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Mixing Politics and Fashion

Dress, white cotton with red IKE print (President Dwight D. Eisenhower, known as Ike), circa 1956, USA
Left: Mars of Asheville, dress, light brown paper printed with red NIXON and navy stars, 1967-1968, USA
Right: James Sterling, dress, paper printed with image of Hubert Humphrey, 1968, USA
Obama Cocktail Dress. This slinky, body-hugging dress was crafted from the presidents campaign posters. As the fabric winds around the body, white letters form a clever pattern on a black background in which the name Obama pops up over and over.
Hussein Chalayan, Airmail Dress, 1999. Sleeveless dress emblazoned with a photo of Robert Kennedy on a field of blue and red stars.
LaValle, shoes, red, white, and blue leather, metal star studs, 1938-1942, USA.
Vivienne Tam, suit, black and white polyester in checkerboard pattern of “Mao” portraits, 1995, USA
A Barack Obama dress by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and a preppy homage dress by Sonia Rykiel seen at Paris Fashion Week
American Flag costume, printed cotton, circa 1889, USA
Stephen Sprouse for Knoll Textiles, Graffiti Camo fabric in green and brown with Declaration of Independence in orange, Trevira CS Polyester, 2004, USA
Liberty of London, dress, brown silk velvet, circa 1910, England
Mainbocher for United States Navy, W.A.V.E.S. uniform, navy blue wool, 1942, USA
Dress, white cotton with red IKE print (President Dwight D. Eisenhower, known as Ike), circa 1956, USA

Dress, white cotton with red "IKE" print (President Dwight D. Eisenhower, known as Ike), circa 1956, USA

Photo: Photograph by Irving Solero, © The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York

We've all seen T-shirts sporting an Obama or Bush message, but fashion in politics has gone beyond t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs. You can find political messages in more fashionable clothing, and garments with a political focus have recently even made it onto the fashion runway shows. In fact, it's become so polular that The Museum at FIT is running an exhibit called "Fashion & Politics" from July 7 through November 7, 2009 in its Fashion and History Textile Gallery. The exhibit traces garments expressing political idologies and related social values over the last 200 years. 

A Long History Together
I always thought politics in fashion was something relatively new--an offshoot following the trend of clothing manufacturers putting their garment label on the OUTSIDE of the garments they produce, from sneakers to t-shirts to sweaters, etc. But I was wrong. After doing some research, I've found that fashion has been a vehicle for political messages for many years. The messages change, but the concept is still the same. Both the Republican and Democratic national conventions even maintain websites of "official" garments bearing their insignia or other political icons or phrases. 

Who are you Wearing?
Let's face it; it is a good marketing technique. When we wear a garment with a political message, we are actually advertising for (or against) that political figure (or his/her party). And when a celebrity wears a similar garment, the marketing value increases proportionally to the celebrity's popularity. But this marketing tool doesn't cost the political figure a single dime. Not a bad marketing technique from budgetary standpoint! Maybe Threads should create a line of clothing to take advantage of the windfall?!

Have you ever worn or made a garment with a political message? What motivated you? 


Comments (10)

hessilverdollar hessilverdollar writes: I have three Ike dresses (including the one pictured in the article), three different Ike skirts and even parasols made from the same material as the Ike desses! Love 'em all, and I love vintage clothing, especially promoting Eisenhower or any of the candidates from that time period!
Posted: 6:58 pm on October 12th

alexanderr alexanderr writes: hi guys.i think we who are visiting this type of fashion related sites are fashion lover.i found a website which is full of huge collections of
fashionable dresses
for both men and women.
Posted: 1:29 pm on November 20th

VallyNicky VallyNicky writes: I don't like getting into political discussions as a rule but have any of you thought for one minute where our future is heading with a muslim president? Or do you guys not care that our freedoms will be taken away slowly so you won't even notice? Or is it all right to call having to cover our heads a fashion statement? Where are all the feminists when you need them? They'll be the first to critisize someone for covering their head if they call themselves christian but if they're muslim then it's just a religious thing. Come on people wake up and smell the hypocricy! I'm an American Citizen that's what I'm proud of, Land of the Free because of the Brave. The pledge doesn't say "to the Republic" for nothing that's what this nation was founded as if you don't like it pack up and go home!
Posted: 11:25 am on July 30th

JanLYoung JanLYoung writes: I personally don't hve the body for the IKE dress, but it is cute. I would be wearing OBama if I don that,but I usually wear buttons b/c that way I can wear whatever I want that fits the occasion and/or weather situation I need at the moment. It is like seasonal things to wear, you are so limited as to when you can wear those things and like wedding/prom outfits I think unless you are willing to recycle them into other pieces or artwork it is a waste of cloth and materials. Wear a button or a hat to express your feelings. One thing you can do is use ecofriendly materials/cloths and when people admire your outfit you can tell them about the environment and how you support it with your choices. Put a tag on that says ask me about my clothes! That would be a conversation piece alone, huh?
Posted: 1:16 pm on July 28th

Arnie327 Arnie327 writes: I;m with sahacatgrl2 - I would love that pattern. Have a summer wedding to go to and can't find anything with sleeves I am not built like Michelle Obama tho I do admire her but at 73 the arms are just not the same.

Posted: 10:22 am on July 4th

MessyONE MessyONE writes: sashacatgrl2, try this:
Posted: 10:29 pm on June 29th

AsteroidB612 AsteroidB612 writes: I made this fun Obama skirt A line with the HUGE rising sun logo appliqued on the side. It went from waist to hem so it curved and started to abstract itself. Was too fun to make, and I felt like I was getting the message "to the streets" without even having to say a word. Thats why these clothes were made, walking adverts, like a nike or other branded tee.

Posted: 8:13 pm on June 29th

dckitty dckitty writes: In Denver last summer, at the Democratic National Convention, rather than the traditional red, white, and blue ensembles, everyone seemed to be wearing black and white prints. Inspired, no doubt, by the dress Michelle Obama wore on "The View."

Don't believe me? Check out the slide show. The last picture is a dress I made from my own pattern...modeled on the Michelle Obama dress.

Posted: 8:04 pm on June 29th

sashacatgrl2 sashacatgrl2 writes: I love the "IKE" dress. I would love to find a pattern similar to that.
Posted: 2:30 pm on June 26th

malwae malwae writes: Very well timed post, considering the use of green clothing and accessories in Iran to express discontent with the recent election. I was especially interested in the Iranian soccer players, 4 of whom have been expelled from the team due to wearing green wristbands.
Posted: 1:30 pm on June 26th

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