Dressing the Resistance: The Visual Language of Protest Through History

Princeton Architectural. Oct. 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781616899882. $27.95. DEC ARTS
Clothing is a fundamental expression of discontent, both personal and in solidarity with others. From safety pins pierced through ear lobes to knitted pink hats with cat ears, Benda (costume design, California Inst. of the Arts, Sch. of Theater) describes how dress has served as a form of rebellion through history. Her authority derives from extensive work as a costume designer and a scholar of fashion history, with advanced degrees from Yale and the Courtauld Institute. The scope of this amply illustrated global survey is broad and organized thematically, allowing for unexpected connections. An account of David Bowie’s flamboyant gender-bending 1973 knitwear is followed by Amelia Bloomer’s 1910 introduction of pants for suffragettes. The text’s light touch is balanced by an extensive bibliography, organized by subject (“Menswear”; “Subculture”). Benda concludes by reflecting on the future of activism, particularly the use of social media for expression; here she profiles influencers who rebel through their choice of dress and style.
VERDICT Accessible and non-scholarly in tone yet comprehensively sourced, this book will serve as a source of enlightenment and inspiration for a wide audience.
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