Fashion was never very controversial with men in politics, as most wear suits, but as the number of women involved in politics has increased as never before in history – one thing is certain – fashion choices already have and will continue to be politicized. However, fashion rules are undoubtedly going to change now that women gain control.
Pants only for men?
It is said, that until the 1990s, there was an “unwritten rule” in Congress that women could not wear pants on the Senate floor. But in 1993, that changed. Since that time, pantsuits have long been a fashion choice of business attire for women in politics. Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton was repeatedly criticized for doing so.
Terrorist connotations with headscarves
Muslim women especially faced the fashion police in politics. The House of representative had a 181-year-old man on the wearing hats, which would have extended to the hajib, the religious headwear or scarves that Muslim women wear.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) co-authored a proposal that created an exception to this rule allowing Muslim women to wear a headscarf to work.
Nonetheless, some people still take issue with Rep. Ilhan Omar wearing a hajib – and for all the wrong reasons – likening her to a Muslim terrorist. This especially became widespread when she criticized Israel. Of course, such criticisms are unjustified, prejudiced, bigoted and an insult to Islam.
Ban on sleeveless dresses
In 2017, women were ejected from the speaker’s lobby outside the House chamber because of a purported ban on sleeveless dresses both there and on the House floor. However, Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) was quick to take up the fight. She directly challenged the sleeve requirement, as she appeared in a sleeveless dress. In her rebuke, she told her House colleagues, “I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes.”
Congresswomen in white
Nowadays, fashion is also being used to make a political statement. After 2019 state of the union address, we saw a sea of women dressed in white. The House Democratic Women’s Working Group invited lawmakers to wear white as a sign of solidarity, making a statement echoing the wearing of “suffragette white” by women in the early twentieth century who participated in the movement to give women the right to vote.
The connotation and message is clear: “Not only have women gained the right to vote – women are now running the country.”
Where we are going from here with fashion in politics?
Now that women make up a large portion of the lawmakers and politicians, the male-dominated rules and prejudices about women fascists are undoubtedly about to change. We are likely to see dramatic changes in fashion choices for women involved in politics.