On the surface, the fashion industry seems a world apart from politics. Yet fashion and politics have long been intertwined, as both women and men have used their attire as a way of conveying their social and political views. Contemporary political fashion trends may look different than those of centuries gone by, but fashion remains an effective and accessible way of broadcasting your beliefs and standing up for your views.
Fashion Trends and Political Beliefs: A Historical Perspective
Take a look at nearly any society, and you can find instances where politics have impacted its fashion. In the 18th century, for instance, some Englishmen took to wearing short, colorful suits and adopting other eccentric styles as a political statement in opposition to the more traditional Whigs. Even the type of fabric worn, such as silk or wool, could be used to reflect the politics of international trade at various points in history.
As a historically marginalized group, women have forged a unique relationship with fashion, especially as a vehicle for political expression. Denied most other means of expression, many women turned to one of the few aspects of their lives they could control: their clothing.
Just as men were able to make a political statement with the fabrics included in their clothes, so too could women. According to the Yale Press Log, Britain promoted the silk designs of Anna Maria Garthwaite in the 18th century as a way of declaring their patriotism and asserting their superiority over the French in the silk industry.
But this political fashion trend took a different turn in what would become the United States. During the American Revolution, many colonial women boycotted British goods, including Garthwaite’s silks. Meanwhile, the Daughters of Liberty and other American women made their own clothing as a patriotic act.
Fast forward a couple of centuries, and women were still using fashion to provide a glimpse into what they felt passionate about. In the 1960s, women in America were in the midst of a sexual revolution. They wanted the men in power to know that they were no longer going to be controlled or suppressed—and, as such, fashion trends began to change swiftly.
According to Time magazine, miniskirts appeared in America during the ‘60s as a feminist push against the previous decade’s concepts of womanhood. More and more women began wearing pants, and bras were being burned in the streets. Women were using newfound freedoms to rid themselves of old gender norms and ideas, and political fashion trends were a critical part of the process.
Today's Most Iconic Political Fashion Trends
Fashion has been used to express politics for centuries, and the new millennium is no exception. As technology has allowed for instantaneous dissemination of information, a new political climate has formed—one that is both dizzying and polarizing. People of all walks of life have the ability to broadcast their political opinions on social networks that reach thousands upon millions of users, but that has not replaced fashion’s role in politics. In fact, certain political fashion trends have gained additional exposure on social media, allowing them to grow even more.
Some of the most iconic political fashion trends of today include:
— The Red Baseball Cap: When Donald Trump emerged as a political candidate in 2015, he brought along with him a baseball hat that would become a political symbol for years to come. The simple red hat, emblazoned with the phrase "Make America Great Again," would become the mascot for his campaign, while its slogan became a rallying cry for his supporters leading up to the 2016 election. The hat was a hit among the throngs of supporters, who continue to wear them to show their support for the 45th president.
— The Pantsuit: On the other side of the aisle in 2015 and 2016 was Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, who was also the first woman to run for president with the support of a major political party. She came to every campaign event in a professional pantsuit, which would soon become her trademark. Her supporters began donning their own pantsuits, often sharing photos of the outfits online, to express their support for her campaign.
— The Pink Knit Hat: The pink knit hat is another iconic political fashion statement from the 2016 election. Bright pink and knit (or, in some cases, sewn) to give the appearance of two cat-like ears on top, these hats were popularized by protestors in the Women’s March of 2017, which occurred in Washington D.C. and across the country to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration. The hat became a symbol of feminism for the modern age and a political fashion trend among women of all ages.
How Can You Express Your Opinions and Beliefs Through Fashion?
People at every point on the political spectrum have the opportunity to express their political and social beliefs through fashion. Even those who do not consider themselves very fashionable can use the clothes and accessories they wear to make a statement. Consider these ideas to get started!
1. Wear the color of a cause that is important to you.
Perhaps you have had an aunt or close relative succumb to their battle with breast cancer. Or maybe you’re a survivor yourself. You can use the color pink—which is the official color of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October—to show that this cause is near and dear to your heart while raising awareness.
Many illnesses, conditions, and causes have an official color that represents their organization, making this an easy, personal, and subtle way to showcase what means the most to you.
2. Purchase products from businesses that practice what they preach.
Whether you care about fair wages or vegan materials, you can find and support businesses that share your ideology and put it into action.
Here at Passion Lilie, we offer our customers unique clothing, accessories, and homeware that are both stylish and ethical. We are a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation, and we provide fair wages, safe working conditions, and dignified employment to the artisans in India who work with us.
Passion Lilie is also eco-friendly. We use environmentally responsible materials, such as organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO cotton and azo-free dyes. In addition, we employ sustainable practices that use natural energy and reduce our water consumption and waste.
By purchasing from companies that share your beliefs, you can support your favorite causes financially while also sharing your priorities with the world around you.
3. Select clothing that expresses your views.
Expressing your views can be as simple as getting the right words, images, or hashtags printed on a piece of clothing. Political fashion does not have to be subtle, and many of today’s trends make it easy for you to shout loud and clear what you believe in.
T-shirts, bags, and hats are all common articles of clothing that can be used to express a political sentiment. These items allow you to be proud and confident in your own belief system, and they give you an opportunity to express yourself in a way that is blunt and unapologetic.
Regardless of what you believe, you have the ability to use the clothes you wear as a way of expressing yourself. Fashion is about more than just matching colors or flattering a figure. Fashion is a way to express who you are inside, sharing yourself and even your beliefs with the world.