Fashion & Beauty

Our 2016 Top Stories on Politics and Fashion

This year, several of our articles on beauty and fashion delved into the intersection of politics and fashion. From First Lady Michelle Obama’s political statement dresses, to the role of fashion in promoting cultural diplomacy, to the shifting definitions of “plus size” in the industry, to the women of color gracing the cover of ELLE magazine as the most powerful women in television, we examined how fashion reflects the state of our world.


Michelle Obama and a Blue Dress with a Story

When she delivered a mesmerizing and powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention, making the case for Hillary Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama was making another subtle yet important statement — via a blue dress.

Mrs. Obama donned a simple yet elegant, cobalt crepe silk dress with capped sleeves, a fitted bodice, neat waist, and a full skirt from the waist down that flowed beautifully. The dress is the creation of the young American designer Christian Siriano who was the winner of the fourth season of Project Runway, is a CFDA member, and has a solid place now in New York Fashion Week. This was only the second time that Mrs. Obama wore a design by Siriano. She chose one of his black lace dresses to attend another important event earlier this month — the memorial for the slain Dallas police officers.

Often, Mrs. Obama’s dresses are not just dresses. They come with a narrative, a symbol of something larger, she is hoping to convey. This little blue dress by Siriano was no different. Reporting on the blue dress, Vanessa Friedman wrote in The New York Times:

Throughout her time in the White House, the first lady has made something of a secondary cause out of supporting new, independent American designers, and choosing her clothes not only because she likes them but because their back story has a certain resonance that goes beyond the aesthetic.

Earlier this year, at the State of the Union address, the First Lady wore a sleeveless banded-bodice marigold-colored wool crepe midi dress from the Fall 2015 collection by Narciso Rodriguez. Again, the dress was more than a dress. The chosen designer Rodriguez has an incredible story. He is the son of immigrants who fled Cuba to find a better life in the US. Many have surmised that a seemingly simple beautiful marigold dress became a symbol of the future of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and a powerful statement to combat the country’s vitriolic climate towards immigrants. READ MORE



What is Fashion’s Role in Cultural Diplomacy?


What is fashion’s role in cultural diplomacy?

In 2014, France’s ban on the burqa and niqab — versions of the veil worn by many Muslim women to cover their heads and their bodies —  ignited a firestorm of criticism of how lawmakers continue to censor women’s bodies and how that very censorship simultaneously reflects and fuels increased fear in Europe.

Since France’s precedent, many European countries have followed suit and banned the wearing of the burqa, niqab, and hijab in public places. In stark contrast, the fashion industry has moved towards countering this very censorship by embracing the “modest” aesthetics of Muslim women.

In an article titled “What Freedom Looks Like” in The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman continued unpacking the role of fashion to mitigate (or in some cases exacerbate) cultural divides via this increasing trend of major global fashion houses, like DKNY and Dolce & Gabanna, who are designing “modest” and “demure” collections for Muslim women clientele. Friedman asked:

Is it fashion’s responsibility to ease acceptance of different identities; to foster tolerance and understanding — or to promote a specific aesthetic expression of liberty?

 She later added:

The history of fashion is, in many ways, about facilitating acceptance; creating a bridge between the unfamiliar or the challenging, be it religious or sexual or gendered or transgressive, and the everyday.  READ MORE

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