After a year in which a woman ran for president of the United States, won the popular vote, but lost the election to a man who is accused by 16 women of sexual misconduct, American culture appears to now be fully submerged in a fourth wave of feminism — so much so that the dictionary of record, Merriam-Webster, just designated “feminism” as its latest word of the year.
And if 2017 was the year of feminism, fashion followed suit with the year of the slogan T-shirt, meant to inspire, empower, and of course, drive sales. There were those tees created at local screen print shops and donned during the Women’s March on Washington or sold on Etsy, alongside high-priced designer shirts. But, many wondered: To what end?
In a world where the citizen-consumer becomes citizen-advertiser, some T-shirt sales benefited causes not quite on the same wavelength as Trump’s America. “Nevertheless, she persisted” T-shirts, inspired by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, raised at least $300,000 for Planned Parenthood; Dior pledged a percentage of sales of its “We Should All Be Feminists” tees, which retailed for a little more than $700, to Rihanna’s nonprofit, the Clara Lionel Foundation; and after Robert Geller wore a T-shirt that said “immigrant” during his 2017 fall-winter runway show, the German-born designer mass-produced the garment and pledged to donate its sales to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
And the support for groups like the ACLU didn’t end after the Women’s March in January. To cap the year, the organization hosted a dinner at the international art fair Art Basel Miami Beach to promote — you guessed it — collaborative designer T-shirts from Everlane, Opening Ceremony, and Public School, the proceeds of which were donated to the ACLU.
Aside from fundraising, is there any real point to wearing your politics on your sleeve? “You can empower and encourage others to speak up or become more active as well,” Kristina Haugland, the Le Vine associate curator of costume and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, told Allure. And what’s fashion, after all, if not self-expression?