Over the past few years, political and cultural fashion has engulfed our wardrobes. Clothes have gone beyond simply being something for us to wear, and have instead become a way for us to show the world what we believe. In a world where the first line of communication is visual, the easiest and most influential way to convey your views is by making a statement with your wardrobe – clothes are our common language. Clothing can be a form of protest helping us to express our identities, and fashion has become more meaningful than the next seasons trends.
Fashion activism unites ways of dressing with efforts to achieve social and political change, it can be used as a way to protest whether you’re arguing for or against. But does it work? In a time where activism is a huge part of fashions spirit, it can be easy to wonder if any difference is being accomplished. The right kind of fashion activism can influence change, but currently, is it about making us feel good rather than doing good? Over 100 years ago the Suffragettes used clothing to fight for their cause – the right to vote. In today’s society the Western world used the pink pussyhat as a symbol of feminism after the 2016 US Presidential election, and the bras and panties you see on Slut Walk protest rape culture and victim-blaming. In 2016 Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance paid tribute to the Black Panthers, the costumes her and her dancers wore reflected the uproar against racial discrimination. Within the LGBTQ community, the rainbow flag has long been a symbol of love and unity and was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker an artist and drag queen. What all of these things have in common is how dressing to protest can bring about change, and why marginalised communities are refusing to stay silent any longer. The current climate we live in is chaotic at best; as we fight and protest issues on sexual harassment, the gap between rich and poor, racial injustice, and women’s rights, the way we dress is becoming more relevant. With so much to feel outraged about, fashion is fighting back.
In a world where no two human beings are the same, clothes and our fashion choices are a form of self-expression and identity. The cultural significance of fashion is undeniable, and new ways of dressing and making politically-charged declarations with our clothing make us think of what we wear in a new light. Fashion has the ability to get conversations moving, and this is something we can use to our advantage. We begin to question ourselves and our relationship to clothing, do we really care about what we wear? Fashion activism is in a new age of political consciousness, intertwined with our identities and how we express ourselves. There’s no denying that our cultural and political beliefs are changing the way we dress and shaping fashion of the future. For better or for worse we are a product of the environment and culture that surrounds us, and the good news is we can shape this for the better.
Fashion activism isn’t on the sidelines and it never has been. At a time where so many political issues are engulfing our world wherever you turn to look, the future can certainly look bleak. Fashion can be an ally in times of need, and a way for people to show their beliefs and common values – the more you’re seen the more you’re heard. A powerful image can have a huge impact globally, especially when powerful messages are encrypted in our clothing. The good news is we’re living in a time where the possibility of change is pending. Does what we wear actually bring about real change in the world? Probably not. Realistically, only fighting for transparency and standing up for causes (in the correct way) can do that. In the meantime; fashion activism can be a strong force as we go out into the world, dressed to protest.
Written by J’Nae Phillips