The very basis of who we are reflects in our clothing, an obvious fact. However, dress expression goes beyond style and trends. It's a way of calling attention to social issues and injustices. The 50's, 60's, and 70's filled the country with reasons to protest an injustice. For example, the beatniks of the late 1950's were a literary movement that took on eccentric habits of dress. They typically wore black turtle necks, peasant blouses, berets, dirty sneakers, and sandals. From the beats, the hippies were born later on in 1966. The hippy movement revolted the values of the adult society. They wore "gypsy" like tie-dyed clothing, layered jewelry, headbands, and sandals. Anti-war protesters in that same decade, wore blue jeans as a symbol of solidarity with the working class. These jeans became a form of self expression, as they began to embroider and paint messages on them.
The Civil Rights movement, which protested equal rights and treatment for African Americans, led to Black Pride. Many African Americans adopted the use of traditional multi-colored African garments, like dashikis, and amber, ivory, and ebony jewelry. They wore their hair in afros and corn-row braids. The Black Panthers, who protested police brutality against African Americans in the late 60's, dressed in all black, called "black bloc", which included black berets and leather jackets.
Yet, earlier than this, dress expression and protest was ever present in the early 1900's. Another example, the disposal of hobble skirts. During the Women's Suffrage Movement, women began to wear what was called the "suffragette suit." It was a direct response to the hobble skirt (a narrow skirt that went down to their ankles and impeded walking) which was was seen as a form of oppression. In the 1920's, women, known as Flappers, were breaking away from the restraints of the past. They began cutting their hair short, wore shorter, unfitted dresses, and flesh toned tights.
Fast forward to now, we are seeing everything from feminism and anti-racism t-shirts on the runway, all black attire at award ceremonies, and white pantsuits among many other forms of protest. Let's make one thing clear: protest is not fashion or an outfit of the day. It's simple to confuse a trend (not a fashion trend) with fashion, but there is a difference. How we feel and think, our outlook on life, our political views and so on affects what, why, and how we dress, but that doesn't make it "fashion." There will always be people that will choose to make a profit. The trouble is that if we are wearing a Black Lives Matter tee because we think it's cool and everyone else is doing it, then we're not exactly believing they do. What happened in the case of these social movements, is that it became a fashion trend and everyone forgot the original cause. We get caught up, we forget. We can't afford to forget the original purpose of our protest and outcry. Fashion and style help, but dress expression is not a fad, it's a purpose.