Fashion has long been dismissed as ‘just clothes’. ‘Just’ something you threw on last minute. ‘Just’ a piece of fabric. However, as Miranda Priestly ironically says in The Devil Wears Prada, ‘You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. […] However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.’
Fashion is so much more than clothes. It can be used to make a statement, to mean something. Let’s not pretend we don’t judge people based on what they wear, be it the width of their jeans or the size of their hoops. Some of the most iconic moments in history were defined by the clothes the person wore, and here are our top picks.
Jackie Kennedy’s Pink Chanel suit:
The pink suit that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore on the day of her husband, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination will go down in history as one to remember. A replica of a Chanel design (as shipping the original from France to the US would have been criticised at the time as unpatriotic), the suit represented power in an era when women were starting to gain status equal to men. What truly makes this outfit iconic, however, is Kennedy’s continuation to wear it after her husband’s assassination, including when his successor, President Johnson, was sworn in just hours later. Still splattered with JFK’s blood, her declaration that ‘[she wanted the assassin] to see what they have done to Jack’ was a powerful statement, with her clothes only serving as a stark emphasis on the horror of the tragic events that had just unfolded.
Princess Diana’s ‘Revenge Dress’:
When Princess Diana and Prince Charles announced their separation in 1992, the nation were dismayed. Known as the ‘people’s princess’, Diana had become a well-loved public figure due to her charity work. When the couple separated, it was humiliating for them both, with tapes detailing their extramarital affairs leaked, and tabloid drama. On the evening of June 29th 1994, Prince Charles admitted his affair with the now Duchess of Cornwall in a televised interview. That same night, Diana stepped out in a form-fitting black Christiana Stambolian dress that would become recognised worldwide as the infamous ‘revenge dress’. A last minute choice (as her Valentino outfit had been leaked to the press), the dress had actually been created three years prior but went unworn because Diana saw it as ‘too daring’. On the evening of Vanity Fair’s annual fundraiser however, the LBD was the perfect choice to show Charles and the nation exactly what they were missing.
Serena Williams’ Nike Court Catsuit:
Returning to the tennis court at the French Open just 9 months after the traumatic birth of her daughter, fans were thrilled to see Serena Williams in a ‘Black Panther-esque’ catsuit, a welcome change from the usually more revealing tennis attire. Designed in collaboration with Nike, the outfit was more than just practical for sportswear- it also helped to prevent the blood clots that Williams suffered with post-birth. The outfit caused controversy however, with French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli saying ‘you have to respect the game and the place’. Many people saw the banning of the catsuit as an outrage, as not only did the catsuit serve to aid a medical issue, but it provided no advantage to Williams’ playing. Despite the ban, the Nike catsuit changed the way the world saw sports outfits forever, and propelled the sportswear trend to new heights.
Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress:
Designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Diesel’s Nicola Formichetti, the meat dress Lady Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards was named the fashion statement of the year by Time magazine, and for excellent reason. Possibly the most shocking of her outfits, the ensemble was made from 40 pounds of flank steak, and Gaga was stitched into it backstage. Explaining to Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga said that the dress represented the idea that ‘if we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones’. While critics failed to see the message behind the garment, the shocking nature of both this and the other outfits listed prove that fashion has more of an impact than ‘just’ being clothes.