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The Politics of Fashion

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Fashion has never been neutral, it has always been a way to garner attention, whether aesthetically or politically. Today designers across have taken to expressing their concerns and opinions regarding matters related to human rights, climate crisis, and other political issues through their clothes.



Illustration by The Geostrata


They are of the opinion that everyone may not have easy access to governmental or educational institutions but everyone has access to their bodies. Their designs speak louder than words ever will. The greatest example of this is when 19 top designers of the world launched a Believe in Better collection ahead of the 2020 US Presidential Elections, to support the candidacy of Joe Biden.


FASHION AS A TOOL IN POLITICAL PROTESTS

When the protests against the long-standing racial discrimination in the US gained momentum, the brands aligned themselves in its support. The #BlackLivesMatter collection was rolled out in support of the campaign. This convergence between fashion and politics is not recent but has existed throughout history. Since times immemorial, royals worldwide have had certain special elements in their clothing that represent their family and kingdom and what they stand for.


During the colonisation era, the colonial powers used clothing to assert their supremacy, and the colonised people used to burn those clothes to revolt against the colonial powers. One example of this is the Indian freedom movement where people boycotted machine-made foreign clothes as a symbol of opposition against the British Raj and wore handspun Khadi clothes.

Clothing is a powerful means to express one’s ideology, whether political or religious. A dress can be a symbol of support or revolt. Politicians are not style icons but they are binaries. They have specific ideologies to propagate and responsibilities to carry. Politicians across the Globe have their signature style which aims to portray a specific image. Through their style, they aim to connect and communicate with people from the grassroots. A lot of careful consideration goes into curating the signature style of a politician because it's not just a garment but a message.


FASHION STYLE OF INDIAN POLITICIANS Gandhi and the Congress: Gandhi is not just a name in India it's a legacy, which not includes politics but extends to fashion as well. From Pandit Nehru’s ‘Nehru’ jacket and khadi cap to Rajiv Gandhi’s smart style which included darker colours, sneakers, and khadi kurta pyjamas with sleeveless fleece jackets. Indira Gandhi, the first woman prime minister of India always donned exquisite banarasi sarees and handlooms connecting with the craftsmen of India.


Narendra Modi and Others: When it comes to speeches or clothes, the prime minister of India never shies away from making a bold statement. His style has become so famous that a special category called “MODI” which includes bright-coloured cashmere shawls over suits has become popular worldwide. Even if somebody does not follow politics they cannot ignore the sheer elegance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s style.


Other prominent politicians like Mamata Banerjee whose signature look consists of a white saree with a blue border and Hawai chappals, and Arvind Kejriwal’s muffler conveys a message of simplicity and connects them to the common public.

AROUND THE GLOBE


Image management is recognised as a full-time job in the West. Therefore, many politicians hire them to manage their public image and to connect with the public. Left-wing leaders like Benito Mussolini chose regimental attire to showcase discipline and dictators worldwide prefer military attire to show absolute power.


Queen Elizabeth was one of the most notable political icons with a vibrant and colourful wardrobe that was carefully curated and more often than not was a form of diplomacy.

The political leadership in America today has also developed their persona through their style. Like the US VP Kamala Harris can be seen wearing “Converse” shoes with her pantsuits. This is an attempt to connect with the people and convey a message of simplicity. Similarly, the use of MAGA (make America Great Again) baseball hats during Trump’s presidential campaign was a successful attempt to connect with Americans through their favourite sport.


CONCLUSION


Fashion is the armour that helps people face the world every day, it helps them express their opinions without even saying anything. The concept of politicised fashion is very broad and has multiple variables of culture and ideologies. Fashion does not exist in a vacuum, it interacts with all the elements of society and, therefore, has the power to challenge the structures of power in society.

 

BHAVISHYATA MENDIRATTA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

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