Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman, has cause controversy and celebration after she wore a fashion gown to the Met Gala that was emblazon with red graffiti text and the statement Tax The Rich.
The left-wing politician, Aurora James, was invite to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual fund raising event. She wore a Brother Vellies custom dress and brought with her the label founder, the young Black designer, activist, Aurora James. Fashion has been use as a tool for social change since the beginning. This includes wearing these clothes in places of influence.
The 19th century Suffragettes, who marched the streets wearing heels, ultra-feminine dresses, and large picture hats to disprove claims they were unwomanly in their dress, to patriot textiles during the second world war to Indigenous Australian street clothes and accessories by Dizzy Couture today, have all worn dress to convey political messages and create looks for future generations of change agents. These are five provocations using clothing that have changed the course of history.
George Washington’s Suit Fashion
The founding fathers of the American Revolution wanted to end the codes of European aristocracy. Many parts of the world still had sumptuary law which regulate the types, quantities, and colours of cloth, jewellery, and accessories that were allow to different social groups.
North America was actively resisting the formal dress codes of the old regime. Men were not expect to wear expensive, colourful embroidered silks worn to European courts. Import fabrics thought to detrimental for local economies and their elite air was against the notion that all men might now (relatively speaking) equal.
Houdon sculpted President elect George Washington in the late 18th Century with a missing button from his waistcoat. It was an intentional gesture to demonstrate that his actions were more important then his appearance. For his inauguration, he wore plain, American woollen cloth made from American woollen cloth rather than the usual silk or velvet. This was a strong demonstration of North American independence, and possibly the first American business casual.
The Abolitionist Handbag Fashion
A variety of objects, from printed dishes to jewellery, have been produced since the late 18th-century to criticize the Slave Trade. British Quakers had argued for Abolition starting in 1783. The Female Society for Birmingham, formerly the Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves (originally the Ladies Society for the Relief of Slaves), mobilized their anti-slavery supporters with handbags printed in images and slogans to support the Abolitionist movement.
These silk drawstring bags were made by women from sewing circles and presented to George IV and Princess Victoria. These bags included newspaper articles and tracts supporting Abolition. Ten years later, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, 1833. This Act provided for the immediate abolition or slavery in the majority of British Empire. Only in 1865 was a similar Act ratified by the USA.
No Feather Hats Fashion
In the 19th century, the ostrich and exotic bird industries were huge: women wore entire bodies of birds as accessories such as hummingbird earrings. South Africa was the centre of the double fluff ostrich plume industry. The feathers were more valuable than gold. These feathers were then exported to New York and London where they were dyed by exhausted young women.
The raw material was almost worthless after a huge feather fall in 1914. Young women became interested in conservation and the national parks. They stopped wearing the style and started an anti-plumage movement worldwide.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s women members were so successful in lobbying for federal conservation legislation, The Lacey Act (1900). The use of taxidermied birds, feather boas, and birds as earrings was largely outmoded and rarely found again in women’s fashion.
The ACT UP T-Shirt
In the 1980s and 1990s, the AIDS crisis saw the mobilization of a unique. Mix of activism from the 1970s gay, Hispanic, Black, and women’s movements. ACT UP New York concluded that anger and civil disobedience were the only. Ways for government and big pharma to focus their attention on the dire situation of gay men.
A series of unusual zaps, or site-specific protests that were often theatrically staged, were created. ACT UP’s members included designers and advertising professionals who created unified, stylish banners, posters, and T-shirts. They were professional looking and looked like advertising.
Sarah Schulman’s 20-year history of ACT UP shows that bold T-shirts have created maximum impact for ACT UP protests on TV news. They also gave birth to a new pro gay identity. ACT UP created the image of gay urban men by establishing the look for a generation. The public protests forced large drug companies and government agencies to adopt better health. Messaging and conduct more equitable and well-funded drug trials. They also sold cheaper retro virals.
Katharine And Maggie’s First Meeting
Katharine Hamnett, a designer, wore a T-shirt with the message 58% DONT WANTED PERSHING (a reference nuclear missiles) to an important fashion event attended by Margaret Thatcher, a conservative prime minister. Hamnett had made her T-shirt last night and concealed it under her coat when she entered the house. Its graphic design owes a debt both to 1970s Punk as well as ACT UP. Later, she recalled the well-photographed encounter with Thatcher.
She looked at her and said, You seem like you are wearing a rather powerful message on your T shirt. Then she bent down and read it, and let out a loud squawk, almost like a chicken. Visual forms are essential for social change. Fashion is one example. Fashion is an amazing communicator of innovative ideas. We are reading about AOC’s controversy with her clothing. This shows that she understands fashion’s power.