Can something as superficial as fashion be political? Yes. Clothes have always been a way for people to express themselves. What we wear is closely connected to socioeconomic conditions and class. There was a time when women were forced to dress like men to be able to have the benefits that were given to men only. Has this changed? In some ways yes, we’ve come a lot further down the road to equality but the dress can still be a weapon of control and dominance; but it can also be empowering.
As women started to do more outdoor activities such as swimming and riding a bike the fashion had to change to fit their more active lifestyle. This might not seem like a big deal but to the liberation of women it actually was. A feeling of confidence and the possibilities of doing what you want and not be stuck in the house was revolutionary.
In 1966 Yves Saint Laurent created Le Smoking, a tuxedo for women; the first suit for women to earn attention from the fashion world. Before this, the suit had only been worn by men with a lot of influence and power. This new direction was seen as empowering to women. We have all seen the black and white photos of women with slicked back hair and straight features, all dressed in tuxedos from this time. The style echoes to to this day.
At runways and in the fashion magazines today, seeing women dressed in suits is not uncommon. A lot of the spreads being styled today feature women in men’s blazers and shirts. The suit has always been a symbol for power but women in suits are being treated more like Margaret Thatcher rather than Birgitte Bardot. Women are supposed to dress in lighter colors and certainly not in suits. In fashion there has always been a clear line separating women’s fashion and men’s fashion. But in recent years, this has changed on the runways. Both the male and the female models are more androgynous. That clear line has started to fade and has become more gray. What used to be typically masculine can just as easily be worn by a woman today.
What does the women’s liberation have to do with all of this one might wonder? What we wear shows who we are or who we want to be. In a male dominated world women are forced to meet men at their conditions all down the line, including the clothes. If you want the same position as a man you have to dress accordingly to their conditions. That´s how it used to be anyway. Well, in almost every fashion editorial there´s at least one job that contains a suit, whether it is the power suit a la Hilary Clinton or if it´s a boyfriends jacket thrown over a girlfriend’s shoulders it´s there. We all know the picture of the girlfriend stepping out of the bed and grabbing her boyfriend’s shirt and throws it over her body. Well, forget that GQ-cover picture because there´s a new trend coming up. The power suit on the power lady is here to stay.