One must have heard and many have even said that “Fashion is a form of self-expression”. But the question here to ask is, how a mere piece of clothing empowers the people adorning it? How do the colors, the styles or the patterns convey so much without having the person say a single word? The answer lies in the famous quote, “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”. This quote by Edith Head, dates long back and so does the use of fashion to dissent and to make the wrongs turn into the rights.
The celebrated designer Coco Chanel pioneered her way to use her position and create a landmark in the history of empowering women by tailoring the prominent “Little Black Dress” in the 20th century, the time where women were expected to be effervescent and poised. This dress by the popular designer gave women the freedom to be. The dress spoke victory, it spoke confidence and most of all it shouted out that women should have an identity of their own. The dress allowed them to show their bodies the way they wanted.
To speak of India and the use of clothing to create resistance, one can never forget the role khadi played in the whole movement. A woman who adorned a khadi saree or a man wearing a khadi kurta did not just have a piece of clothing cover their body but became a vital part of a revolutionary movement.
In the 1960s, the Black Panthers created an attire with black leather jackets, black pants, black shoes, and the black beret to stand against the racial injustice in the United States. Similarly, the Suffragettes used the color white to fight the patriarchy of that time and demanded the right to vote. White became their symbol of power and unity just like the male suit supported their dominance in society.
When the whole country suffered from a division into East Berlin and West Berlin, it was fashion, that gave an escape to the people residing on the east side of Berlin. The citizens mocked the belief of being western to create and to conquer. Secret fashion shows were conducted and bold and intricate garments became the way to oppose the conventional norms of the German Democratic Republic. Calling themselves as “The Mob”, they rejected the whole idea of living a life with guidelines on how to dress and act.
Even today, fashion does not fail to produce resistance and speak out against the prejudices. And now with the advent of social media, the attraction towards such movements is much quicker than the past ones.
From celebrities posting pictures on Instagram wearing the Dior’s “We should all be feminists” to the models wearing hijabs for the New York Fashion Show in 2017 to portray their dissent towards Donald Trump’s decision to prohibit entry of seven predominantly Muslim countries. The world has seen it all and has come together to join hands and make a change.
It is not always the words that win but the way you use your power to make a change in society, and fashion has given people this power.
Fashion and art have proved to be the way to conquer and to rule time and then. This resent can be as little as a teenager dressing up in a certain to revoke the restrictions put on her by her parents or as enormous as a model adorning a piece of art to convey a powerful message to the world.
Fashion has always been and will continue to be one of the most concrete ways to rebel.