It was the year politics took over our closets, and clothes went beyond products to become positions.
From the moment in early February when Beyoncé strode onto the field at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for the Super Bowl 50 halftime show followed by an army of backup dancers in outfits that paid homage to the Black Panthers to perform “Formation,” a song that was called the anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was clear “fashion statement” was going to take on a whole new meaning in 2016. No longer was it enough to simply tell others what you believed; you had to show them, too. And the simplest, most powerful, most public way to do that was via what you wore.
In a world of white noise and factional cacophony, a world where the first line of communication is visual, clothes are our shared language. Whether you like what you see or not, you can read it.
Once upon a time “political dress” meant the dress of the political class. In 2016, it became a term donned by everyone — and damned by some. Practically every month.
In April, Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women’s rights, fired the first salvo at what became the fashion lightning rod of the summer: the Burkini. Ms. Rossignol scolded designers from Marks & Spencer to Dolce & Gabbana for catering to the Muslim market by offering full-body swimsuits and high-fashion hijabs, accusing them of “promoting women’s bodies being locked up” to bolster their own coffers. Soon Pierre Bergé, the outspoken co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent, stepped into the fray. A particular item of dress had become a symbol of the debate over the balance between enlightenment values and civil society, and whether freedom includes the freedom to wear whatever you want.
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