The Black Golden Globes: Why Fashion Is Still Important
Last night I sat down with a glass of wine to kick off my annual tradition of watching the Golden Globe red carpet – the first of many in the award season. I was aware that actresses were planning on wearing black as a sign of silent protest in support of the #TimesUps campaign – started in the wake of the sexual assault scandal, demanding safer, fairer and equal working environments for women. So I knew it was going to be an interesting red carpet. However, equally, I was concerned.
As you know from a previous article, one of my pet hates is actresses refusing to give credit to their stylists and designers for the gowns they wear. Yes, there are other very important issues to discuss, but if you’re going to show up looking gorgeous and glamourous, credit and thank those who facilitated it.
Given this ‘trend’ of refusing to discuss your outfit has already been going on for a few years, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to stop, and, if anything, go even more to an extreme. And sadly I wasn’t wrong. Not only did no one mention who they were wearing or comment on their stylist on the red carpet, celebrities refused to mention them on Instagram, while E! proudly went on about how it wasn’t going to ask “who are you wearing?” at all. Moreover, there weren’t even any press releases for journalists about who was wearing what.
I have a problem with this.
Let me say first off that I obviously support the #TimesUp, and any form of protest that demands equality and safety for women. But do I think this is the right way forward? Not really. There are a number of potential issues here. But I’m not going to go into whether it’s hypoctrical of actresses who supposedly stayed silent as they watched others be abused. Nor am I going to discuss whether black was the right choice of colour. But what I am going to discuss is why it is wrong that any conversation about fashion and style last night would have been superficial and shallow. And this is why.
1. If you’re protesting through wearing a colour, then Fashion matters
The ladies of Hollywood decided to wear black as a sign of solidarity. They did not decide to do a no show. They did not decide to hold up placards. They chose to make a statement through their clothing choice. So fundamentally they are recognising the power of clothes. So why then does the importance of what you’re wearing suddenly stop at the colour choice? Style has an impact, so it seems somewhat contradictory to then argue that you shouldn’t be talking about what you're wearing.
2. Please don't pretend you didn't care about what you wore
Regardless of the colour you’re wearing, not a single celebrity turned up looking anything less that fabulous. Clearly they still cared about looking glamorous, otherwise they would have just turned up in a black tshirt and jeans. As Catherine Zeta Jones noted, “we can still look our best.” Indeed you can. And there was a team of individuals behind that which ensured you did.
Designers such as Christian Siriano re-created their pieces to make them available in black, whilst stylists all over Hollywood scrambled to get their hands on black dresses. And even more to their credit, it was a marvel how the stylists managed to still reflect the wearer’s individual sense of style. Not to mention the hair stylists and makeup artists who would have spent hours getting the celebrity ready.
So when the whole purpose of your protest is to demand equality and fairness, isn’t it somewhat hypocritical to then completely diminish the individuals who worked so hard to ensure you could protest in the way you wanted to?
3. You are belittling the Fashion Industry as a whole
Not only is playing down your outfit an insult to your team, but it is an insult to the Fashion Industry generally. They might be “just clothes”, but to someone else it is their entire passion, career and livelihood. It is this sort of attitude that perpetuates undervaluing of clothes and craftsmanship, and encourages cheap, disposable fashion at the cost of exploiting others. In the UK alone the Fashion Industry provides jobs to over half a million individuals, so by dismissing fashion as frivolous, you are completely demeaning these people.
During red carpet interviews, several women stated that they were wearing black not just for those in the entertainment industry, but for women in every industry. But their dismissal of fashion inadvertently is excluding those within in the Fashion Industry. The Fashion Industry is notoriously known for its mistreatment of models, prompting the creation of a new trade body in the UK, the British Fashion Model Agency Association and a new confidential helpline. The Fashion Industry deserves just as much of a voice as every one else.
4. Since when has fashion and protest been mutually exclusive?
Throughout history Fashion has unapologetically and openly played an integral part in social issues and politics. As Zara Anishanslin noted in her article for Yale Books “fashion has long been critical to expressing and mobilising political ideologies”. Let’s look at some examples:
15th Century: Joan of Arc cross-dressing possibly started for reason of practicality but it became a sign of defiance
18th Century: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire recognised the power of fashion and utilised it to express her political views and support the Whig party
1920s: the drop waist flapper dress and trousers signified freedom, reflecting progress in women’s right outside the home
1950s: leather jackets became the uniform of “rebels” in the post war period, protesting against conformity
1960s: Women’s Right Movement saw girdles, high heeled shoes and bras as a form of oppression, burning them and demanding freeer styles that didn’t stereotype women as sexual objects
Panthers wore black leather, black shades and berets to symbolise their being a unified military block that could not be shaken or intimidated.
1970s: Punk was a symbol of anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, being left-wing and revolutionary
1980s: The ‘power suit’ was worn by women as they entered typically masculine industries, such as finance and politics, demanding more authority, respect and power at work
2017: The “Pussy Hat” became a powerful symbol for the Women’s March in the wake of Trump’s inauguration as president
These are but a few examples. We’ve also seen many outfits with political slogans and, of course, clothing choice has an important role in religion too. Fashion has openly played a pivotal role throughout history in demanding change, so it’s somewhat strange to now downplay it
So, ladies of Hollywood, do protest. Do speak out. Do demand to #AskHerMore. But if you are going to continue to wear black this awards season as a sign of protest (and unfortunately I’m somewhat sceptical you will), please make sure you credit those in the Fashion Industry who have enabled you to make such a statement. Because, as you rightly say, “everyone deserves to be heard” – so practise what you preach.