Back in June I queried whether Justice Kagan will wear a neck doily. Brian Palmer at Slate posed the same question, though he called it a “frilly neckpiece.” Apparently it is really called a jabot.
Merry olde England. U.S. Federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, can wear pretty much anything they like—they can even go in jeans and t-shirts—but the simple black robe has been de rigueur for those on the federal bench since the early 19th century. (Some state courts continue to wear variations, like red robes on the Maryland Court of Appeals and gray for the justices of the Georgia Supreme Court.) The V-neck on a standard judicial gown hangs a little low, which isn’t a problem for men, since it exposes their shirt-collar and necktie. Women’s wear doesn’t have a consistent neckline, so many female judges seek some kind of neck adornment to cover the gap. Some of them look to England, where male and female judges alike still wear a two-banded ribbon atop their robes. The accessory is still au courant in several former English colonies, like Canada and Zimbabwe, as well.
ot all female judges take this route. Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, whom President Obama also considered for the Supreme Court, often prefers a brooch to going all frilly. Another option is simply to adjust your personal attire to accommodate the robe’s plunging neckline and skip the accessorizing altogether. Judge Kimba Wood of the Second Circuit, for example, tends to wear a crew neck under her gown. Justice Sonia Sotomayor also prefers anunadorned judicial robe with a higher collar underneath. She received a jabot as a gift from Justice Ginsburg, but doesn’t usually wear it during oral argument. (No word yet on who will gift Kagan with a jabot, or whether she will wear it.)
Some judges, like Kim McLane Wardlaw of the Ninth Circuit, close the robe’s neckline completely, eliminating the need for an accessory. While judges typically order their polyester garments from online retailers—high-end versions cost around $400—Wardlaw had a Hollywood designer create her unique robes.
Slate also included a nice photoshopped image.