It has been a difficult week to be a liberal/progressive in the United States. I think it’s also been a difficult week to be a person of color, a woman, an immigrant, a person with a disability, or a person who is part of the LGBTQA+ community. It’s been a difficult week in the United States. When it comes to this blog, I’ve been spending a lot of time debating whether or not to post this week and wondering what I would say when I did decide to post. How could I post street style photos of the outfits that I brought with me to a professional conference in Dallas while people outside the window of my hotel room were marching in the streets in protest? Then I read this article by Stephanie Saltzman about being a beauty editor at Fashionista in the wake of the election results.
This article reminded me that fashion is still important. In it, Saltzman wrote:
To just give up and give in, to lie in bed all day and refuse to face this new reality would be selfish. To stop writing about a uniquely female-targeted subject would be conceding to Trump and his supporters that I am, in fact, as powerless and weak as they’d like to think I am. But it goes beyond that; it’s especially in times of turmoil that we need to find the beauty in the world. And as women, we need to devote time to self-care — perhaps now more than ever. Using a face mask or getting a manicure can become its own small act of feminism. Spritzing on some fragrance can be a means of fortifying our confidence; swiping on a deep, moody lipstick can help us express that we’re here and we’re not backing down. Continuing with our usual routines allows us to claim the power of our femininity and validate our right to exist in our bodies and in the world around us.
This really struck a chord with me. How can I write about why fashion matters and then dismiss it as vapid and unimportant?
The fact is that fashion is a global industry that will be influenced by the decisions of our new President-elect and it’s a part of our every day lives that won’t go unaffected by our reactions to the current political climate. So why shouldn’t we continue to talk about it? In the same way that, as Stephanie Saltzman wrote, “spritzing on some fragrance” or “swiping on a deep, moody lipstick”can lend us some confidence, the right outfit — a powerful pantsuit perhaps? — can act as our suit of armor as we hold the line for the next four years.
Fashion has even been a part of the conversation around Hillary Clinton’s beautiful concession speech and First Lady Michelle Obama’s first meeting with future First Lady Melania Trump. Both women (and President Bill Clinton!) wore purple to these occasions. In describing Hillary’s Ralph Lauren suit, Vogue writer Nicole Phelps briefly detailed some of the historical symbolism of the color purple, including royalty, magic, and mourning. To me, Phelps’ more compelling points are the ones that come later in her article: purple was a color worn by the suffragettes, and, of course, purple is the color that is produced when you combine red and blue — the colors of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. Were these fashion choices made in the spirit of bipartisan reconciliation and healing or perhaps as a statement of feminism and solidarity? Either way, the amount of purple in political fashion this week is intentional, and our analysis of this decision is meaningful in its own right.
We have to keep moving. We have to keep analyzing. We have to keep writing. And we have to keep finding beauty.
Header photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.