Designer Donatella Versace once stated, “Fashion is a weapon you can use when you need it”. Fashion has always been a vital aspect of not only popularity, but femininity. As a woman enters the spotlight, she is constantly critiqued for her fashion choices, whether it is for posh formal events, or casual grocery shopping. Some women rely on their words and actions to show what is important to them, while others utilize fashion to make a reasonating and interpretive statement. By taking the attention and media coverage they are already receiving and using it to empower themselves, women are, in turn, empowering fellow women as a whole. This can be seen in past occasions through Princess Diana’s iconic “Revenge Dress,” and presently through Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Society’s ever-adapting fashion trends provide an opportunity for females to communicate ground-breaking messages through their sense of style.
In June of 1994, Princess Diana strutted through a Vanity Fair party, dressed in an off-the-shoulder, tight, black dress that defied numerous rules of the rigid royal protocol. While the public was appalled to witness her in an outfit so different from her usual style, more shocking news was revealed to the world that day: Princess Diana’s husband, Prince Charles, had admitted that he was unfaithful to her. Diana made a powerful statement by appearing in this elegant, yet skin-baring dress. As Kerry Taylor, a knowledgeable specialist of Diana’s style trends explains, “While some people would have been like, ‘I can’t face it this evening’ Diana went out in that dress looking drop dead gorgeous. She made a big statement.” Diana did not let the actions of her husband or the overwhelming media presence shame her and bring her down. Diana embraced her femininity, revealing her curves and everything that makes her a woman, and radiated an essence of power to the world. Diana did not need to make a speech or do any kind of tricks to tell the public that she was a force to be reckoned with and that she would not be the kind of woman to let a man bring her down.
Flash forward to October of 2010, superstar Lady Gaga is announced as the winner of the Video of the Year award at the MTV Video Music Awards. Gaga casually sauntered up to the stage to accept her award in a dress and shoes derived entirely from pieces of meat. The audience, both celebrities in-person and thousands of people watching from the television, were shocked and confused. It wasn’t until later that Gaga revealed the dress referred to a speech she once gave called The Prime Rib of America, which took a stance against the discrimination gay men and women who served in the armed forces faced due to the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” laws in place at the time. She claimed that the law prevented gay people in the military from “enjoying the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer”. Gaga knew that her speech alone was not enough to bring attention to the cause she held so closely to her heart; she had to make a profound and shocking statement through her wardrobe. While initially the outfit brought confusion to many, it resulted in the military’s injustice being put on display for millions of people to witness. Gaga effectively used fashion to spread awareness about an important cause and bring more attention to her message.
7 years later, fashion continues to elevate womens’ power and spread awareness of important causes, not just at the celebrity level. In January of 2017, millions of people at over 600 rallies across all 7 continents were seen marching together– hand in hand, with pink caps atop their heads. These pink knit caps are designed to have two cat-like ears on top, titled “Pussyhats” that became the unofficial uniform of the Women's March movement. People of all ages, ethnicities, gender, economic status and sexuality came together wearing these hats to stand up for women’s rights and make a statement against the hateful rhetoric used towards women by the government. The power of these hats even extends to people who could not physically march, but wanted to still participate in the movement. The activists who strutted through public wearing the pink Pussyhat sent a message to both society and government that they would not allow themselves to be silenced – they were fighting together for justice and they would not stop until they got it.
From Princess Diana’s “Revenge dress”, Lady Gaga’s meat dress, to the Women’s March’s “Pussyhats”, fashion has been a valuable weapon to female causes. As time and society progress, fashion proves to not only be valuable to those in the spotlight, but additionally to the common person. As you go forth in your professional career and social lives, think of fashion as a resource, rather than simply a hobby or pleasantry. Think of fashion as a means to show power, to spread awareness, or to bring people together around an important cause. You may never know what challenges the future may bring, but you can know that fashion will be there to help you.