A 5-Step Guide To Picking Out Your Armor For The Women’s March

More than 200,000 people are expected to descend on Washington, D.C. the morning after President Trump’s inauguration for the Women’s March — around the same number as the 1963 March On Washington led by Martin Luther King. That will make it one of the largest demonstrations in American history. It could also become one of the most iconic.

As women across the country are packing their bags, they’re considering how to dress not just for the weather, which looks to be unseasonably balmy (Good from a marching perspective! Terrifying from a climate change one!), but also to make a statement. As Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory told former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau on his new podcast, Pod Save Us,“We have a president coming into office who’s very powerful and very dangerous. And, I know that we just have to put on [our] entire armor.”

Armor. It’s a strange way to think about the pervious fabric you wear to clothe your body, but all women know how certain outfits can make us feel bigger and stronger and more warrior-like, which comes in handy in moments where we need to feel those things. Like now.

Women’s protests and clothing have always been closely linked (long white dresses for the suffragettes, bra-burning for the second wave feminists who marched for women’s rights in the 1960s, black and white T-shirts for Black Lives Matter). But what you wear to the march isn't just about creating a visual: It's about using your sartorial choices to signify how you want to be seen in the world and shake off the assumptions that society makes about women in general. A short skirt does not mean you're a slut; not does a long dress equate to prudishness. Suits are sexy and there is absolutely such a thing as a power dress. Your outfit is your armor, just like Mallory said.

The only question that remains is this: What are you going to wear into battle this weekend?
Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Congress.
1. Identify The Enemy
The first step: have a clear idea about why you’re marching. The official Women’s March platform is five pages long. That’s a lot. And while you may stand for many of the issues laid out in the platform, it’s okay to pick the issues that speak most personally to you. That could be the broader policy issues like reproductive rights, equal pay and a right to stay safe from pussy grabbing.

But there are other aspects of your identity that you may want to make sure are represented too: Maybe you’re afraid to to wear your hijab. Or you’re concerned that your Americanness will be questioned when you drape yourself in your sari. Or, that you’ll be taunted and attacked when you and your trans sisters deign to wear dresses. Those experiences are specific and special to women, even though they are not the experiences of all women.

Those politicians and systems of power who prefer to keep women back (or even regress into less-just times) — those are the enemy you’re marching against.

2. Learn Your History
If there is one thing women have known how to do since time immemorial, it’s how to dress for a show. When women who fought for our right to vote descended on Washington in 1913 for Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, suffragettes used their clothes to drive home ideas of equality and justice. The result was stunning: Most women wore white dresses and top coats. But the more dramatic among them decked themselves in ivy garlands and American-flag capes. They wore these items while riding horseback, armed with actual breastplates and Roman helmets.

The more understated suffragettes chose a variety of buttons, pins, and ribbons — a practice that extended to the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s, the Equal Rights protests of the 1970s, the Abortion Rights protests of the 1980s, and the Gay Rights protests of the ‘90s and early aughts. It’s the easiest way to let people know why you’re there: you wear your issue on your lapel.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Congress.
Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images.
3. Know Your Team Colors
The easiest way to unify a group of people is to deck them all in the same color (just ask any sports fan). For the Women’s March, we have a few colors to consider.

Obviously, there's white. The suffragettes chose it as a dress color because it represented “purity” (It didn’t hurt that their colorful pins and ribbons stood out best against a white backdrop). Ever since, it’s been used as a reference to women breaking glass ceilings in politics (When Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to congress in 1969, she wore white; when Geraldine Ferraro became the first female selected as a major party vice presidential candidate in 1984, she wore white; and when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated as a major party presidential candidate last year, she wore white.) Beyond politics, white was the color of choice for activists: From Dolores Huerta’s white slogan T-shirts to the prim, white shirt-dresses of the Little Rock Nine.

If you're into rocking a deep cut, think about yellow and gold. American suffragettes used yellow and gold as as an homage to the sunflower, the state flower of Kansas where early suffrage campaigns took place.
There's also purple: British suffragettes gave us green (for hope) and purple (for dignity). But these days purple—a mix of red and blue— represents unity. It’s the color Hillary Clinton chose to wear to deliver her concession speech.

And finally, there's the pink. No color says “girly” more than pink. But that is the wrong way to think about it. For one thing, women have reclaimed pink as their own: the so called “Millennial Pink,” wherein intelligent, strong, modern women sport the color as a Shibboleth of sorts. Pink is also the color of Planned Parenthood. And softer shades of pink are used by progressive women-run brands like Glossier, The Wing, Mansur Gavriel, and Thinx. It’s not a coincidence that Pussyhat Project, an organization committed to outfitting marchers with hand-knit, pink caps with cat-ears chose pink as their unifying color. “These are not Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ red caps, many of which were ironically made in China,” says Pussyhat organizer Krista Suh. “These are hats handmade by women and men all over the country. When you see that sea of pink at a march, this says that we stand together and we will not be erased from the political conversation.”
Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Congress.
Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images.
4. Mind The Weather
If there is a time to cash in on good weather juju, it’s now — and with any luck, Washington D.C. will be relatively warm and partially sunny. That combination of cool-but-not-cold and sunny-but-not-blinding is a clothes-wearing person’s dream, because you can wear a lot of clothes at once, but you don’t have to cover it all with a parka. That also means that visually, there will be a ton more diversity than just a sea of puffers.

But you should still prepare for random acts of disappointment. Throw your HeatTech, a poncho, some extra socks, and your warmest puffer jacket in your suitcase, just in case.

There’s also a matter of shoes: The march will approximately include three hours of standing around and a few more hours of walking, which means the average person could log around ten miles. So, wear old shoes that won’t give you blisters. And if you err on the side of rain, wear a waterproof pair.

When it comes to bags, it’s time to minimize. According to March rules, “Backpacks are not permitted unless they are clear,” which reads to you like a fun opportunity to get a see-through plastic backpack. Since that won’t be so easy to find, opt for a crossbody or fannypack, which have always been the practical woman’s purse.

5. Support Your Sisters In Arms
There were the ubiquitous symbols from the election like pantsuits or Nasty Woman merchandise. There are also a wide variety of shops that cropped up after the election, like Dynasty, Pincause, and the official merchandise from the Women’s March, most of which donate profits to women’s causes and organizations.

There are also many feminist brands to support with leaders who stuck out their necks during the election, and held fast to it even when the pile-on followed. There was e-commerce retailer Wildfang, who outfit women who have no interest in dressing feminine; art collective Otherwild who demanded that the future be female; and accessories brand Kidd Bell whose pins, caps, and tees present a stellar example of what intersectionality can look like. There are also a host of women-run business and women-designed brands that have made feminism an everyday reality of their business and mission (and not just superficially traded in it for relevancy), like Chromat, Zana Bayne, Rachel Comey, Tanya Taylor or Opening Ceremony.

And of course, if you felt uplifted by this exercise and excited by its potential, don’t be shy about following this guideline the other 364 days of the year. As long as you’re reminded daily about women’s injustices in your paychecks, your nights out, your meetings at work, or just your walks down the street, it’s fair game to remind yourself too that 200,000 women have your back.

See you in your full gear this Saturday.
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