All individuals filing for bankruptcy must attend the 341 meeting of creditors (also known as the section 341 meeting). Although you’ll be sworn to tell the truth, the meeting isn’t held in a courtroom but rather in an office around a desk or conference table, and the bankruptcy trustee appointed to oversee your case will preside over the meeting rather than a judge. Although less formal than a court appearance, you’ll be safe if you follow the same dress guidelines that would apply if you were to attend a hearing before a judge.
Even though the meeting of creditors is less formal than a court hearing, you shouldn’t assume that your ripped jeans and concert t-shirt are appropriate. However, there’s no national standard for courtroom attire. Instead, each federal district establishes its own dress code. For specifics, you can consult your local court’s website.
Most courts expect parties and visitors to wear business casual attire. For men, that would mean slacks, a collared shirt, and dress shoes. For women, a knee-length skirt (or dress), a conservative top or a pantsuit, and low-heel dress shoes.
You can expect that your court will also have a list of “don’ts,” like:
Even though not all courts require such formal attire, you can’t go wrong following that guidance when you attend your 341 meeting of creditors.
Even though the 341 meeting of creditors is an official proceeding conducted under oath, the atmosphere is more casual than a federal courtroom. The meeting will last only a short time, usually about an hour. You’ll be there with other filers, and your questioning will likely take no more than ten minutes.
Business suits are always acceptable; especially if you own your own business. For most people, however, a suit will be unnecessary, and might even cause the trustee to take more notice of you and your case (your best bet is to blend in unobtrusively).
These suggestions come with a caveat—you’re in bankruptcy court. No one expects you to spend money buying a new outfit. And, there’s nothing wrong with making due with what you already own—especially since the chances are that you’ll be fine as long as you’re neat and clean.
Many attorneys advise their clients to wear what they would ordinarily wear to work that day unless the client would be spending the day teaching swimming lessons or cleaning up hazardous waste. If you work in an electronics store, your khakis and polo shirt are acceptable. Most uniforms will be acceptable (minus any hats, caps, or helmets) as long as they are laundered and conservative.
So if you only have your uniforms, work boots, or jeans and t-shirts, don’t worry. As long as you’re making an effort, your clothing won’t count against you with the trustee at a meeting of creditors.
Attire that’s too showy can cause issues. Some attorneys remind their clients to leave the designer handbag, fur-trimmed jacket, and diamond earrings at home.
Although you’ll have listed all of those items in your bankruptcy schedules, and possibly even used an exemption to protect the property from the reach of the trustee and the court, such apparel doesn’t fit the bankruptcy setting. You might send up red flags that suggest you don’t need bankruptcy relief.
Your attorney will likely discuss appropriate attire with you. If you don’t have a lawyer, try calling your local U.S. Trustee’s office.