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17/01/2018

Power dressing: why fashion has never been so important

Power dressing: why fashion has never been so important

The Oscars are six weeks away, and already my red-carpet predictions for this season have been proved wrong. When the Weinstein scandal broke last autumn, I assumed that red-carpet pageantry would be sidelined in the new world order. In 2018, surely no one would care what actors were wearing?

I could hardly have been more wrong. Last weekend’s Golden Globes may go down in history for the emergence of a new presidential candidate, but the black dress code that symbolised feminist solidarity against sexual harassment will be a significant footnote. The importance of the dress code was reflected by the fact that it was faithfully followed by almost everyone, potential presidential candidates included. At one of the most political award ceremonies in memory, clothes mattered more than ever.

Fashion has never been so important – and yet you can forget all about hemlines, which have never mattered less. It is 61 years since Carmel Snow’s post-show compliment to a young Dior – “Dear Christian, your dresses have such a new look” – was distilled into a soundbite that, framing fashion as news, carved out column inches accordingly. From those column inches, fashion has evolved into a TV channel on which we watch the whole world. The colour of the season matters less than a protest vote in black. Thousand-pound handbags get less play than home-knitted pussy hats. Politics, ideology and identity are narrated through clothes. We watch Kim Jong-un swapping his Mao suit for western-style tailoring, and Meghan Markle wooing middle England with an M&S jumper. Daniel Day-Lewis has chosen to play a couturier in what he pledges is his last on-screen role, while costume designers such as Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones, The Crown) are feted as thought leaders in modern television. Pep Guardiola’s current accessory of choice, a yellow ribbon pronouncing support for Catalan independence, may have been overshadowed at Anfield on Sunday by a spectacular game of football, but we are more sensitive than ever before to the messages of clothing. H&M, now facing worldwide outrage over a “Coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt photographed on a black child model, can vouch for that.

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