Written by Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Case Western Reserve University


During her victory speech, Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected vice president of the United States, paid tribute to women activists not only in her words, but also in her appearance.

Harris’ decision to wear a white pantsuit was a nod to suffragists and to women politicians like Hillary Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Meanwhile, Harris’ white silk shirt with a pussy bow was a nuanced reference to the women protests that erupted four years ago.

As a historian who writes about fashion and politics, I like these types of sartorial gestures. They show the relevancy and power of fashion statements in our political system. Harris, like the suffragists and political leaders that came before her, is using her clothes to control their image and spark a conversation.

However, today’s strong association between the color white and the suffragists isn’t fully accurate. It’s based more on the black-and-white photographs that circulated in the media, which obscured two colors that were just as important to the suffragists.