Fashion and Politics: From Suffragettes to the Runway

Chapter One: Suffragettes in Style

Suffrage and labor activists during a strike.

Fashion, as seen in its evolution over the years, has always been linked to politics, particularly women’s suffrage. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, suffragettes used fashion to make a statement. They wore colors like green, purple, and white as symbols of hope, dignity, and purity. These colors were not only worn in clothing but also in sashes and ribbons that they used to draw attention to their cause. Wearing comfortable clothing instead of traditional restrictive corsets became a rallying symbol of freedom for women.

Chapter Two: War Effort Fashion

During World War II, fashion once again became tied to politics. Clothes rationing was introduced, and designers were forced to adapt their creations to fit within the new limitations. Women started working in factories to replace the men fighting in the war, and clothing was designed to provide them with the practicality they needed while still looking stylish. Utility clothing was born, and with it came a new sense of austerity and utility. Clothing had to reflect the sober and restrained mood of the nation at war.

Chapter Three: The 1960s and the Youth Revolution

The 1960s were a time of rapid change, and fashion and politics became intertwined, once again. Young people were at the forefront of political and social change, and fashion was seen as a way to express that. The hippie movement popularised loose-flowing clothing, tie-dyed fabrics and long hair.

Three women in retro clothing walking on the street.

The mini-skirt grabbed attention by being an icon of youthful fashion that was provocative but still stylish. Even political campaigners such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously staged their bed-ins in their pajamas, proving that even sleepwear can be political.

Chapter Four: Fashion Activism Today

Fashion continues to push the envelope as a tool for political change. Eco-fashion, a movement designed to create sustainable and eco-friendly clothing, is on the rise. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the pink “pussyhat” became a symbol of opposition to his comments about women. Fashion designers have used their brands to make political statements by creating collections inspired by social movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fashion, throughout history, has always been used as a conduit for expressing political ideas. Clothing and accessories are everyday items that allow individuals to communicate their beliefs and make a statement without saying a word. It is evident that fashion and politics will continue to be interlinked, and as society changes, so too will fashion.