Political Fashion has the mission of empowering people with knowledge so that everybody could have a better relationship with their clothes and with themselves. Being your authentic self can be a political statement because there are many laws, social beliefs, spiritual traditions, and prejudices that keep telling us that there is something wrong with being your authentic self.
This is where Politics and Fashion interact, two fascinating branches that are inextricably linked to our society because most of us wear clothes every single day. And all of us have thousands of thoughts and make several decisions on a regular basis. Fashion is political because, as humans, we are political beings, as much as we try to hide behind the labels of “apolitical,” “unaffiliated,” or “all politicians are the same, so I don’t vote.”
When it comes to talking about your freedom, the right to be who you are, and the autonomy to make decisions about your body, we are talking about politics. As uncomfortable as it may seem for some people, it is important to have these conversations.
2022 was full of Political Fashion. The Invasion of Ukraine, the Midterm Elections, the Overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the political scandals in the entertainment industry are now moments of Political Fashion history, where people use fashion as a symbol to make a political statement or to express a point of view. Let’s take a look at some of the most political fashion moments of 2022.
Invasion of Ukraine
On February 24, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. This international tension raised questions about agreements and businesses between countries around the world and how a war would look like in the third decade of the 21st century.
It’s critical to acknowledge the strength of the first couple of Ukraine. President Zelensky used to work in the entertainment industry, producing TV shows and cartoons. He also had experience participating in comedy. The First Lady, Olena Zelenska, is an architect and a screenwriter. None of them expected to be in this position of power, in this scenario of catastrophic uncertainty, with a whole country to lead and support.
So it was very controversial when the first couple appeared in an edition of American Vogue this year. How can they mention fashion and war in the same conversation? Why would that make sense? The truth is that the communication experience that the couple has, because of their professional careers, has been critical during this time of war. It was because of Zelenska’s vulnerability and empathy that she was able to have a great conversation with Dr. Jill Biden in May when both of them visited a public school in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. A couple of months later, in July, Zelenska was welcomed in the White House.
It’s because of Zelensky’s conviction and savviness in delivering messages that he has had the opportunity to speak in a variety of spaces, events, countries, and conferences, which gives them a platform to raise his voice and connect with different groups of people.
The flag of Ukraine earned another meaning this year. It’s colors are present in fashion, symbols, pins, and signs that people carry around to show their support for this country and the victims of this invasion led by Russia.
Justice for Johnny Depp
One of the most mediatic trials in recent decades occurred in Fairfax County, Virginia, from April 11 to June 1, 2022. The trial was live-streamed, and the social media responses were diverse, although many of them had been very supportive of Johnny Depp since the beginning.
The trial addressed the defamation claims between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. The actor claimed 50 million dollars, and the actress counterclaimed 100 million dollars.
With so many people worldwide watching, multiple theories and opinions started to emerge. And, of course, the clothes played a very important role in the way each individual was perceived during these weeks. First, we can talk about Johnny Depp’s clothing selection. For a trial, it’s highly encouraged to wear formal, conservative clothes. This means clothing similar to what you would wear to church or to a non-festive formal event. Clothing is important in trials because, as we have talked about, a first impression can create a permanent perception of who you are, and that may have to do more with the way you present yourself than with who you are and what you do.
Justice for Johnny Depp was a trending topic for several weeks. Image Courtesy of Sky News.
So Johnny Depp showed up with a ponytail and neutral color suits. He used jewelry, glasses, ties, and handkerchiefs that were aligned with his style. This is very important because many people tend to hide their personality when they are trying to follow a dress code, and this can create the impression that you are wearing a costume or that you are hiding who you are., This impression was the last thing Johnny Depp needed after being accused of domestic violence. He needed to follow a dress code and still look like the public figure people see on red carpets and shows. He managed to accomplish this task gracefully with the help of his team.
The NATO Summit in Madrid this year was an event that gathered heads of government and heads of state from NATO member and partner countries. The meetings focused on support for Ukraine and partners at risk, better burden-sharing and resourcing, a new NATO strategic concept, and Finland and Sweden’s historical applications for membership.
International political events of this nature are now very much like a Hollywood red carpet. The general outcomes of the conversations are critical to the future of many countries and, ultimately, the future of the world. But still, so many headlines, questions, comments, assumptions, and memes come from what happens before, between, and after these meetings. “How charming is Prime Minister Trudeau with everybody!” “Why did Biden bring his granddaughter to an event where family members were not required/invited?” “Why was Draghi on the phone during the visit to the Prado Museum?”. Here are some of the most relevant photos from this event.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the piece of legislation that made abortion a federal right in the United States of America. This decision became international news as it reinstated the debate on why, how, or even if people should have the right to choose.
But there was a very particular frustration, one that describes the fact that President Biden’s predecessor named three justices who ultimately were critical to the final decision of the Supreme Court to ban abortion. The conversation about abuse of power and the history of men deciding over women’s bodies was prevalent. So people spoke up and protested from California to New York in the following days.
But the debate didn’t end there because the Supreme Court’s decision would affect the lives of so many people for a very long time. And this conversation is relevant not just for women but for everyone making decisions on their behalf.
In the fashion world, Gucci was one of the first companies to make a statement. They said they would support any U.S. employee to travel out of state to get an abortion when needed. In order to make their political point more powerful and effective, during their Cruise show presented in the summer of this year, the collection featured a purple tailored jacket with the message “My Body, My Choice.” Other fashion companies like Stitch Fix, Patagonia, and Madewell signed the Don’t Ban Equality Pledge supporting Reproductive Rights (The Daily Beast).
The conversation about pro-choice vs. pro-life will prevail in the upcoming years as activists and politicians are actively advocating for this matter. As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated: “For almost every woman that has gotten an abortion, there’s a man who has either been affected or liberated by that abortion too”.
The advocacy of men on this issue can make a huge difference as we approach a new year, with a new congress and more conversations to come.
Midterm Elections 2022
For the last couple of elections, fashion brands have raised their voices about the importance of voting. Some will go as far as supporting certain candidates or political parties, but most simply remind and encourage people to vote.
For the 2022 midterm elections, a couple of fashion brands started releasing merchandise encouraging and celebrating political participation. That is the case of Los Angeles-based fashion brand George Esquivel. In partnership with the non-partisan non-profit organization I am a voter, they released a pair of sneakers with the message “I am a voter.” 15% of the retail price of every pair of shoes sold went to this organization.
These campaigns help reach several groups of people who may be uninformed or uninterested in voting. It is the slogan in fashion products and fashion campaigns that repeat the message of voting on a regular basis that almost becomes overwhelming. It’s hard to measure what is the factor that ends up convincing people to show up to the polls, but it is true that the voter turnout in 2022 was slightly higher than in the last midterm elections in 2018. In several states, this turnout made several elections too close to call on Election Day, and it took several days to have a final result. This speaks volumes about the importance of voting and how young people, and marginalized groups who usually don’t show up to vote, are determining the outcome of elections.
The First State Dinner hosted by the Bidens
It took almost two years for the Bidens to host their first State Dinner in Washington D.C.
The event was celebrated in November of this year after Biden met with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. The entertainment was led by singer Jon Batiste, from New Orleans, a city that, according to Dr. Jill Biden, is shaped by both American and French culture.
Some of the guests at this dinner included Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, Apple CEO Tim Cook, John Legend, Jennifer Garner, and Christian Louboutin.
In a political world where photographs traveled worldwide within a matter of seconds, and an incorrect body gesture may cause a political scandal, every photograph of this the first State Dinner hosted by the Bidens, was carefully selected by both Macron’s and Biden’s teams.
Here are some key moments from this official event.
Social movements rise, and presidencies are questioned, supported, and criticized. As these events happen and information travels worldwide, the way we consume media is more visual than ever. So the role of fashion as a political tool to illustrate our points of view is not going away any time soon.
The first Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, stated that: “You can’t remain apolitical or remain neutral.” She was referring to people’s views about the invasion of Ukraine. Still, this thought reflects a general trend worldwide. When companies remained silent as the Black Lives Matter movement reached a pivotal moment after George Floyd’s murder, the values of these companies were questioned. When celebrities refuse to talk about the candidates they support, it’s becoming some sort of disappointment as they refuse to use the power of their voice to talk about important decisions that we make in every election.
Our freedom of speech is supported on social media, and our points of view are only becoming more important as more activists, celebrities, and political figures are encouraging us to use our voices and be attentive to where Political Fashion is taking place.