colour as protest

Winter may be on the way, but I’m done with captioning my insta pics ‘all black everything’, tired of mixtures of navy and grey and treating monochrome stripes like statements. I did minimalism, and now I’m done with it – or at least I’m done committing to it out of fear. Fear of standing out, fear of being heard. I’m seeing my old regulars pushed further and further back into my wardrobe and being replaced with vibrant hues, and I’ve come to celebrate the movement – now my clothes scream rather than stutter.

And it’s not just me. I’ve noticed it in my friends too, as we jokingly agree to dress in aggressive colours and full-on animal print to that birthday party, clashing to no end in group photos. Our references have switched. We care less about our old favourites like Chung, and are gravitating more towards Stone, noting down outfit ideas during Tuesday night’s drunken crisis control sessions, hunchback over Netflix. Yes, you could put it down to our 20s, the fact that none of us have any clue what is happening in our lives (and we’ve really given up caring) – but I doubt Alessandro Michele, or any other major successful designer right now, is acting on the basis of a quarter life crisis as they slap Bugs Bunny on a jumper, or pair pink with orange and march it down the runway.

Somewhere along the line, fashion got tired of timelessness; tired with being told that only ‘chic and simple’ will last. For so long we’ve prescribed to the idea that our more expensive purchases must be plain and ageless; beige trench coats, black leather bags; ‘Are you sure you’re still going to like those £150 orange trainers in a couple of months?’ We’ve treated black as our best friend for so long based on what can only be described as sartorial conditioning. Maybe black got its status as synonymous with class and grace all due to the belief that women must embody timelessness, quietness, the notion of never changing or standing out – never progressing. We’re taught to buy heirloom, life-long purchases, rather than hurricane trends that whirlwind in, fuck things up, and whirlwind out again – trends that mirror what it’s really like to be a young woman. And I think we’re tired of that.

In 2018, it’s undeniable that our feminism has changed, forcing us to categorise what we want, and check which aims are solely westernised and a result of privilege. And while the fight to be able to wear what you want is definitely a privileged fight to engage in, the notion of wanting to wear all the colours, all the patterns, all loud everything, is certainly reflective of a deeper fire beneath the surface. Women are fed up of waiting for permission. We’re fed up of the pressure to be classic, of all the throwaway facebook statuses of what constitutes a true woman or ‘wife material’, the day-to-day subtle misogyny. We’re rolling our eyes at that now – while wearing neon roll necks under snake print coats.

Just look at our new favourite style icons. The revival of Absolutely Fabulous – Eddie’s paisley bandanas and Bubble’s Teletubby puff dress; Carrie Bradshaw in a bright purple princess skirt in the middle of Abu Dhabi; Iris Apfel and her giant accessories, returning to our front brain; Leandra Medine’s ‘no pants protest’; Janelle Monae wearing vagina trousers and inspiring us all to jump on the pink and red train, to name just a few. Women who don’t care speak their mind, stand up and do whatever they want. And when did you ever see Edina Monsoon in all black? Elle Woods wouldn’t dare.

By now, we’re fed up. We’re tired of having to spend Friday nights painting signs for women’s marches, or having to breathe deeper each time we check twitter for the news, always preparing for dismay. In a political and social climate that feels more on edge than ever for women, teetering somewhere between The Handmaid’s Tale and the 1900s, we’re officially done with dressing for our funeral. Tired of moulds that are smaller than us, tired of perpetuated pressures still trying to indoctrinate us from our timelines, tired of our own sartorial purchases subtly telling us to be timid. And our bright attire says it all. There was a reason the models wore bright florals when they marched in Chanel’s SS15 fashion protest, or why the pink wave of the Women’s March or the white purple and green of the Suffragette’s is significant in its vibrancy. It says we’re here, we’re taking up space and you’ll listen to us.

After years of being soft and inoffensive, wearing cream cotton shirts while people spoke over me, folding my legs and arms into each other in interview chairs, resisting my muted outfits still comes as a challenge. But it does feel like a resistance – the most privileged, western protest possible – but still a kind of protest each time I walk out in pink, red and leopard print boots that are obnoxiously loud, with eyeshadow to match. I tell the world ‘no’ with each step I take. I won’t be quiet. I won’t be classic when I want to be the hurricane.

And that’s the story of how my black and white pinstripe trousers ended up crumpled at the back of my wardrobe.

Words: Lucy Harbron