Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Dressing to Impress" for Power Shift

As a long-time student of the socio-cultural aspects of fashion, I find this fascinating. The organizers of the March 2, 2009 Capitol Climate Action has issued a strategy note asking participants to "dress to impress" at the event. Back when I taught clothing and human behavior, we'd get into heated arguments over the idea of being judged by appearance. My students realized that teachers, law enforcement officers and employers engaged in a kind of "character profiling" of young people based on their clothing, hair, tatoos and piercings, and <i>they hated it</i>. On one level, we all hate being judged by our appearancel in fact, I hate it even more as I get older and attempt to learn the rules for women over 55 who choose not to nip, tuck, dye or dress like 20-year-olds. But I digress.

Two interesting points about the strategy note: first, the acknowledgement of the historical importance of "serious" clothing in the civil rights and union movements. I remember this being a huge point of contention between my African American friends in the late 60s and their parents, who were horrified at their surplus store wardrobes and Afros. Appearance was also controversial during the very early days of the women's rights movement; Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others debated the wisdom of delivering their message while wearing reform dress (such as the loose trousers named for Bloomer). Eventually, they decided the clothing was a distraction, and abandoned reform dress for their public work. It's taken progressives forty years to realize that a political demonstration is not a rock concert.

The other item of interest for me (as always) is the response thread, which is a microcosm of my class discussion. Someone even referenced hegemony!

I was planning to be there on March 2, anyway, but now you can count on a report as well. I'll be twittering live, if you want to follow.

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