The power of sym­bol­ism in fash­ion

The mean­ing be­hind Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez’s de­fi­ant out­fit

StarMetro Edmonton - - DAILY LIFE - Leanne De­lapTHE

Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez is the white-hot Demo­cratic su­per­star who, at age 29, be­came the youngest-ever per­son sworn in to serve the U.S. Congress on Jan­uary 3 — and who used that spot­light to show­case her re­mark­able grasp on the power of sym­bol­ism in fash­ion.

Oca­sio-Cortez, af­fec­tion­ately dubbed AOC by her fans, donned a smash­ing white pantsuit for the oc­ca­sion, worn in homage to the women who came be­fore — the suf­fragettes and the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial ground­break­ers who helped pave the way for that his­tor­i­cally di­verse fresh­man class.

But she also kicked it up sev­eral notches by adding in some ac­ces­sories “from the block.” Oca­sio-Cortez is from the Bronx, and she wore that pride of place on her ears, in the form of big gold hoops. She fin­ished the look with fierce red lip­stick.

Then she tweeted out de­fi­antly: “Next time some­one tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they are dress­ing like a Con­gress­woman.”

AOC later ate some more GOP haters for break­fast when a mash-up Bos­ton Univer­sity school-spirit video sur­faced. The adorable video fea­tures a young Oca­sio-Cortez danc­ing bare­foot on a rooftop with some other nice kids and a mas­cot.

The dis­may — she, gasp, dances! — from the far right in­spired a boomerang that smacked them up­side the head: In a real-life Foot­loose mo­ment, AOC re­leased a GIF of her danc­ing her way into her spank­ing new Con­gres­sional of­fices. Per­fec­tion.

Oca­sio-Cortez proved she learned her fem­i­nist his­tory well at col­lege. Protest and fe­male em­pow­er­ment and fash­ion have long been inex-

tri­ca­bly linked. From the ear­li­est days of the suf­frage move­ment (circa 1870s in Britain, then spread round the West­ern world at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury), fe­male ac­tivists cam­paign­ing for vot­ing rights

and a recog­ni­tion of per­son­hood for women wore white to send a mes­sage of pu­rity.

White was cho­sen be­cause it is non-threat­en­ing, a “womanly” foil, like a del­i­cate sar­to­rial Tro­jan Horse mask­ing the

fiery re­solve of the wo­man un­der­neath.

The suf­fragette uni­form of­ten in­cluded sashes of pur­ple (for dig­nity) and green (for hope).

Hil­lary Clin­ton wore a tri­umphant white pantsuit to crack that “high­est, hard­est” glass ceil­ing as she ac­cepted the nom­i­na­tion at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in 2015. I watched her that night with my mother and my daugh­ter.

We be­lieved, in that mo­ment, that the world was go­ing to be dif­fer­ent, bet­ter, more hope­ful than it ac­tu­ally is. Our hopes were damp­ened by the gut-wrench­ing back­wards slide of the past few years. But hope is a re­silient thing, and the im­age of AOC danc­ing in Congress def­i­nitely feels like a shot of adrenalin.

More per­son­ally for Oca­sio­Cortez, she was pay­ing trib­ute also to Shirley Chisholm, a fel­low New Yorker, who was the first black wo­man elected to Congress in 1968. And she was rep­re­sent­ing for So­nia So­tomayor, who also hails from the Bronx, and who, in 2009, wore re­bel­lious red nail pol­ish to her swear­ing in as the first Latina Supreme Court Jus­tice.

Oca­sio-Cortez is a breath of fresh air, and her in­sis­tence that be­ing her­self means look­ing like her­self, hoops and all, is in­spir­ing.

Women de­serve to be taken se­ri­ously no mat­ter what we choose to wear. And AOC is re­mind­ing us that it’s pos­si­ble to mix both mean­ing and fun into our out­fits.

Bring it on.

“Next time some­one tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they are dress­ing like a Con­gress­woman,” Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez said of her sub­ver­sive sar­to­rial se­lec­tion to be sworn in to U.S. Congress. GETTY IM­AGES

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