The Supreme Court Grappled With the Whole Concept of ‘Fashion’ Yesterday

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Justice Stephen BreyerPhoto: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s most fashion-oriented case in some time — Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., which centers on copyrighted cheerleader uniforms — is underway, and the New York Times has the play-by-play. The extracts of the discussion published sound less like Supreme Court proceedings and more like a panel made up of emerging designers with meandering thoughts on style. The group discussed everything from camouflage prints to Mondrian in their quest to decide what constitutes design copyright. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described the cheerleader uniforms as being embellished with “chevrons and other things,” while Justice John Roberts made the point that clothes are “not simply to cover the body. It’s to convey a particular message.” (You don’t say!)

Clearly, no one here is a fashion maven (except possibly Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who once counted Fendi as a major client). But it was Justice Stephen Breyer — the same man who has weighed in on Kim Kardashian’s robbery for the court record — who made a declaration that sounded more Donna Karan than black-robed judge. “The clothes on the hanger do nothing,” he said. “The clothes on the woman do everything. And that is, I think, what fashion is about.” (“That’s so romantic,” Justice Kagan replied.)