out from her business casual collar. Call the whole aesthetic “waiter going through a goth phase” chic. During a break from court, Spodek told The Daily Beast he thought his client looked “very nice.”
After a lecture from Judge Kiesel about punctuality, Sorokin put her head in her hands and began to cry. She pushed up her black-rimmed Céline glasses to wipe away tears while Spodek consoled her.
Judge Kiesel told Sorokin, “This is not a fashion show.” But, as photographers strained to get a picture of Sorokin’s mini-meltdown, for a moment it most surely was.