Fashion as Resistance: Are You Wearing Your Convictions?
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Some people will always wear their hearts on their sleeves. But these days, more LGBTQ+ people are wearing their resistance, using their wardrobe to make a statement and take a stand.
It's a trend that fashion maven and dapperQ founder Anita Dolce Vita took note of – and wrote a book about, NBC News reported.
"To me, this book was really important, not only as a celebration of our identities but as an important political conversation that needs to be had right now," Vita said of the new book, titled "dapperQ Style: Ungendering Fashion."
With lawmakers in Republican-led state legislatures across the country targeting trans people – especially trans youth – and drag, the article said, the America of the 21st century is starting to resemble the America of 80 years ago, when police were empowered to arrest citizens simply for wearing garments deemed to be gender-inappropriate.
"The right is using us as a scapegoat, as a distraction, to really push an agenda that is more about them having control over our bodies," the fashion author stated. "This is just going to continue if people don't realize that, if they're looking at this as kind of like, 'This is not my problem, why does it matter what people dress like? Why can't they just conform?'"
Vita recounted how the book, initially planned as a queer style guide, transformed – first, because of how the COVID pandemic affected medical care for trans people, but then as a result of the full court press Republicans have mounted against LGBTQ+ Americans.
"For example," NBC News relayed, "Van Bailey, a model who uses 'they' and 'he' pronouns and is featured in the section of the book dedicated to visibility, told Vita that 'visual cues' help them find other queer people when they're out and creates a sense of community."
Bailey told the style expert, "If I saw other studs or masculine-presenting queer people on a train or out and about, I'm automatically brightening up and being like, 'Hey, those are my people.'"
It's a sense of connection he finds sustaining despite the worsening political attacks. "Even though there's all this anti-trans legislation," Bailey added, "I can put on some fly gear or I've got this new pair of J's that make me feel good."
One current example of LGBTQ+ people striking back through fashion is the popularity of the "Pride Demon" T-shirt, an article of apparel that took off after a Delaware anti-gay activist and failed political candidate tried to literally demonize Pride.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recounted that "Lauren Witzke posted an image last week on Twitter that repeats the smooshed-together words 'PRIDEMONTH' in a column," but at the bottom, the "letters fade to highlight 'DEMON' in rainbow colors."
The tweet went viral, but not at all in the way that Witzke, a Q-Anon supporter, had intended. "Witzke's tweet has been quote-tweeted more than 18,000 times, mostly by queer people making fun of it," the Inquirer noted.
With the "Pride Demon" meme swamping social media, the T-shirt wasn't far behind – and, in a delicious irony, the original rainbow-colored design, in which "Pride" and "Month" mated to beget "Demon," was the work of a transgender artist named Veya, who took to Twitter to explain that the design had first been posted to social media in April.
Veya's explanatory post, too, went viral, with people "loving the idea of a far-right conservative stealing a queer person's art to make an anti-LGBTQ+ argument," the Inquirer reported.
Know Your Meme explains the meme's origins in more detail: "The design was originally created by Sword-In-Hand Publishing in 2021, perceivably anti-LGBTQ+. Soon after in 2021, queer Redbubble artist Art by Veya (artbyveya) created the rainbow-colored iteration for pro-LGBTQ+ usage."
Fashion, in other words, is not just a shield, it's also a double-edged sword.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.