Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fashion and Politics

So often fashion is declared a frivolous decadent enterprise only followed by the rich, but those who make such statements often forget how important a role fashion has played in world history. The first name that comes to my mind when you say,"fashion has nothing to do with politics," is Marie Antoinette. We all know the story of the infamous Queen of France, but do we really know how important a role fashion played in the dangerous political climate of her time? She turned fashion into a high stakes political game that was deadly serious. Her endless parade of decadent fashions was not simply a choice of dress but a statement, a statement showing her own battle for freedom that at a time of extreme social unrest completely influenced the highest parts of government. The politics behind her clothing signed her death warrant and had political ramifications so far and wide we're still talking about them.

As you delve into history you find dress a key component to understanding the times. Louis the XIV once said fashion was "the mirror of history", and he was so correct. Although most people would still argue that fashion was unimportant and not relevant, when you look at history the key players in politics were often known for their clothing. Louis the XIV, Queen Victoria, Empress Eugenie, Jackie Kennedy, and Princess Di were all major power players in their time but are usually remembered for their clothing. Louis the XIV founded the look of the "Ancien Regime"that peaked with Marie Antoinette. Queen Victoria will always be remembered for her mourning attire that she wore from the time of Prince Albert's death to her own. Empress Eugenie will always be the best dressed woman of the 19th century. Jackie will always conjure up the image of the "American aristocrat" in her pill box hat and sunglasses. Princess Di will always be remembered for living the fairy tail and being the first British royal with style. All these people did amazing things yet are most remembered for their clothing. Caroline Astor for instance was merely a socialite, but when questioned on why she was not a supporter of the suffrage movement she said,"I do not require a vote; our leaders are chosen based on who I invite to dinner." She was just a socialite known for her extravagant lifestyle but she actually could influence who was elected President of the United States based on who she invited to dine. In conclusion fashion can be very important, but in the words of another power player, that of the Empress Josephine,"Do I not possess the pendants of Marie Antoinette? And yet am I quite sure of retaining them? Look at these sparkling gems ladies, and do not envy a splendor that does not constitute happiness."

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