It is with deep sorrow that I must write, on Friday, September 18th, 2020, we lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also known as The Notorious RBG. Justice Ginsburg was a real-life superhero. She was someone that I and countless others all over the globe looked up to. Long before she was nominated to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an iconic champion in the fight for equality. She fought gender-based discrimination at every point in her life. She fought for women’s rights, equal dignity, equal opportunity, a woman’s ability to choose, widower’s rights, marriage equality, pay discrimination, and equal protection under the eye of the law. Justice Ginsburg spent her entire life, fighting for others.
Amongst the many incredible things that made her so incredible, Justice Ginsburg had a supreme sense of style. Even when it came to her uniform on the bench, Justice Ginsburg sought to make her voice heard. To honor her, I thought I would look back at the way Justice Ginsburg transformed the uniform and made it her own, despite the masculine construction of the gown.
The justice gown is often a standard black robe. Yet one thing I never thought about, was the masculine construction of the gown. In 2009, in an interview with The Washington Post, she explained the design of the gown, “You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie,” said Justice Ginsburg.
On July 7, 1981, President Ronald Reagan, who had pledged during his 1980 presidential campaign to appoint the first woman to the court, announced he would nominate Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice to the United States Supreme Court. Justice O’Connor was the first woman to be appointed. The reason I bring this up is that the first female justice wasn’t nominated until 1981. The federal judiciary was established through the Judiciary Act of 1789. The first session of The Supreme Court took place in 1790. That means 191 years went by without a single woman on the bench. It’s no wonder the justice gown took on such a masculine construction.
Justices Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor decided to take the robe and make it their own. “Sandra Day O’Connor and I thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman. So I have many, many collars.” Justice Ginsburg told The Washington Post.
Thus, brought to light the many collars and jabots that the Notorious RBG made so popular. For inquisitive minds, a jabot is defined by Oxford Languages as “an ornamental frill or ruffle on the front of a shirt or blouse, typically made of lace.” Over the years, we got to know the many collars and jabots collected by Justice Ginsburg. On multiple occasions, Justice Ginsburg shared her collection comprised of gifts from all over the world. Her jabots became a symbol of justice. One could even predict her opinion on a case by what she was wearing before she even took her seat on the court.
Justice Ginsburg’s personal favorite was a South African crochet collar. It was simple, soft, and feminized the look of the justice uniform, pushing back on the male-dominated courtroom and casting aside any prior misogynistic precedent.
Not only did Justice Ginsburg have some fashionable pieces, but she also had some statement pieces. When Justice Ginsburg was apart of the majority opinion, she wore a gold, yellow crocheted style suspended from a gold chain, with beads at the hem. She wore this collar when she knew she was to speak for the majority of the court. These were here shining moments and were symbolized by her golden collar.
Then, of course, Justice Ginsburg had her collar she wore for those often dark days. The infamous, “dissenting collars”. Whenever Justice Ginsburg found herself apart of the minority on the court, Justice Ginsburg would read her dissents from the bench armed with her more serious, collars. Her dissenting collar was an embroidered collar, sitting on a black band. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Justice Ginsburg wore this collar the day after President Trump was elected to office. One of my favorite collars was this gold-feathered collar she wore in her first photo with Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The collars and the jabots were one part of Justice Ginsburg’s supreme sense of style. I cannot wrap up this article without mentioning her impeccable means of accessorizing. Particularly, I loved her affinity for gloves. After multiple cancer treatments, Justice Ginsburg felt it was important to protect herself. Being the public figure she was, she began to wear gloves. But after a while, she grew to love wearing these gloves and made it apart of her wardrobe. My favorite photos of the Notorious RBG often featured her wearing a pair of lacy gloves. Usually, they were black which made me love her even more.
I am beyond heartbroken with the loss of The Notorious RBG. If I am being honest, I wasn’t even sure if I could write this article. I knew it would include a lot of tearful moments and it certainly did. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a real-life superhero. She was selfless, bold, courageous, kind, hilarious, and dedicated. She worked up until the last moments of her life, fighting for the equal rights of all people. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will forever be a true hero. I, and so many others, will carry her guiding light for the rest of our lives
The world feels incredibly dark right now. The United States is going through a time of deep division. But I firmly believe that Justice Ginsburg would want us to stay strong, come together, and continue the fight to ensure everyone is treated equally under the law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used her voice throughout her life in order to defend others. For those of you reading within the United States, it’s now your turn to use your voice. Register to vote, and vote early. This year’s election is set to be one of the most important elections of our lifetime. Vote like your life depends on it… because it does.
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