The Lace Collar Revisted—A View from the Supreme Court

Official Supreme Court Portrait, 2010

Official Supreme Court Portrait, 2010

I’ve never given much thought to the look of Supreme Court justices—you’ve seen one black robe, you’ve seen them all, right? That’s why I was surprised by Ruth Bader Ginzburg’s lace collar, added to her robe. She’s sported this addition for some time, but I only just noticed it with all the attention Ginzburg has received for her strong dissent from a recent controversial Supreme Court’s decision.

Why the collar? Apparently the first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, started the tradition. According to a report on Huffington Post, she felt that the black robe washed out the color in her face. Her male colleagues had the advantage of having their white shirts peek out from beneath the robe; a white collar gave the same effect. Ginzburg has many different collars and has even presented one to new justice Sonia Sotomayor as a gift. She chose this interesting one from South Africa for her official photograph.

It should not come as a surprise that some fashion critics dislike the lace collar, which they feel disrupts the visual unity of the court. But really, these women are following a long tradition, using lace to bring light up to their face.

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2 Responses to The Lace Collar Revisted—A View from the Supreme Court

  1. I don’t get the critics’ problem with this. Rehnquist used to wear stripes on his robe inspired by a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, which seemed so silly.
    Don’t you think part of this is a desire to highlight that women are now represented on the court?

  2. JS says:

    I have to agree with the critic. That lace collar just seems to sit on top of the robe. The kind of jabot worn by foreign jurists might work better.

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