DRESSED FOR FREEDOM
The fashionable Politics of American Feminism
Dressed for Freedom examines how fashion became an important vehicle for expressing modern gender identities and promoting feminist ideas during the long twentieth century. Arguing against narratives that view fashion only as an oppressive force, it demonstrates how clothes empowered women, and particularly women barred from positions of influence due to race or class.
Drawing on a variety of written, visual, and material sources, the book shows how instead of being a hindrance to women’s political engagement, fashion enabled the mainstreaming and popularization of feminism in public discourse. Moving from 1890s shirtwaists through the miniskirts and unisex styles of the 1970s, the book explores how the rise of mass media culture made fashion a vehicle for women to assert claims over their bodies, femininity, and social roles. In foregrounding fashion as an everyday feminist practice, it revises our understanding of feminism, shifting the attention to its cultural manifestations. As various women employed mainstream fashion styles, they expanded the spaces of feminist activism beyond formal organizations and movements, reclaiming fashion as a realm of pleasure, power, and feminist consciousness.