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RBG's Iconic Collars Spoke Volumes

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said her lace collar was her favorite, as worn in this photo celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench in 2013. Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18, 2020, from complications to pancreatic cancer, made history for a variety of reasons: She was the first Jewish female — and second female justice ever — to serve on the Supreme Court. But in addition to her endlessly impressive resume and renowned reputation, she left a lasting legacy with her fashion choices, too. According to Town and Country Magazine, Ginsburg had "jazzed up her black robes with some truly dazzling neckwear" for years, and her accessories were more than aesthetic choices — many believe she quietly and consistently attached political opinions to each of her signature neckpieces.

Ginsburg, Obama's State of Union speech
Ginsburg wore this jazzy "majority opinion" neckpiece to attend President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in 2013.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In fact, the Notorious RBG made such a splash with her statement jabots and necklaces throughout the years, she inspired a top fashion brand to pay tribute to her subtle but significant style choices. As Harper's Bazaar reported, Ginsburg "has worn the same sparkling Banana Republic bib necklace as a sartorial way to express her disapproval" since 2012. She's worn it repeatedly whenever she's disagreed with a Supreme Court decision, and perhaps most famously wore it the day after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. When asked why she chose the bedazzled black piece to make such strong statements, she told Katie Couric in 2014 that it "looked fitting for dissents."

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Last year, Banana Republic reissued the original collar necklace for a limited time and donated half of the proceeds from each sale to the ACLU Women's Rights Project, an organization co-founded by Ginsburg.

"The Notorious Necklace is a re-issue of Banana Republic's original design from 2012," a Banana Republic spokesperson says via email. "As a brand co-founded by a woman, empowerment has always been part of our DNA and it was a great opportunity to benefit the advancement of women's rights as a continuation of our brand commitment to champion equality."

But the dissent collar is just one of the main jabots Ginsburg had in her collection. As she showed Couric, she had a "majority opinion collar" (a glitzy yellow and rose floral design gifted to her by her law clerks), a replica of Plácido Domingo's black and white collar in "Stiffelio" purchased at the Metropolitan Opera Gift Shop, and her favorite all-purpose piece: a lacy white piece purchased in Cape Town, South Africa.

Another iconic Ginsburg collar is the one she wore in her first official court portrait with then newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. For the photo, RBG wore a Stella & Dot necklace that Town and Country described as "a cross between a feathered wing and spiky armor," and anyone inclined to look for meaning in her fashion messaging could have interpreted the look as "her prickly disapproval" of Kavanaugh.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SC
Ginsburg wore this "cross between a feathered wing and spiky armor” for the official photo at the Supreme Court after Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench in 2018. Was that meant to convey "prickly disapproval"?
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

But RBG is, at her core, a woman of the people, as evidenced by a sweet 2015 anecdote in which a Reddit user reported making Ginsburg a lovely lace collar and then receiving a gracious thank-you note in return. Redditor Sahrabee shared a photo of the note (written on official RBG letterhead!), which read, "Dear Ms. Harvin, The lace collar is elegant. I will wear it often, with appreciation for your artistry and caring. Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

Ginsburg's sartorial choices came a long way in their evolution over the years. When she first joined the Supreme Court in 1993, she opted for a more traditional white jabot that lacked the razzle-dazzle of her later looks. As she told the Washington Post, "[Y]ou 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, Kennedy
In her earlier days, Ginsburg favored more traditional lace jabots, like this one seen in her 2010 Supreme Court portrait next to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images

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