Snatched + Ready: The fierce style of black female politicians
Because black women aren’t worried about a dress code
In news that should surprise no one, President Donald Trump has strong opinions about how his female staffers should dress. According to a story in Axios.com, Trump’s rules of professional attire require them to “dress like women,” and some women have “felt pressure to wear dresses to impress Trump.” Cue the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman, which featured pictures of surgeons, soldiers, scientists and firefighters wearing their professional uniforms with pride.
Perhaps Trump should consider aligning himself with a few black female politicians and policy experts — if they’ll have him. But let’s be clear: Black women got the memo about how to dress appropriately for work a long, long time ago. Enslaved women who were nannies to white children on Southern plantations were given better clothing than their field-working family members. Could a black woman in the post-Jim Crow era have gotten a job as a domestic worker or school teacher if she wasn’t neat, clean, pressed-and-curled or respectably attired in her Sunday best? Unlikely.
When African-American women began running for elected office in large numbers, they knew they would have to look the part. Working alongside their white colleagues in state capitols, the United Nations or on the floor of the U.S. Senate and Congress meant dressing respectably in order to be taken seriously. It also made good political sense: Black folks saw themselves in well-dressed, elegantly groomed leaders, and white folks felt comfortable with their conservatively attired peers.
Gone were the days when uber-fly black politicians got the side-eye. “We, the People” now came with a Macy’s charge card and tickets to the Ebony Fashion Fair catwalk show. The late ’80s and ’90s saw a wave of fashionable city mayors and congresswomen who embraced bright colors, wild patterns, over-the-top jewelry and hats, showy shoes. Some even wore ultrafeminine dresses and smart skirt suits in order to seem in touch with their constituents.