A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Style

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2000. Photo: Karin Cooper/Getty Images

Of the many hurdles Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced when she was sworn in as a female justice on the United States Supreme Court, one was what to wear with the traditional black robe. Men on the court generally pair theirs with a shirt and tie. Ginsburg chose to go with lacy collars and the occasional jabot. Her collection has grown to over a dozen from all over the world, including a “dissent collar” and a “majority opinion collar,” as she described them to Katie Couric.

Ginsburg’s known for other accessories, too. There are her clip-on earrings, plus her lace and fishnet gloves, which she took a liking to after initially wearing them for post-chemotherapy protection in 1999. And then there are her flashy looks sans robes, like a green dashiki or a turquoise ensemble made of Chinese silk. Read on for an excerpt from the new book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg about RBG’s style, and click through the slideshow to see some of her best looks. 

Rarely does she go casual. According to Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine, during a massive snowstorm, RBG and the other justices were picked up in jeeps for oral argument. “Ginsburg chose to wear a straight skirt and high heels,” Toobin reported. “Because of the snow on the ground and Ginsburg’s outfit, the driver, who usually worked in the clerk’s office, had to lift the tiny justice into the air and deposit her in the car. (Later, Ginsburg wrote the fellow a letter of recommendation for law school.)

Dress is one issue on which RBG can be a conservative. Her oldest granddaughter, Clara, says RBG will not-so-subtly offer her a shawl if she thinks Clara’s shirt is too low cut. In her freshman year of college, Clara got her nose pierced, along with a total of thirteen piercings in her ears, much to RBG’s horror. “She kept calling it ‘that thing on your face,’” Clara says, amused. To me, RBG expressed relief that at least a nose ring, unlike a tattoo, could be easily removed.

At public functions, RBG wears gloves, often black or white lace. In the dead of winter in Michigan, she wore daring knee-high leather boots. She usually carries the Constitution in her handbag, and after she got an MZ Wallace tote in the Glamour gift bag, she liked it so much she bought another. (She bought one for Clara too.) She has a weakness for Ferragamo shoes. RBG’s hair is invariably combed back severely, often affixed with a scrunchie. Every once in a while, she would come to chambers wearing a turban, and her secretaries would warn the clerks, according to one of them, that it was a turban day, “so that we wouldn’t giggle when we saw her.”

Reprinted with permission from Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Copyright © 2015 by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik.

A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Style