According to Coco Chanel, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air. It’s the wind that blows in the new fashion: you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
Fashion has always been a crucial factor in our lives whether we realize it or not. Even purposefully trying to not be fashionable is a fashion statement in itself as seen by Miranda Priestly’s famous monologue about “cerulean blue” in The Devil Wears Prada. In the age of social media, everything that we put on our bodies is a statement about who we are and what we stand for. Consequently, as a result of society’s movement toward political correctness, fashion has become the biggest statement one can make.
For instance, after President Trump’s famous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, hats with the word ‘pussy’ stitched on it were worn by thousands of women on marches after his election to show opposition to his misogynistic views. This non-compliance was also seen at President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union speech, as the women of the U.S. Democratic party dressed in all white. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated that they wanted President Trump to see a “sea of white” –a color strongly associated with the Suffragettes. This act was a huge statement in both fashion and political realms.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, fashion also plays a massive part in politics, as seen with Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. In the UK’s classist society, tracksuits are seen as the uniform of the working class. This created opposition against Jeremy Corbyn, an avid wearer of tracksuits, as his fashion choices made many believe he was too common to rule a country. Moreover, Theresa May’s kitten heels caused an uproar as the Union leader said that she should wear flats when she became Prime Minister. This was due to the TUC conference in Brighton backing a new law to ban women from being forced to wear high heels in the workplace. Her choice to wear kitten heels was a bold statement considering how she was asked to support this bill. Over 145,000 people have since signed a petition calling for a government inquiry and a debate in Parliament on the campaign. Even wearing flat shoes would be a political statement that the previous Prime Minister, unfortunately, did not make.
Over in Hollywood, subtle political statements made through fashion have become the standard during performances and speeches. A major example of this would be Beyonce’s Black Panther Party inspired costume at the 2016 Super Bowl. The Black Panther Party was a radical political group that gained popularity in the 1960s for protesting the systematic oppression of black Americans. Her outfit showed obvious support for the movement and encouraged feminist ideals through its design. It’s incredible how much can be said through something so simple as an outfit.
Another moment that caught the attention of the public was Kristen Stewart’s barefoot moment on the Cannes 2018 red carpet. The event had a ‘heels only’ attire just for women– a rule that is nothing short of sexist and ableist. Due to it only directed toward women and completely ignoring the health complications that heels cause, this rule could possibly inhibit women with health issues from attending the red carpet. Stewart’s heel removal was the first time some light was cast on the issue, which turned this simple action into a big feminist statement.
In recent history, nothing gathered as much attention as the #MeToo movement. It was started by Rose McGowan who made allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, a decision that encouraged women to open up about their experiences with toxic and abusive professionals in Hollywood. The movement reached global headlines as the 2018 BAFTA dress code in the UK was simply black to support the Time’s Up movement– a movement stemming from #MeToo which focused on combatting sexual harassment in the workplace. Kate Middleton was the only guest who ignored the dress code as she arrived wearing a dark green Jenny Packham gown with a tiny black waist belt due to the royal family’s neutrality rule. This apparent ‘neutrality’ created a lot of controversy as Middleton’s choice to stay out of politics was a political statement in itself.
Social media paired with fashion has become a force to be reckoned with in the political atmosphere. Through largely publicized events, something simple like a dress or a suit can make a huge statement regarding current affairs.