By Claire Zillman
November 7, 2016

It’s well documented that fashion trends are cyclical, and on the eve of Election Day a style from the early 1900s is suddenly in again.

Some women are donning white clothes—blouses, dresses, or maybe even a sensible pantsuit—as they head to the polls to vote in the United States election that could put the first woman in the White House.

The pristine aesthetic is an homage to the official color of the U.S. suffrage movement that took place early last century and a nod to the historic nature of the election, which has been largely overshadowed by partisan vitriol and scandals involving Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct.

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Clinton supporters latched onto the #wearwhitetovote movement after the candidate appeared at the third and final presidential debate in an all-white pantsuit. (She also wore white to the final night of the Democratic National Convention.) Since then, the hashtag has gained traction on Twitter as a way to show support for Clinton and to mark just how far women have come. As Election Day nears, some early voters—several of whom have identified themselves as Clinton supporters—have posted selfies of themselves, clad in white.

 

White as a symbol of women’s suffrage stems back to the Britain in 1908 when the Women’s Social and Political Union chose three colors—white for purity, purple of dignity, and green for hope—to unify participants during a demonstration in London’s Hyde Park. The U.S. suffragist movement traces its roots to the mid-1800s, but white didn’t turn up as a symbol of the effort until decades later.

Since securing the right to vote, women have—time and again—donned white garments as a show of solidarity and as a way to identify historic achievements.

When Shirley Chisholm became the first African American women elected to Congress in 1969 she wore white.

Shirley Chisholm shortly after she won election to congress from New York City's Bedford-Stuyvesant district, on November 6, 1968. Associated Press.

When thousands of women marched on Washington in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978, they wore white.

Leading supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment march in Washington on Sunday, July 9, 1978. From left: Gloria Steinem, Dick Gregory, Betty Friedan, Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, D-N.Y., Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Rep. Margaret Heckler, R-Mass. Associated Press.

In 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro became the first female vice president candidate, she delivered her acceptance speech in a white suit.

Geraldine Ferraro at the Democratic National Convention on July 19, 1984 in San Francisco, California. Associated Press.

And there may be lots of white popping up in lines at polling places on Tuesday.

After the final presidential debate, Clinton had lightheartedly confirmed rumors that the late rapper Tupac had influenced her wardrobe choice—the resemblance is remarkable—but an allusion to the suffrage movement makes much more sense.

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