What does a world of glitter and glam have to do with a boring realm of politics? Well, everything! You can tell a lot about a person even before they say anything. Their dressing sense and overall personality speak more about the message they want to convey than their actual words. Fashion has always been political. Not only that, it has been influential too.
It is no secret that before the advent of the internet, fashion trends were set by politicians and celebrities with a huge fan following. Whatever the first lady of a country or any other important person wore at an event would instantly become a trend for everyone to follow. The world witnessed many occasions where an important person’s dressing went viral for various reasons.
One such occasion was the newly elected vice president of America, Kamala Harris’s cover for Vogue magazine. She was shown wearing a casual blazer over a t-shirt paired with Converse sneakers. The photo was criticized by the netizens for the VP’s choice of clothing. Anna Wintour, the chief editor of Vogue, clarified that they wanted to portray Ms. Harris as someone “very, very accessible and approachable,” unlike the vibe the previous government gave off.
This was just one of many examples where fashion clashed with politics. We bring you a list of such occasions so that there remains no doubt that fashion has always been a part of politics and vice versa.
John F. Kennedy’s Hate for Hats
At his inauguration, John Kennedy wore the usual inaugural uniform and a top hat that everyone expected. What everyone did not know about was the fact that the newly elected president hated wearing hats. He took off his top hat almost immediately. This seems like no big deal, but the influence of John’s actions passed down to his successors as no president ever wore a top hat at their inauguration ceremonies. Not only this, the fashion for top hats was almost extinct by the end of John’s short-lived presidential career. Now, this is the influence we strive for.
Jackie Kennedy’s No-fur Outfit
Jackie Kennedy was the wife of the 35th president of America, John F. Kennedy. While John was the youngest elected president at the age of 43, his wife Jackie was only 31 when she became the first lady. John’s inauguration ceremony took everyone by surprise, mainly because of what Jackie chose to wear.
At that time, the first ladies before Jackie were used to make public rounds with long coats, heavily lined with fur. Defying this trend, Jackie wore a simple woolen A-line coat with a big button at the front. A narrow line of fur could be seen on her collar that matched the hand-warmer muff she was carrying.
The color of the coat is said to be beige in real, while the daytime photos showed it to be baby blue. Either way, other women looked old-fashioned in their heavy attires while Jackie continued to be simple yet classy.
Melania Trump’s Controversial Jacket
Style statement is not always positive. More often than not, it becomes controversial and causes a stir unlike any other. Something similar happened with the 45th first lady of America, Melania Trump. In 2018, during the infamous zero-tolerance policy, Melania wore a green Zara jacket that has written “I really don’t care, do u” at the back. It cannot be a coincidence that the former first lady chose to wear this jacket while visiting an immigrant facility where Mexican children were who got separated from their parents.
As expected, this incident went viral on the internet resulting in bashing and whatnot. Former President Trump clarified in a tweet that Melania’s not-so-hidden was intended for the media, which spreads fake news. Months later, Melania also repeated the same words, but the damage was already done. Thanks to her husband’s policies, nothing remained a secret from people.
Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress
Stefani Germanotta, best known as her stage name Lady Gaga, is famous for her music and extraordinary style. At any given event, she would choose to be in the spotlight by wearing unconventional (sometimes odd) outfits that would cause conversations for weeks. Her biggest dress controversy was the “meat dress” she wore in 2010 during MTV Video Music Award event. Lady Gaga showed up wearing cleverly placed pieces of real beef over her body. Everyone’s immediate reaction to that was a sight to watch.
Lady Gaga explained that her dress was more than just pieces of meat. She stated that she wants to use her fame to convey powerful messages with every outfit of hers. The meat dress was in reaction to the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy within the U.S. Army. The policy prohibited personnel in the army to never disclose their sexual orientation if they are not straight.
Gaga stated that she saw four men fired from their job because they were gay. She insisted that “anyone willing to die for their country are the same. They are not straight dead or gay dead, they are just dead”. The act was abolished in 2011, and we can thank Lady Gaga for raising her voice on this matter.
NBA’s Tribute to Eric Garner
In 2014, a series of unfortunate events unfolded as an armed man, Eric Garner, was killed by New York police officers. The officers held Garner at a sidewalk in a manner that suffocated him. He repeated 11 times that “I can’t breathe” before closing his eyes forever. The aftermath of this painful incident caused many protests and outrages around the globe.
In December 2014, renowned NBA players wore “I can’t breathe” labeled jerseys to pregame in Brooklyn. This silent protest resulted in over 200 other protesters gathering outside the stadium chanting, “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” Unfortunately, Eric Garner was not the last black man to lose his life due to police brutality.
Recently, the deaths of George Floyd and others caused a worldwide Black Lives Matter movement. Pretty sure this is not the last time influential people have used fashion to mark their protests in the books of history.
MeToo at Golden Globes
Following the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, women from all over the world came forward with stories of mistreatment from their male superiors. The movement took a proper and powerful shape in the form of #MeToo, which went viral on the internet and in real life.
Sometimes a style statement can be made just by wearing a specific color, which is just what these women did. Keeping this in mind, celebrities at 2018’s Golden Globes chose to wear black in solidarity with every woman ever harassed. Big names like Opera Winfrey, Reece Witherspoon, and Viola Davis took part in this trend.
As the color black denotes something bad and malicious, white is the symbol of peace and freedom. In 2019, during the State of the Union address, the Democratic congresswomen remembered the women from the past who were not free enough to cast a vote.
Every congresswoman wore white suits as a symbol of freedom from the suffrage their ancestors went through. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib stated that women had to fight for equal pay and Medicare in the past, but now they are in the position when they can actually make such decisions. The choice of color was for all the young girls to know that the fight is not over yet. Once again, fashion influencing political statements with minimum words.
Fashion and Politics
There won’t ever be a time when fashion won’t be used to convey powerful messages. With the availability of the internet, it has gotten relatively easy to start a hashtag trend and use clothes and accessories to emphasize the matter at hand.
In the past, it was just politicians who would play around with words. Now it is everything that the eye can see. Spreading a message and raising a voice has never been this easy.