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By Jennifer Farley and Melissa Marra

NEW YORK CITY- Historically, fashion has often been a medium for conveying political ideologies and related social values, addressing issues such as nationalism, feminism, and class. As sociologist Elizabeth Wilson has noted, through its changeable nature, "fashion is freed to become both an aesthetic vehicle for experiments in taste and a political means of expression for dissidence, rebellion, and social reform."

This exhibition certainly includes explicitly political garments such as those associated with presidential campaigns. But the role of fashion in politics encompasses far more than campaign buttons, election t-shirts, and the sartorial choices of politicians.

The meaning of even as enduring a symbol as the American flag is not static. When fashion embraces visual iconography, it does so within the context of the social and political climate. During the nineteenth century, the flag was often proudly displayed on costumes worn for patriotic parades. Likewise, as the United States approached its bicentennial in the 1970s, flag-printed sneakers playfully commemorated the nation’s long history. More recently, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, heightened the flag’s associations with strength, perseverance, and unity. Catherine Malandrino’s Flag dress, which debuted that year, was worn by many notable women as a show of patriotism, and was recently reissued in celebration of the historic 2008 presidential election.

The politics of class are often clearly expressed in clothing. Utilitarian denim fabrics were traditionally a hallmark of the working class. Menswear was relatively uniform, however, in comparison with the class distinctions visible in women’s fashion.

flag dress"American Flag" costume, printed cotton, c.1889, USA, gift of Stephen de Pietri.
200 Years of Political Fashion on View

Exhibition goes beyond election t-shirts

Continued on Page 2
Politics & Fashion in the Blogosphere

IDENTITY POLITICS-

Fashion Projects, May 6
A Matter of Style

Interestment, June 29
Important fashion news about Union Jacks

New York Magazine, July 24
New Marc Jacobs Tees Demand Gays’ Right to Wed

New York Times, July 3
Fashions of a Postcolonial Provocateur

New York Times, July 22
Wipe That Smirk Off Your T-Shirt

Politics Daily, July 3
Head Scarves an Issue in Indonesia's Presidential Election

8 Asians, July 28
Thoughts on Eyelid Surgery

ON THE BURQA / HIJAB-

Global Voices Online, July 30
Hijablogging: On Burqas and Bans

The Huffington Post, July 12
Lifting the Veil on the Debate over Veils

The Jakarta Post, August 18
The politics of the "jilbab"

Muslimah Media Watch, July 21
Tina Brown and Hillary Clinton’s Burqa

New York Times, September 9
Exercise Tailored to a Hijab

Nuseiba, July 27
Burqas, Bans and Feeble Women

Online Opinion, July 20
What-not-to-wear imperialism

RH Reality Check, July 10
From Bikinis to Burqas, the Feminist Politics of Clothing

Blog News 24, July 20
Political Fashion Smackdown!

 


"The Most Fashionable Museum
in New York City."

In Presidential Fashion

obama

NEW YORK CITY - Michelle Obama's Innaugural day ensemble was on view at The Museum at FIT in the exhibition Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out. Crowds adored viewing the lemongrass yellow ensemble, a significant departure from the usual red, white, and blue fare designed for such political occassions. Not only did the previously unknown designer enter history that day, but, according to Dr. Valerie Steele, "the choice shows just how independent our first lady is."

carla fernandez

Modern & Traditional Mexico Woven Together

MEXICO CITY - With her Taller Flora label, Mexican designer Carla Fernández brings indigenous craftwork and design to contemporary fashion. Her mobile laboratory visits women's co-ops that assemble handmade textiles. The collaborative work is not only ethical, it has been described as "a unique practice where tradition is not static and fashion is not ephemeral."