Red, White and Vogue: The fashion behind politics


Photo courtesy of Instagram @AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets ready for Met Gala with designer Aurora James

Carrie Bradshaw taught us the importance of fashion when she said, “I like my money right where I can see it … hanging in my closet.” The way people dress is subconsciously the first thing we notice about that person. Subsequently, fashion is one of the largest industries in the United States. According to, it’s a $2.5 trillion business that employed more than 1.8 million Americans prior to COVID-19. The importance of fashion is seen in its effortless ability to deliver messages without speech. Recently, celebrities and designers alike have been using fashion to make statements during this tense political atmosphere.

The 2021 Met Gala served as a prime example of this. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked the red carpet in a floor-length white gown with the words, “Tax the Rich” printed on the back in bright red letters. The Aurora James dress caught the world’s eye; critics called it hypocrisy to attend the $35,000 event in a dress denouncing the attendees. However, her message was delivered to the target audience, and she wrote on Instagram, “the medium is the message.”

Emmy award-winning Schitt’s Creek Star Dan Levy also attended the event in an outfit from J.W. Anderson featuring the silhouetted map pattern of two men kissing. The look was inspired by late gay artist and AIDS survivor/activist David Wojnarowicz mimicking his 1984 painting. Levy took the Met Gala as an opportunity to educate and share his support for the LGBTQ+ community. After the event he stated on Instagram, “What I’ve so long admired about the Costume Institute is its commitment to educate and inspire people through fashion,” and called his outfit “a look that meant something to all of us.”

The Met Gala looks were no surprise; fashion is becoming inherently political. On Sept. 24, Singer-Songwriter Rihanna was spotted in New York City wearing an oversized white T-shirt with the statement, “think while it’s still legal” in blue and red text. Conservatives nodded in approval of her outfit choice since they believe the government has had too large of a presence in their personal lives recently.

Political fashion extends beyond the Met Gala and celebrities. One of the most iconic pieces of everyday political fashion are the red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats used by Former President Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign. The red baseball caps embroidered with the letters MAGA in bold white stitching are nationally recognizable. Whether or not people agree with Trump, the delivery of his message spread and it was undeniably effective.

Public political fashion has also been brought to light through the Black Lives Matter movement. After the murder of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014, his famous last words, “I can’t breathe” became synonymous with the fight for freedom and justice for minorities. In the wake of the police brutality the Black community faced, Garner’s words were screened and printed on black T-shirts. “I can’t breathe” T-shirts were seen on the streets of marches and demonstrations, but also on a bigger stage. NBA players like Derrick Rose, LeBron James and the late Kobe Bryant wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts while warming up for televised games. In 2014, Bryant commented, “We have the ability to question these things… that’s what makes us a great country.”

No matter what side of the aisle, one cannot deny that the role of fashion has become increasingly important in politics. Bradshaw touched on the pull fashion has on society by saying, “when … I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.”