Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died September 18, 2020, from "complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer," the Court said. Serving on the Court for nearly 30 years, she will long be remembered as one of the greatest legal minds in recent history, radically changing how we understand gender eqality and the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendement to the U.S. Constitution today.
Part of her brilliance was Justice Ginsburg's ability speak about legal questions in a manner that made them understandable for everyone. To illustrate why the regional protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) were still necessary in her 2013 dessenting opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, for example, she famously wrote that “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
Ginsburg was also known for her disarming sense of humor ("We have a lot in common," she told CNN of the Notorious B.I.G., who inspired her nickname, 'The Notorious R.B.G.'), and her uncanny ability to connect with people—even those with whom she disagreed. (Case in point: her genuine friendship with fellow Justice and opera afficionado Antonin Scalia.)
For many of her admirers around the country, Justice Ginsburg's tremendous fashion sensibility—which propelled her to pop culture stardom as an octogenarian—made her more accesible, facilitating a sense of connection between perhaps the most iconic American working mother of our time and millions women and men throughout the country.
Here, a look at five signature style moments from Ruth Bader Ginsburg's historic and inspiring life.
Her Collar and Jabot Collection
Perhaps the fashion statement Ginsburg is best known for is wearing jabots (a decorative ruffle typically made of lace) and collar necklaces with her judicial robe. In 2009, she explained to The Washington Post why she donned her favorite accessory: "You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie," she said. "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."
Her Round, Oversized Glasses
Ginsburg's frames have an air of throwback style from 1970s, the decade during which she founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and assiduously fought for women's equality in the courts, including before the Supreme Court and typically with her hair pulled back in a low ponytail and secured with a scrunchie. The shape and size of Ginsburg's signature frames are also often associated with a studious persona and deep intellect, something from which Ginsburg never shied away but instead proudly embraced.
Her Love of the Color Red
Justice Ginsburg wore a lot a blue, which was reportedly her favorite color, but her frequent donning of red suits stands out as a particularly bold choice given the seriousness of her work the significance of her role as a supreme court justice. Was it a subtle commentary on the power imbalance in the workplace? A playful reflection of her passion for the law? We may never know, but we're tipping our hats her way nonetheless.
Her Ladylike Fishnet Gloves
Justice Ginsburg was never one to be bound by tradition, having time and again broken professional barriers for herself and paving the way for generations of others via not just her legal work but life as example. Yet, for all that trailblazing work, Ginsburg's sartorial selections were often inspired by the past. Take her fishnet gloves, for example, which recall not just Madonna's 1980s style but also Art Deco style from the 1920s, the period following passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote in 1920.
Her Occasional, Always Appropriate, Sparkle
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent a great deal of time supporting the work of others, most recently earlier this year, when she presented philanthropist Agnes Gund with the very first Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award in recognition of "an extraordinary woman who has exercised a positive and notable influence on society and served as exemplary role model in both principles and practice," according to a release. For the occasion, she stepped out in an embroidered top (a sartorial selection she often made for evening affairs), tuxedo pants, and statement-making glittery shoes. May her legacy shine on for decades to come.
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