Kamala Harris, Vice President-elect of the United States, took a powerful stance in solidarity with women across the country during President-elect Joe Biden’s victory speech Saturday night. She stepped before the cameras dressed in a pantsuit in “suffragette white,” a choice not made in the name of fashion, but in the name of female empowerment.
The legacy of the white pantsuit has been years in the making and has been flouted by powerful female figures as a sign of resistance for decades. The white ensemble is a tribute to the suffragettes from the early 1900s, the women who marched for their right to vote and demanded respect as equal citizens of the United States. The history behind suffragette white is crucial to understanding the significance of Harris’ choice of outfit.
In the early 20th century, the suffragettes would band together adorned in all white, both as a way to easily identify one another at the events they participated in and as a way to appropriate the color for their own cause. The color white once symbolized innocence and traditional femininity; however, the color was rebranded under the suffragettes from one that had once conveyed purity to one that signaled rebellion.
Women across America have carried on the tradition of wearing suffragette white as a sign of empowerment ever since. At the 1978 March for the Equal Rights Amendment in New York, one of the largest women’s rights marches in American history, thousands of marchers showed up clad in all white in tribute to the suffragettes. Female politicians have taken on the trend in stride; in 1968, Shirley Chisholm wore white when she became the first Black woman elected to Congress; in 2016, Hillary Clinton wore white when accepting her Democratic nomination for president; a flock of Democratic congresswomen wore white at President Trump’s first major congressional address in solidarity against his misogyny.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wore white when she was sworn into Congress and was vocal about her choice to do so. Afterwards, she tweeted, “I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come.” The white pantsuit has become an iconic symbol in American politics.
Harris’ choice to wear the white pantsuit at Biden’s victory speech is reflective of the very same message that women have been calling out for decades. She has made history for women, shattering record after record with this single new role she is taking on: the first woman, woman of color, woman of South Asian descent, and daughter of immigrants to become the vice president of the United States.
She spoke proudly during her acceptance speech in favor of women across the country: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”
Harris knew what she was doing when she wore the white pantsuit. This election marks the first time that a woman is heading into White House, and the outfit seems so incredibly fitting in celebration of the occasion. It sent a message to women everywhere: that we can do exactly as we please and make our dreams a reality, that we will not be held down by the obstructions of misogyny that have been placed in our way, and that we will continue making history for the rest of time.