Dressing with Dissent
The month of October has been one of protest. Dissatisfied with the English government’s response to climate change, swathes of people flooded Trafalgar Square for a fortnight of organised anarchy. A temporary camp was set up and banners bearing the now infamous extinction rebellion symbol flew high above the heads of Landseer’s lions. This logo was also to be found closer to the ground; patched onto the backs of jackets and screen-printed onto shirts, it quickly became the indispensable look of the demonstration. The war was being fought with a wardrobe - and not for the first time.
The use of clothing as a form of protest has a long history that arguably dates back to the start of fashion itself. In modern times, however, the most prolific example is perhaps that of the tri-colour regalia adorned by Suffragettes. Purple for loyalty, white for purity, and green for hope; Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow nonconformists had a message to say and they told it with what they wore. This campaign was hugely successful; iconic brands such as Selfridges and Liberties were quick to produce striped ribbons that could be easily fashioned onto hats, belts, and rosettes. The colours unified the marchers and their cause was strengthened.
Almost 110 years later, the feminist cause is in its fourth wave and the clothing being worn remains pivotal. A response to the crude remarks made by Donald Trump about his treatment of women, the 'pussyhat' was conceived by avid knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman in 2016. It was pink, cat-eared, and iconic. The pattern to make the beanie was shared online and by the time of the 2017 Women’s March in America, it had been downloaded over 100,000 times. The following day, broadsheets were emblazoned with images of a knitted sea of pink.