For her official Supreme Court portrait last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wore a striking collar of gold feathers. Technically, it's a hand-sewn necklace made of gold and silk that, according to its designer, has also been worn by the likes of Kourtney Kardashian. But the most remarkable aspect of Ginsburg's necklace is its backstory.
There's often a meaning behind the collars that the justice chooses to wear. Ginsburg famously has a "dissent collar," for example, and one she wears when announcing a majority opinion, as well as countless others ("I have many, many collars," she told The Washington Post in 2009).
So people took note when she wore an unfamiliar one in the latest official portrait. A new Supreme Court photo is taken whenever a justice is added — a tradition that The New York Times' Adam Liptak calls "awkward" — and this one included Brett Kavanaugh for the first time. Some wondered whether his debut had anything to do with Ginsburg's choice of attire. "Today's collar: sharp daggers," BuzzFeed's Rachel Zarrell tweeted. "What do you think she's trying to say?"
Well, Ginsburg may or may not have been making a statement with the collar, but it's now clear where she got it. According to Town & Country, the piece was sent to her by a fan on a whim.
Susan Hyman, an attorney, told the magazine that she mailed it to Ginsburg "in a leap of faith." She'd previously worn it to a screening of the documentary RBG "because it reminded me of some of the 'dissent collars' she has worn." Then she decided to send it to the justice as a show of "appreciation for her pioneering life's work to advance women's equality."
"I wrote that I hoped she would wear it with pride and joy," Hyman says, but Town & Country reports that she didn't actually expect that to happen. Hyman must have been shocked when she got a letter back from Ginsburg herself.
"For today's surprise package, a thousand thanks," the justice wrote to Hyman on her official stationary. "The necklace is exquisite. I will enjoy wearing it on the bench and off as well. With huge appreciation, Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
Hyman told Town & Country that she sees Ginsburg as "larger than life," as does the online community of female attorneys of which she's a part. "We collect RBG action figures, mugs, and 'dissent collar' pins," she said. "She is revered as a patron saint, Wonder Woman, the original and ultimate lawyer mom."
That's why she thought the necklace would be a perfect match for Ginsburg. "It reminds me of something a warrior princess like Wonder Woman would wear as armor into battle," Hyman told the magazine. "It projects strength, confidence, and fearlessness."
This isn't the first time the justice has worn a collar sent to her by a fan. In 2015, a Reddit user reported that she received a handwritten response from Ginsburg after sending her a lace collar she'd made herself. "I will wear it often, with appreciation for your artistry and caring," the justice wrote, and called the piece "elegant."
Fans certainly know how to show Ginsburg their love — and she knows how to send it back.