Fashion has always offered consumers the ability to open conversation within the parameters of social, economic, cultural and political significance for those who want to truly unravel the semantics of clothes. That conversation goes way beyond the functional and utilitarian aspects of fashion. It is essentially used as tool to extend one’s individual and communal character. For example, people who are more likely to buy into fair trade and ethical fashion are usually people who tend to care about the environment and are meticulous about knowing the details of how their clothes are produced.
With the government inching up to the end of its first year in power, there are certain images and public stances in political dress code by politicians and officials I wanted to explore. This week I will be sharing with you an update on trends associated with certain behavioural patterns and some of the juxtaposed realities that exist among politicians and officials that can be seen through the way that they dress. I find some of these patterns both disturbing and interesting.
The Fashion Rebel
It has become extremely difficult not to constantly look for updates on the new Mayor of Georgetown, even if news surrounding her line of duty isn’t taking centre stage in the press. She has created a buzz from the way she carries herself, and I’m always excited to see what she will do next.
At her formal inauguration, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green showed up in a green and black polka-dot dress with matching lipstick and accessories. A few days later, she attended an official meeting with the US Ambassador in a white dress with black numbers splashed all over it. Brave and confident are understated words to describe her fashion choices.
Chase-Green’s inauguration pictures sparked varying commentary on Facebook. Some said it was too bold for daytime and some endorsed her boldness. I was one to endorse it, mainly because there is a dire need to end dress codes stereotypes and promote individual identity. This is a fantastic way to silence people’s opinions on cross-dressing and androgynous styles.
Everyone should be allowed to express themselves as they see fit. Chase-Green’s unconventional style is what we need more of. It represents the shift we need to address archaic models of what is acceptable. It was not necessarily because I like green that I’m drawn to her, I am more obsessed with the fact she is able to and comfortable with going against the status quo.
Too many of us are still caught up in the societal parameters on dress codes and how one should identify based on position and gender. We think following the masses is the way forward.
I suppose one can also argue that her choice of colour coordination had something to do with her last name, a comical style opportunity to hint that she will return the city to being more green or showing loyalty and respect for her party that won the majority. Either way, for such a bold move, I am 100% on her side and I would be interested to hear her views on the unnecessary dress codes in public offices and the cross-dressing laws in Guyana, you know, since she is such a fashion rebel.
Big Player Entitlement?
I have covered the First Lady’s style extensively and it’s safe to say she has totally endorsed the sleeveless movement. I also find myself following Minister Volda Lawrence, who is quite classically stylish. I like the variance in the styles from both.
But even though First Lady Sandra Granger seems more in touch with reality and Lawrence has endorsed popular Guyanese designer Sonia Noel on her women empowerment movement, neither has been vocal on some of the types of freedoms we should be fighting for as women. Neither has said anything about our colonial inspired, rape culture induced dress codes in public places. I find this both disturbing and interesting. It seems like a hierarchical model has been shot up as to who gets to enjoy what. What is women empowerment really? And how much longer will women have to be judged, shunned and turned away from public offices and ministries because their arms or knees are exposed? The liberty to wear what you choose is a freedom and one that shouldn’t be denied.
Image Management and Social Media
Perceptions can be influenced and image managed effectively on social media, where interaction and action are key to changing people’s opinion. Jamaica’s Lisa Hanna is one of the most followed Caribbean politicians on Instagram because she manages her image excellently. People see her out in fields in her constituency barefoot. They see her promoting her local seamstress for her million-dollar-looking wardrobe on Instagram. She relates to the masses. She does the same things the ordinary man does.
Meanwhile in Guyana, not a single politician either in the present or former government has managed to connect with the people using that sort of image management on social media. All it takes is one bad PR day and everything goes downhill.
To be fair, former minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud had attempted to let the public see another side of him by sharing his personal cooking sessions on social media.
Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan has also been promoting his image as a people person and as a green savvy person, even before he was elected.
Local public figures need to understand that the way people absorb media has changed. They do not connect with politicians and officials only through traditional media. In times of hiccups and when credibility is at stake, it is social media that allows people to have variables for personality comparison. Secretaries and aides of politicians and officials need to have a better handle on managing their individual boss’s image on the internet. It is not enough to share general news on their Facebook pages, constituents connect and relate to insight into their lives.
It’s a shame that we have such a backdated approach to something as modern as social media.
I personally think our politicians are out of touch with how social media can be used effectively to drive change as well as how fashion can be a tool for economic development. Our approach is still basically utilitarian, which is unfortunate.