As you know, the United States of America lost one of its most significant figures on September 18, 2020: Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Widely known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg or RBG, Ginsburg served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for 27 years, from August 10, 1993, to the day of her death. She was the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, preceded only by Sandra Day O’Connor.
Historians could (and should) pen book after book about Ginsburg’s legacy, as she was one of the first and greatest champions of gender equality and women’s rights. Acknowledging that, we admit that we certainly could not begin to encapsulate the breadth and depth of her impact here. But what we can discuss is her fashion. Fashion is our area of expertise and something Ginsburg excelled at as well. So, in reverence for this petite powerhouse for whom we will always be grateful, we will regard the aesthetic and conceptual success of some of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most memorable looks.
The Remarkable Stylings of the Notorious R.B.G.
Demonstrating her commitment to the purpose of style, which is to express individuality and encourage confidence, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (lovingly compared to The Notorious B.I.G. with the moniker “The Notorious R.B.G.”) enhanced her judges’ robes with statement-making accessories. And, outside of the courtroom, she also made smart sartorial choices that confirmed her intelligence, competence, fearlessness, and compassion. Her work attire adornments comprised jabots, earrings, and gloves, while her dress for public appearances was bold with an international flair.
As a Supreme Court justice, RBG made her opinions known by both the side of the case that she took and the embellishments that she combined with her robes. Most notably, Ginsburg often wore jabots, collars, or necklaces close to her throat while presiding. A jabot is an ornamental ruffle or frill on the front of a shirt or blouse. Originally, jabots were lace frills on the shirts of Frenchmen. But Ginsburg commandeered the jabot in order to assert that she was not a man but was still a capable individual possessing authority.
Unfortunately, RBG had to do the same with the very outfit she wore to do her job. In 2009, days before Justice Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed, RBG told the Washington Post that she incorporated collars into her style as a judge as a way to combat the sexism of the court’s dress code. O’Connor mentioned that no one seemed to make robes for women justices. RBG confirmed this sentiment by saying, “You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie. So, 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.”
Ginsburg was entirely accurate in her estimation of the number of collars she has, as she proved in a Yahoo! News interview with Katie Couric in 2014. RBG showed Couric her closet full of collars in her chambers at the Supreme Court building. She also pointed out ones that played an important role in her vocation.
For instance, she began the tour of her collar collection by calling out her favorite: a wide, white beaded jabot from Cape Town. Next, she showcased the black bib necklace decorated with gold embroidery and faceted stones that functioned as her dissenting collar. The reason for her choice? “It looks fitting for dissent.” She also highlighted a crotched yellow and cream jabot accented with crystals and gold hardware that she wore when she was announcing the opinion for the court.
The Subtle Communications of Justice Ginsburg’s Jabots
With her collars, Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved several goals.
Declared Her Presence
First, she drew attention to her face. People accomplish this with all sorts of accessories such as earrings, necklaces, scarves, and ties. By broadcasting her desire to be seen, especially at the start of her tenure as a justice, she verified her refusal to fade into the background. Though she was part of the group, she would not be swayed by the majority. This position challenged the uniformity of the all-black judicial robes that melded the members of the Supreme Court together. RBG’s jabots worked as something attention-seeking circling her neck. Therefore, they gave her the same opportunity to stand out that shirt collars and ties gave her male counterparts.
Emphasized Her Gender
As mentioned, and by her own admission, Ginsburg also donned her collars to distinguish herself as a woman. For years, Ginsburg and O’Connor were the only two women out of nine justices. Yet, they did not accept that their minority status signified their obligation to be silent. Instead, their small number compelled them to speak out all the more. With delicate jabots gracing her collarbone, RBG further illustrated her resolve to effectively represent her gender by proffering fairly vocal dissents. After O’Connor retired in 2006 and before Sonia Sotomayor (the third female justice) was appointed in 2009, it was Ginsburg’s turn to be the only woman on the court. And during this time, she increased the forcefulness of her dissents all the more.
Communicated Her Values
Finally, Ginsburg’s collars provided insight into her personality and beliefs. As she explained, she wore certain collars for specific occasions. When she approved the court’s decision, she wore a collar that shone like the sun. When she disapproved, she wore something more somber and edgy. And her favorite collar was simple, symmetrical, and extremely elegant. In light of this information, the media has speculated that the metallic feathered collar RBG wore for the official court portrait taken after Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment imitated spiked armor in an allusion to her disapproval of him. By switching out her collars in accordance with her various feelings, moods, ideas, and opinions, Ginsburg used her style to reveal her authentic inner self. And in that way, her fashion emphasized her power.
Besides her jabots, Ginsburg wore few other accessories as frequently as earrings. Her clip-ons were almost as commanding as her collars. And of course, they were always the perfect complement. Spherical clip-ons seemed to be among her favorite. She sported several different sets of such design made of gold, silver, or gunmetal. Some even contained jewel-toned inserts. Yet, she also wore earrings that featured more dimension. Among these were a gold fan-like pair, a silver wire pair, and a triangular black and silver pair. RBG’s earrings echoed the call of her collars for people to direct their eyes toward her face so they could better hear the words coming from her mouth.
Amazingly, Ginsburg battled cancer five different times. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 when she was 66. After beating this bout of cancer, she started slipping into lace gloves to help her hands heal from the chemotherapy. Upon doing so, she discovered that she liked the gloves well enough to continue wearing them from time to time.
Though this type of glove is decidedly old-fashioned, RGB nevertheless wore them with aplomb. What’s more, by wearing them, she seemed to be asking us to recall critical moments from the past.
For instance, it’s easy to consider the gloves a commemoration of the time in which RBG demonstrated inspiring physical and emotional stamina by defeating cancer. But interior design website Veranda suggests that Ginsburg’s gloves also summoned up Madonna’s style in the 1980s, at which point the singer was carving an iconic image for herself out of the pop music scene. Furthermore, Veranda believes the gloves evoked the Art Deco style of the 1920s as well. This decade opened with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in 1920.
By bringing to mind these major historical moments for women with such an unconventional (yet adorable) clothing item, RBG once again enlisted her style to symbolize her inner strength as a woman.
Globally Inspired Pieces
When Ginsburg presented herself to the public, she always looked professional and put-together. However, she also appeared cultured and well-traveled, which reinforced her reputation as a sage decision-maker.
RBG often chose pieces that paid tribute to other countries. These pieces included mandarin collar jackets cut from colorfully patterned jacquard, gilded caftans that shimmered in the spotlight, and loose tunics topped with crystals or embroidery. Sometimes, she even wore silky turbans instead of her typical low ponytail and scrunchie.
Another fact that Ginsburg divulged during her Couric interview was that her collars were gifts and purchases from around the world. Therefore, RBG really had traversed the globe, as evidenced by her assortment of jabots.
Another standard ensemble of the Ginsburg wardrobe was the power suit. While always tailored to perfection, Ginsburg’s suits also came in a rainbow of colors such as red, blue, and purple. Though, she had neutral versions like brown and grey as well. And she frequently concluded them in a straight skirt rather than pants.
A Bit of Sparkle
Several of Ginsburg’s earrings and collars as well as some broaches, scarves, and jackets testified to her love for a little glitter. Yet, she was known to lavish even more sparkle on her look with her shoe choice. RBG had a penchant for Ferragamo footwear, and she also stepped out in glistening silver heels and shiny gold pumps.
The Honorable Singularity of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
From just a very brief summary of her life, we can see that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a formidable Supreme Court justice. She was also an enduringly devoted wife, a hardworking mother, and a progressive advocate. Additionally, she was a faithful feminist, an influential teacher, a tireless student, and a lover of opera. These are just a few of her many exceptional roles. As such a multi-faceted woman of astounding acumen, empathy, principle, and tenacity, she embodied a unique fashion icon. But she was a fashion icon nonetheless because she accurately identified her style. Then, she mobilized it to help her change lives and make history.
To us, Ruth Bader Ginsburg depicts how prosperous and fulfilled any woman who defines her style type can be. And we would never leave a woman to determine her style type on her own. Instead, we’ll go through this process with you. Your style coach Gigi can help you achieve a deep understanding of your personality and your lifestyle so that you can discover your true style. Then, you can utilize it to develop and display your confidence in the spirit of RBG. So, to initiate your style journey, schedule your complimentary consultation with Gigi today!