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Fashion guru gives judges a new look

SENIOR judges are to strike a blow for fashion by ditching their old-style court garb and donning new Louise Kennedy-designed outfits.

Out goes a centuries' old legacy with sombre black suits and gowns replaced by a new European-style court attire, which will cost over €1,000 less than their current costumes.

From next week, the Supreme Court's eight judges will have a new wardrobe which consists of a simple black robe with two green bands on the sleeves and a white tab at the neck.

Their new look will mean savings, with the new outfit costing €861 compared to €1,886 for the current robes.

The judges had asked the Superior Courts Rules Committee to prepare to update their dress as they felt the old costume "was not reflective of modern Ireland as a nation state", the Courts Service said.

"A change was needed to an area neglected during the turbulent times of nation-building following independence," the service said.

It's now up to the rules committee to decide whether the wardrobe changes should apply to the remaining 139 judges in the lower courts.

Fashion guru Louise Kennedy's company Signum Ltd is behind the judges' new-look costumes.

She was originally commissioned by the then Chief Justice, John Murray, to design a range of judges' robes.

Samples of the gowns were unveiled at a judicial training day in June 2009 but the project was put on hold until public finances improved.

"As an Irish designer, I was thrilled and honoured to receive the commission to design the new robes for the Irish Supreme Court," Louise said. "It was a privilege to be asked by the Chief Justice to be part of such an important and historical design project."


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Signalling the change, Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham said the current costume was an outfit "rooted in a previous, historical regime".

The move to a new, cost-effective and dignified form of dress was not just attending to unfinished business from the foundation of the State but was an assertion of the distinct Irish nature of our law and courts -- of their independence, steeped in our own Constitution and traditions, she added.

Bar Council chairman David Nolan said court attire was a matter entirely for judges and if they felt it was appropriate to change it, barristers would support it. But he ruled out barristers "dressing down" to less formal wear, saying that it was important the courts should be recognised by the wearing of "appropriate court garb".

Welcoming the change, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was a "dignified and cost-effective new form of attire ".

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