Fashion can be more than just the clothes you wear. Sure, it’s usually about looking good and feel comfortable in how you look. But sometimes style can have a deeper meaning, even a political one.
Here at ELSA AND ME, we’ve been intrigued by the bigger meaning behind the clothes women wear...well, since we started. And in our new Herstory blog post series, we’ve been asking the women we’re profiling the politically-tinged question “What do you think makes this country great?” And the conversations it sparked with the women we’re profiling and amongst ourselves got us thinking about the connection between fashion and politics.
It turns out the topics converge more than you’d think. So we decided to dig up just a few examples of when a specific woman’s fashion choice had a deeper political meaning. Here’s what we came up with:
Hillary Clinton Wearing White
While the results may still be raw for a lot of people who supported Hillary Clinton, her candidacy in the 2016 election was historic. The first woman nominated for President of the United States by a major political party is pretty momentous. And when Clinton accepted the Democratic Party nomination, her fashion reflected that. Decked out in all white when she took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on July 28th, Clinton’s outfit was direct and purpose allusion to the suffragettes, the woman who fought for a woman’s right to vote in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and often wore white. In essence, she was paying tribute to the woman who laid the foundation for her candidacy nearly 100 years before.
Beyoncé Wearing Black Leather
It’s hard to find a more famous performer than Beyoncé. It’s also hard to find a more public stage than the Super Bowl halftime show. So when Queen B took the stage with Coldplay and Bruno Mars for Super Bowl 50, just a day after dropping her single (and the accompanying video) “Formation”, she pretty much had everyone’s attention. And she used it to make what’s The Guardian called “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” Dressed in black leather and flanked by similarly-dressed dancers with berets, arguably the biggest name in popular music was openly alluding to the Black Panthers civil rights group, who famously advocated for black nationalism and self-defense from racial violence in the 1960s and continue to be a lightning rod of controversy to the present day.
Yulia Tymoshenko Wearing a Hair Braid
She may not have the same name recognition to Americans as Hillary Clinton or Beyoncé, but Yulia Tymoshenko is a woman of equal political passion. A Ukrainian politician who first rose to fame by co-leading a political revolution and served not once but twice as Ukraine’s prime minister. In 2011, Tymoshenko was convicted and sentenced to prison for what many consider were politically-motivated criminal charges. After the 2014 revolution, which ousted her one-time rival (then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych), Tymoshenko was released from prison and the crimes she was convicted of were decriminalized. Through it all, Tymoshenko wore her hair in a famous braid around her head that’s become her iconic style. As the New York Times explained in 2007: “A braid is a traditional Ukrainian hairstyle, and by adopting it, Tymoshenko...has been able to underline her nationalist credentials, drawing a contrast with her main opponents.”
Know another example of when a specific woman’s fashion had deeper political meaning? Tell us in the comments sections!