Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American icon. The late Justice, who died on September 18, 2020 at the age of 87, was only the second woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and a trailblazing feminist who enshrined equal protections for women into the law. Over her 27 years on the nation’s highest court, Ginsburg also became a fashion pioneer, bringing her unique style to the staid judges’ robes and subtly encoding meaning in her dress through an ever-growing collection of collars often given to her by colleagues and admirers.
“The standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie,” Ginsburg told the Washington Post in 2009. She and Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman Supreme Court justice, “thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman,” Ginsburg said.
She and O’Connor began wearing jabots— traditionally, lacy ruffles— on the front of their robes, and Ginsburg eventually branched out from lace, acquiring an impressive array of collars made from materials including beads and shells, in a wide range of styles and colors, from name-brand to bespoke.
Over time, Ginsburg’s collars came to symbolize more than just a long-overdue feminine energy on the Supreme Court. To her, each one developed a special significance. The style of the collar sometimes reflected the substance of her work; perhaps most famously, the liberal Ginsburg often wore a bejeweled collar that looked like armor on days she dissented.
After Ginsburg’s death, Elinor Carucci was granted access to some of the late Justice’s favorite collars for a still-life series, with details about each provided by the Ginsburg family.