Image above compiled by Prensa staff from NDTV and People
by Georgia Laganiere, Business and Social Media manager
Female politicians are a relatively new concept in American politics. However, what is even newer is the idea that women in political positions are fashion icons. From the press Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez received from her State of the Union outfit to the constant bombardment of negative comments on Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, society has always fixated on women’s clothing a little too much. While often these criticisms are sexist—focusing too much on things that are not important to politics—women in that line of work are starting to use this to their advantage.
AOC’s news presence can only be described as impressive. Ever since she started her work as a congressional representative, she has gained the attention of the country. However, this also means that she is hearing the country’s criticisms when it comes to her makeup, her outfits and even her body. AOC has turned this into a positive thing. When people made fun of her hooped earrings, she used it as a teaching tool to recall her childhood growing up in the Bronx. Ocasio-Cortes said on Twitter, “Next time someone tells a Bronx girl to take off her hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a congresswoman.” AOC took a moment of criticism to show Americans how clothing that is usually the target of prejudice can be worn by a congresswoman in a professional setting.
The inauguration of President Joe Biden is another example of using fashion to send a message. First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Former First Lady Michelle Obama all wore differing shades of purple to send a message of solidarity between parties after the attack on the Capitol building only days before. The colors of each party, red and blue, combine into purple.
Women in politics also work as walking advertisements for the brands and fashion they wear. Harris wore a pair of Timberland boots with pearls, causing the internet searches for them to go up by 375 percent according to Lyst, a popular fashion platform, with similar trends after AOC presented a Telfar bag she wore in an Instagram post. Searches for that brand went up by 163 percent and the demand for the bag itself went up by 270 percent.
Through their use of fashion as a tool, modern female politicians have changed what the media is talking about. Rather than the media focusing on how Jill Biden, Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton looked in their clothes, the majority of the press commented on the symbolism their fashion choices.
On one hand, the idea that women have had to change their clothes to conform to a male-dominated field of media is horrific. Throughout history, these women have either had to shed any feminine clothing due to it being deemed as unprofessional or had to dress more conservative for fear of being chastised by male co-workers and the media as a whole. The way I choose to look at it is that fashion and a woman’s clothing choices have always been a weapon used against her. Things such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s iconic lace gloves and collars weren’t always seen as style; they were seen as frivolous, especially next to the men’s often bland wardrobe choices. However, like many women, she used her fashion as a statement. Being against the idea of a Donald Trump presidency, she wore black accessories the day after he won the election. While her clothing was initially a weapon against her, she reclaimed her sense of fashion as her own and didn’t let the media bully her into compliance.
While so much emphasis being put on powerful women’s fashion is not fair, the fact that these women have reclaimed their femininity and used fashion to make political statements, all while being able to do their jobs incredibly, is the ultimate show of feminism, regardless of what the media is looking at.