At the PHM we believe that there have always been ideas worth fighting for. Through our collections and stories we express the passion, euphoria and despair that comes with standing up for what you believe in. Some of these ideas divide opinion, others are now universally accepted. Many people have sacrificed their lives for their ideals.
As part of my research for Play Your Part I have kept a search on Twitter for the keywords ‘protest’ and ‘democracy’. These feeds have recently been dominated by news and opinions of events in Egypt, Wendy Davis’ filibuster in Texas and, strangely, a planned protest against Taylor Swift by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church. I’ve come across some interesting links, controversial opinions and inspiring videos. Then I saw this. Apparently Roberto Cavalli believe that handbags are worth fighting for. Or scarves. It’s quite hard to tell. Hilariously described by one youtube commenter as ‘Arab Spring meets Zoolander’, beautiful yet vacant models ‘protest’ for some unspecified cause.
Compare the video to this photograph in our collection. The passion in the eyes of the protestors is strikingly missing in the Cavalli ad.
However, it did get me thinking about the often complicated relationship between protest and fashion. Designers have been inspired by protest movements, and there have been many high profile protests against the fashion world (anti-fur demos, protests against the use of sweatshops, tax avoidance, size zero models…). But what is really interesting is how protestors have used clothing, accessories and their bodies to make their point. How has protest ‘fashion’, for want of a better word, changed through the ages?
As someone that can’t resist the perfect pair of shoes, I can’t pass up an excuse to delve into our collections to explore…
The Suffragettes knew a thing or two about accessorising! And colour schemes! Their iconic purple, white and green represent dignity, purity, and hope. We have some lovely examples of sashes and badges in our collection, but this is one of my favourite examples of suffragette accessorising (and who can resist a picture of a cat!).
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
We have a vast collection of photographs of anti-nuclear protests over the decades (you can come and see for yourself at our Snapshot on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament event on 5 August), but this one stood out for me for the most creative use of knitwear I’ve ever seen.
Guess the year of this photo? Victorian protest perhaps? No, it’s a couple delivering a petition on adult education in 1980! Reminds me of the fantastic use of dressing up in the campaign for women on banknotes last week.
Do you have a favourite protest outfit? Can clothes help make a point? ARE handbags worth fighting for?
Let us know!