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Gwyneth Paltrow on trial
Photography Pool, Courtesy of Getty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow’s trial style says ‘I’d rather be making bone broth’

The wellness guru’s pursed lips and cashmere roll necks say everything and nothing about who she is

From the moment Gwyneth Paltrow stepped into that hideous, pine-panelled courthouse in Utah, countless broadsheets and style titles have raced to uncover the hidden meaning kernelled within all those cashmere sweaters. What might Paltrow (who is being sued for allegedly  ̶m̶a̶s̶s̶a̶c̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶ mowing down an old man at a luxury ski resort) be trying to communicate via her lug-soled boots? That she’s ready to trample the geriatrics of Deer Valley and use their powdered remains as bone broth? Or might the sloping lines of her pebble-hued pantsuits represent a gentle, and therefore innocent, demeanour? And does her ‘no make-up make-up’ send up a distress signal that positions her as having nothing to hide? 

Paltrow clearly knows her audience: not only is she dressing for judge and jury but for the 423,000 people on the internet who have livestreamed the proceedings on Youtube. So everything has been earthen and inconspicuous to detract from the absurdity of the trial itself: ankle-length Prada skirts, long loden coats from The Row, and leather-bound Smythson notebooks. Despite internet users gawking at the retail price of these garments and clambering to coin the look “low-key rich bitch” à la Lydia Tár, these are aesthetic choices that maintain the sobriety of the venue and location. She can’t be too brazen in her outsize fame, nor too virtuous in her claims to be innocent, and she’s not going to satisfy the entitled famous person stereotype that her prosecutors are peddling by wearing something garish. Plus, anything more outré would have been out of step with someone whose main gripe is losing “a half-day of skiing”. 

There’s a world of colour theory at play, too, with neutrals, sage greens, and navies evoking feelings of trust and authority. But while courtroom fashions are often curated and considered (there are actual stylists who specialise in that kind of dressing) we’ve become too reliant on a semiotic reading of clothing, expecting every outfit worn by a celebrity in the midst of controversy to reveal something important about their interior lives. It can be fun to read the runes of a Margaret Howell rollneck but the desperate need to decode a wardrobe leads people to conjecture – like all those who claim Paltrow’s reading glasses are a dig at the retired optometrist she’s counter-suing (despite her wearing them long before the trial started), while others have connected a patronage of Brunello Cuccinelli to an assertion of power and status and so-called “quiet wealth”. But Paltrow has never been quiet about being rich: “I am who I am, I can't pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year,” as she said in 2018.

She’s also a wellness guru, ethically opposed to jumbo-sized spectacles of excess (lest we forget Paltrow came under fire for promoting intermittent fasting less than a fortnight ago) and so a skirted trouser from The Row speaks more to Shaker furniture and Fitzcarraldo Editions than audacious megastardom. A cult film darling was never going to wear a marabou feathered cape like Cardi B once did or shrink herself into a coquettish Peter Pan dress like Winona Ryder or do Jackie O cosplay like Linda Evangelista. She is too unbothered – lips pursed, smile tight and eyebrows slightly crossed – so perhaps her outfits are not so much “billionaire chic” but something more radical: her actual wardrobe, with pieces taken from her own fashion line at Goop. She’s not going to drag up for the media, nor the hapless prosecutor who has spent the majority of the trial complimenting her appearance. These are simply the outfits of a well-off woman who would rather be making bone broth: these are, to put it plainly, clothes.