How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause

Fashion, feminism and politics has always been heated territory, and the suffragettes knew this. Instead of deploying a strategy of resistance by refusal, they chose resistance through reversal. They sought to effect change not by challenging contemporary fashion and ideals of femininity, but by conforming to them. Haunted by the stereotypical image of the “strong-minded woman” in masculine clothes, pebble-thick glasses and galoshes created by cartoonists, they chose instead to present a fashionable, feminine image. The suffragettes took care to “appeal to the eye” – particularly when in full glare of media attention on parade or demonstrating. In 1908, one of their newspapers, Votes for Women, declared: “The suffragette of today is dainty and precise in her dress.” Five years later, sellers of the Suffragette were requested to “dress themselves in their smartest clothes”.

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