Call for Chapters: Edited Volume on Fashion and Politics in Comparative Perspective

Karen Kedrowski (Iowa State University), [email protected]
Candice Ortbals (Abilene Christian University), [email protected]
Lori Poloni-Staudinger (Northern Arizona University), [email protected]
J. Cherie Strachan (The University of Akron), [email protected]

Fashion choices have political motivations and political consequences; this is evidenced in diverse cases around the world – from the indigenous clothing choices made by Thelma Cabrera, a presidential candidate in Guatemala in 2019, to Ryu Ho-jeong, who as the youngest member of the youngest member of the South Korean National Assembly in 2020, wore a casual outfit instead of a formal suit. Henry Delgado (2018) defines “fashion” as “when a society at large agrees to a style, aesthetic or cultural sensibility for a period of time.” Political dress, by contrast, is the adoption of a particular costume as a political statement, often salient for a shorter duration. By this definition, Ryu Ho-jeong is an example of political dress; she wanted to, in her own words, challenge the “dark suits and ties” of “middle-aged men in their 50s…by wearing
casual clothes”. Furthermore, fashion can be considered a type of “style activism,” namely a “designing [of] the self” in a way that proposes social change (Tulloch 2019, 86). Through her expression of indigenous style, Thelma Cabrera arguably affirmed her campaign theme of change in Guatemala: to restore a focus on original peoples and end discrimination against them.

This book is part of a two-volume set that examines the interplay between fashion and politics. The set broadly asks how do political actors and the public frame fashion choices in politics and how do actors use fashion to claim personal and political agency? Whereas the first volume addresses fashion choices and consequences in the United States, the second examines fashion and politics in comparative perspective. We are soliciting a broad array of chapters that examine the interplay of fashion and politics in unique and theoretically interesting ways in various countries/regions of the world.

Politicians, surrogates and outgroups use fashion as a tool of political messaging and an avenue of political agency. Women, in addition to media and other political actors, frame their actions regarding fashion as a way to formulate and express their own ideas about gender (Ortbals and Poloni-Staudinger 2016, Kedrowski et al 2021). We consider gender to be a process that motivates the actions and opinions of many political actors (Beckwith 2005), and we believe that “the strategic employment of race and gender” as well as class, ethnicity, and indigeneity “shape and are shaped by existing power structures” (Wineinger 2019, 6). Therefore, as political actors and others employ fashion as political statements of values and policies, they construct gender and exert political agency, thereby “framing” their own lives and leadership (Ortbals and Poloni- Staudinger 2016); however, at the same time, existing gender (and additional social) hierarchies are framing and reconstituting their identities in diverse ways.

People in politics also face consequences for their fashion choices. Women tend to experience a double-bind in which they are judged both for being too feminine and too masculine, depending on the outfit. In previous analyses of news coverage of women candidates, most scholars note that women are less likely to be covered by the media. When they are, there is less coverage of their issue positions and more on their appearance and viability (Kahn 1996; Bystrom et al. 2004; O’Neill et al. 2016). Men too experience media attention. For instance, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is extensively discussed for being well-dressed and attempting to convey youth, consumerism, and masculinity through fashion choices (Srivastava 2025). Outside of the binary, individuals both bend gendered expectations as a statement and receive pushback for doing so.

The goal of our edited collection is to bring together scholars to consider the state of the art in fashion and politics and to raise the profile of this area of inquiry in the discipline of political science. Special consideration will be given to submissions that take an intersectional approach to the topic. Work that expands beyond the traditional gender binary is encouraged, and both historical and contemporary cases are welcomed. We seek cases that explore the strategic use of fashion and responses to this use from three groups–principals (such as elected officials), surrogates (such as First Ladies or women who are royals and possibly serve as heads of state), and outgroups (such as social movements or in pop culture) from US and comparative contexts. Each contribution should be theoretically grounded and we welcome a wide array of theoretical approaches ranging from signaling to social psychology to Marxism.

To see a literature review around which we will situate the book as well as ‘proof of concept’ cases, please visit:
Five hundred-word abstracts of your proposed chapter submission are due July 1, 2022.
Please send your abstracts to [email protected] All invited authors will be
notified by August 15, 2022 and completed chapters will be due by March 15, 2023.