Clara Spera has many fond memories of her grandmother Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and some of them just so happen to be related to fashion.
In a new essay for the December/January issue of Harper's Bazaar, the lawyer reflects on her relationship with the late Supreme Court justice and reveals that one of her favorite activities as a child was "shopping in Bubbie's closet."
"I would delight in rummaging through the perfectly organized — by season and color — closet. Occasionally she would identify items she thought I’d like, making sure to tell me the exact history of the piece — where it was from, when she acquired it, what special events she had worn it to," Spera wrote.
Ginsburg would often loan her granddaughter clothes with no return date, but she also held on tightly to certain pieces.
"Once, after having identified a sumptuous cashmere winter coat, I wore it into her room and announced that I thought it looked particularly good on me. Barely glancing up from her mountain of briefs, she gave me the once-over and firmly replied, 'Yes, and it looks very good on me too,'" Spera wrote.
When Spera wears Ginsburg's clothing now, she remembers her fondly and feels "humbled and comforted."
"These items carry more than just a legacy of sartorial elegance; they are a tangible reminder of the woman underneath the judicial robe and of everything she taught me, from lessons in style to how best to continue to strive toward a 'more perfect union,'" she wrote.
Ginsburg will forever be remembered for her legal legacy, and the magnitude of her influence isn't lost on Spera, who works as a reproductive rights litigator at the American Civil Liberties Union.
"As a child, I had little awareness of the magnitude of her job or her triumphs for gender equality from which I would undoubtedly benefit," she wrote. "But I learned from her that it was important to keep my room neat and tidy, that I shouldn’t raise my voice because it wouldn’t get me anywhere, and that I could imagine a future for myself unimpeded by stereotypes about 'the way women are.'"
While reflecting on the many lessons her grandmother instilled in her, Spera said her "Bubbie" taught her that equality in the home is just as important as equality in the workplace. And the lawyer firmly believes that both men and women should share household and child care responsibilities.
"My grandfather was a renowned professor and practitioner of tax law; he was also a fabulous cook ... My father and husband excel at washing the dishes. Their mastery of domestic duties has enabled three generations of women to advance their ambitions to help future generations of women — and all people — to have fulfilling lives in equal partnerships," she wrote.
Spera also acknowledged that many women have had to leave the workforce to tackle these responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing that society still has a long way to go toward achieving gender equality.
"My grandmother helped reform our country so that discrimination on the basis of sex is no longer explicitly written into law. But her project of achieving 'real change, enduring change' is far from completed. It is now on my generation to break down gender barriers," she wrote. "It is humbling to continue her legacy as a legal fellow at the ACLU. Every time I step into one of her items of clothing and out into the world, I carry her memory and righteous fight with me."