Crafting Protest, Fashioning Politics: DIY Lessons from the American Revolution

From The Junto blog, Roundtable on "Colonial Couture"

“Please, sisters, back away from the pink.”

So women planning to attend the January 2017 Women’s Marches were urged by the writer of an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “Sorry knitters,” she continued, but making and wearing things like pink pussycat hats “undercuts the message that the march is trying to send….We need to be remembered for our passion and purpose, not our pink pussycat hats.”  To back up her point, the author opined that “bra burning” dominated—and thus damaged—popular (mis)conceptions of women’s rights protests in the 1960s. Please, ladies, she exhorted, don’t repeat the mistakes we made in the ‘60s by bringing fashion into politics.

Poor pussycat hats! Did they deserve this attack?


The Political History of Fashion

From the Yale Books Unbound blog:

Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” hat. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ubiquitous pantsuits. In 2016, both fashion items became immediately recognizable markers of political affiliation. First the candidates themselves, and then people voting for them—men and women alike—announced their politics by wearing one or the other. Such politicized fashion statements did not fade away post Election Day, either. The #GrabYourWallet movement co-founded by Shannon Coulter encourages American consumers to boycott companies owned by or supportive of the Trump family and their often not “Made in America” clothing. Other Americans, meanwhile, can show their support for Trump by buying dresses and bracelets from his or Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines. Designers as well as consumers and retailers have gotten into the game; designer Sophie Theallet made headlines when she released a public statement about her refusal to dress First Lady Melania Trump.


African American women’s voices and bodies in colonial America and today

Recently I was thrilled when Ann Little gave me the opportunity to offer a guest comment on her blog, Historiann (one of my very favorites!). 

“Let’s argue the history of this country, ok?’

So reporter April Ryan challenged, in a televised discussion on Monday, July 18, day one of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Ryan was responding to the remarks by her co-panelist on an MSNBC morning interview, Republican congressman Steve King. King, in a WTF moment for the ages, had just questioned what non-white “subgroups” had done to further western “civilization.” Ryan’s challenge was the last word she got in before MSNBC host Chris Hayes (who along with Esquire’s Charlie Pierce had been talking over her), went to commercial break.   On a Periscope video Ryan posted on Twitter, Chris Hayes announced his regret at not letting Ryan speak, but he had shut Ryan up when it mattered most.


Welcome to the Blog

Hello and welcome to ZaraBlog!

Every now and then, I plan to write about things from then and now. You'll find me discussing things from "then" more than "now," as I'm a scholar of the eighteenth century and find that time period endlessly fascinating. But if anything can get me to leave my favorite century, it's things.

You'll find me talking about these things here because they're just inherently really interesting, with wonderful histories hidden inside them. But I'll also talk about things to break down walls; walls between the academy and the public, and walls between fields within the academy. I strive to bring together fields of inquiry historians often separate, like women's history and military history. And one of the main reasons I wanted to launch this website was to provide another forum for bringing academic history to a wider public. 

Here in this blog, you'll hear about my thing for things. You'll find me chatting about things ranging from the political history embodied in body armor made in Tudor England, to the fashion history behind that new floral dress in the ZARA store. I'll unpack the mysteries behind things as physically unlike one another as a note purportedly made of human skin during the American Revolution and an oil painting of a wealthy merchant's wife who lived in colonial Boston and had seventeen children. 

Whether from the 1520s or 2016, whether made of metal, fabric, paint, or human skin, these are all objects with stories to tell. And they are all really good stories. I promise.