State of the Union (a)Dress

Fashion has been instrumental to political expression well before the pink pussyhat (omg, I’m having a real reLAXIcab moment). Organizers of the early 20th century suffragette movement established 3 colors to signify their cause. White for purity & virtue, gold to represent the sunflowers in Kansas where Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton had campaigned, & purple for loyalty. You may be thinking, hold up I thought it was white, purple, & green. You wouldn’t be wrong. Our sisters across the pond subbed green for the gold to represent hope. Whichever you prefer, the white is the most emblematic.

Suffragettes donned white dresses with complimentary colored sashes as a visual indicator of their cause. The dress was in the common fashions of the time as to not draw criticisms for appearing masculine & making it easy for a woman of any race or economic standing to take up the mantle.

It also struck a bright & crisp contrast in the black & white newspapers of the day.

This uniform has made appearances at many important historical moments.

More than 8,000 women paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913.

Shirley Chisholm wore white upon becoming the first black woman elected to congress.

Women filled the DC streets decked out in white in the 1978 March for Equal Rights.

Geraldine Ferraro accepted her place as the first female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

Hillary memorably celebrated being the first lady to accept the democratic nomination for president with balloons & head to toe white.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was recently sworn in as the youngest woman elected to congress stating,

I wore white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, & for all those yet to come.

The Democratic Womens Working Group called all women to wear white to the 2019 State of the Union address to celebrate a record number of women elected to congress this year.

Lois Frankel also called it

A respectful message of solidarity with women across the country & dedication that we will not go back on our hard earned rights.

The solidarity & sisterhood set a joyful yet determined tone for the evening.

To critics that would say this focus on fashion undermines their work I’d point you to this final picture. These women know just like the women knew at the turn of the 20th century what a statement looks like in black & white.

It’s an indication they’re building a movement & they won’t stop till those dark suits are just a blip in their sea of change.


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