I don’t know about you, but I feel like almost everyone I follow on social medias has gotten political during the last months (I follow mainly people from US). The reason is pretty obvious. Musicians, actors, brands, bloggers/entrepreneurs, part of the press, stylists are simply speaking their mind but some people aren’t taking it well.
On january 21, when millions of women around the world marched in support of women’s rights, Gucci and Dior stood for those who civilly took to the streets. Some people, many women included and that’s particularly sad, took it badly. They disapproved the choice and left comments on the brands’ socials suggesting to “stick to fashion and stay out of politics”. But Gucci is the founder of Chime for Change, which raises funds and awareness in favor of girls’ and womens’ empowerment, and Dior’s creative director is a woman who strongly believes that we should all be feminists. Silence wasn’t an option, I guess.
Who thinks that fashion should stay out of politics totally ignores that fashion and politics have always been strictly connected.
I often hear the concept that everything we do is political, from the moment we wake up till the time we go to bed. After all, all the choices we make mean something. The coffee we buy, the music we listen to, the smartphone we use, the films we watch and the films we decide not to watch and, of course, the clothes we wear.
Because fashion is political. It’s always been and it will probably always be.
In ancient Greece, after the Persian Wars (started in 390 b.C., those featured in “300”, when Spartans were defeated and killed at the Thermopylae but Greeks won at Marathon), citizens were encouraged to wear the himation, the typical Greek wool outer garment. Everything that came from Persia or was related to East lands and countries, like fabrics and decorations, was considered despicable. That’s why fashion is political.
In ancient Rome, free Roman citizens wore the toga. It represented Rome and couldn’t be pierced with a brooch or a clasp. It could only be draped. With the expansion of the Empire, toga was allowed to those people who were considered Roman. It was a kind of green card, in a certain way. It was a symbol of belonging. That’s why fashion is political.
But let’s talk about recent history.
You may think that these women were protesting for something frivolous. But the miniskirt wasn’t just a garment. It symbolized freedom, it was a declaration of independence. Wearing a miniskirt meant “I am a woman and I’m comfortable with my sexuality”. Pretty revolutionary, don’t you think? Considering that until then women were most of all seen as wives and mothers.
During the protests of 1968, many students wore the parka (or eskimo, as they used to call it at that time). The jacket quickly became a symbol of the student protest and then it started to be associated with the liberal wing. It was a practical, warm and affordable garment. People from the conservative party used to wear the loden, a more expensive woolen coat. So, if you wore the parka/eskimo you were a liberal, if you wore the loden you were a conservative. That’s why fashion is political.
Now we’re used to see the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) wearing expensive designer clothes and high street brands. Even if the Duchess seems to prefer English designers, most of all Alexander McQueen, she’s allowed to wear foreign brands. When the idea of a commoner married to the heir to the throne was pretty inconceivable, everything Lady Diana wore had to be made in England. Lady Di started to regularly wear foreign brands (and Versace was one of her favorite ones) only after the separation from Prince Charles.
Italy’s former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi use to wear shirts with rolled-up sleeves, like Barack Obama, which he surely admires. Obviously he wanted to be perceived as a charismatic (and cool) leader, like Obama. Rolled-up sleeves also communicate that a person is practical and not afraid of working hard.
For the Inauguration Day Melania Trump chose an outfit that clearly reminded of the ensemble designed by Oleg Cassini worn by Jackie Kennedy for the Inauguration Day in 1961. That meant the new First Lady is willing to appear as chic as Jackie, probably the ultimate First Lady, when it comes to style and glamour.
Colors are political. Prime Minister of UK Teresa May recently met President Donald Trump wearing a red outfit. It wasn’t a coincidence. Red is the color of the Republican party. So it was like saying “I’m with you, we think the same”.
Aesthetics can spread ideas that, otherwise, would hardly be explained and expressed.
The way we dress is a way to communicate. What we wear talk about us and our ideas. So yes, fashion is political. Those who deny it don’t know anything about fashion. They should study and read more and leave less nonsense comments on social medias.