Political dressing is fashionable right now, but is it fashion? Celebrities and stars turned up dressed in black at the 75th Golden Globes Award ceremony. Instantly the media was in frenzy over what they dubbed “ political fashion statements on the red carpet.” This is just the most recent droplet of a rainy season of purportedly political fashion. It all started with the pantsuit parties in solidarity with U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 . It then progressed with white supremacists uniformed in polos and khaki during their infamous Charlottesville demonstrations last year. As the effects of Brexit, a Donald Trump White House and the rise of so-called alt-right activism in Europe and North America ripple through the cultural waters, political dressing is trending. Protesters of all stripes — feminists, white supremacists, antifa, nationalists and social justice advocates — are outfitting themselves to match their political mindsets. Pantsuit Power flash mob in NYC, Oct. 2, 2016. Video directed by Celia Rowlson-Hall and Mia Lidofsky. Produced by Jillian Schlesinger and Liz Sargent. This type of political dressing is not the dress code of politicians. This is individuals and groups using everyday dress to express their political outlook. The problem is that often participants and commentators, reporters and scholars, quickly rush to label it fashion. But is political dressing fashion? What is fashion? The political dimension of clothing is intuitively understood from the moment individuals are born. Because essentially, human society equals dressed society. What one wears, how one wears it and when one wears it constitutes expressions of degrees of social freedoms and influences. Dress expression ranges the full political gamut from conformity to rebellion. Simply put, dress style that challenges — or is perceived as challenging, or offering an alternative to the status quo — spontaneously acquires political meaning. Hence the social power of dress and the political impact of seeing many people dressed in an agreed-upon mode. During the counter-demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., last summer, antifa protesters opposing white supremacists wore “black bloc” — an all-black uniform of sorts, meant to show a unified hard stance against anti-Black racist discourse. Simultaneously, “black bloc” dress indicated a willingness to resort to violence if necessary, much like the Black Panthers did in the 1960s and 70s. The Panthers took advantage of a loophole in the second amendment of the U.S. constitution that made it lawful to wear unconcealed firearms in public. Members of the Black Panther Party argue with a California state policeman at the Capitol in Sacramento after he disarmed them in May 1967. The armed Panthers entered the Capitol protesting a bill before the state legislature would restrict carrying firearms in public. Men in berets at centre are Panther leaders Eldridge Cleaver, left in sunglasses, and Bobby Seale. The policeman holds a weapon taken from the Panthers. Political dressing is a concerted effort by a group of individuals to call attention to a social issue. They do so by dressing in a codified style. The recipe of […]

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