Freedom’s in Fashion

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These little ole’ gals are Thomas Kinkaide’s “Freedom in Fashion” figurines — each named for a stanza in the National Anthem. Most women are familiar with the lazy fashion spread/advertisement featuring patriotic-themed clothing. As with Kinkaide’s fashions, most of these designs offered to women shoppers are riffs on the American flag, or, simply featuring the flag plastered on a standard American clothing item (ahem, t-shirt, t-shirt!). All four look like drag queen versions of a 1950s MGM musical, and “Broad Stripes and Bright Stars” looks far more La Marseillaise than Oh Say Can You See? Glad to know patriotism is feminine and has a very tiny waist.

This year, patriots may choose to wear something a bit more relevant and far more aligned with the actual, present-day reality of the nation.

A dress allows you (just like Kinkaide’s brave figurine gals) to make yourself into a vertical (or, if you choose to go with hoop skirts, you can be a visual square) billboard for your beliefs. Here, I chose two dresses that hold the colors of the rainbow. The first, a silly shirt dress, has a certain hilarious cool factor, and its price is not silly (it’s on 6pm.com, by Mara Hoffman (the popularity of her tropical prints are why every-other-dress at Target and Kohls are giant 1970s style tropical prints), and is $167.99). The other dress, a very cool kimono-ish asian rainbow, is a one-shot dress, at Thredup, a thrift-shop style resale shop, only in xs, and only $37.99.

Eloquii loves rainbows, and often features rainbow-range detailing on its dresses. Here, the first image to the left is a sundress with a lovely white ruffle at the bottom; the skirt with the same vaguely-guatemalan inspired detailing is super-sweet with an elasticized back waist and is just so freekin’ cute.

Elizabeth Keckley is featured on this tshirt from historicaldream1 on etsy; the shop offers Frederick Douglass (he’s a great guy and doing really great things) and would make a great patriotic statement. Keckley was an independent, successful dressmaker, best known for her work making clothing for fashion plate Mary Todd Lincoln — they were also close friends with a very complicated relationship. And to the right, a tshirt featuring the silhouette of the continent of Africa — it’s from a small designer, A Leap of Style — and you can buy a men’s version as well. Kids, it’s a whole $30.00, and super cool. Either of these would look good with…. well, whatever you wore below them.

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It’s a bit late to order this, but the idea, the idea. This fabulous, beautiful dress from Habi Rose on Etsy costs $120.00 and doesn’t come in a size above 16. However, etsy has dozens of sellers, many working in different countries in Africa with some in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. (following the 21st-century African diaspora in large part), and many will make a dress, skirt, or top made to measurements (centimeters, why don’t you?). Plus, the placement of the design is so well handled: the orb makes for a built-in necklace, and least on our model, the vertical row of orbs ripple down either side of the skirt. Getting the fabric design to place like that means wasted fabric; $120.00 USD is not too much for that skill, care, and artistic sensibility.

If you want the more staid “pioneer” theme, or even riff off of the 1976 vibe the Fourth of July often has, two dresses echo those mythological days of calico dresses, keeping chickens, and riding covered wagons (never mind those pesky Indians; the military will take care of them). The first is a lovely rufflely rayon dress from Lauren Conrad (this line has several lovely dresses this season — lovely because the design line is always, always a bit twee, meant to appeal to romantically-minded high school students) and is on sale at Kohls this weekend for under $50.00. The second, a more dignified dress, is at Nordstrom Rack and comes in plus sizes only; it’s just under $43.00. Its faded blue tile pattern, topped with the crochet trim and tassels, does echo those calico patterns (calico was originally Indian and reflects that English colonialist empire military-backed era).

Finally, two dresses that say “screw it! I’m ready for the future.” I was surprised to find these on Nordstrom Rack — mainly because they are both from DKNY, a company that supposedly lost its edge and profit margins. Well, finding them on Nordstrom’s clearance website might be that story. Anyhow, both dresses feel like some mid-level designers decided, the hell with it! we’re going down with coolness. So, the first dress tells us corporate is crazy, falling apart at the seams. the white front is backed with black; that slice is non-tailored but carefully edged with a narrow hem. The dress is called the “colorblock cutout dress” by the seller, comes in P-S (which looks huge on our size 0 model) and M-L. The second dress is “Apron Dress” . This is basically an “overall dress” style popular in the 1990s, but looking far cooler. Why? Well, the thin ribby model helps, as does that sleek little cropped tshirt (note to self: if you buy, wear tight under it!). But it’s that lightly gathered skirt, the inset pockets, the side slit to just above the knee, and those sandals, which are just dressy enough to make the dress look like effort (they could have styled this with flat sneakers as with the cutout dress to same effect, but teva sandals, running shoes, or even dress flat would have killed the effect). I like the apron dress partly because it takes a yeah-old style, what we used to call the jumper, and makes it cool. Domestic rendered hip.

Patriotic clothing is kitschy and silly. It’s intended to be that. This Fourth, there’s a bit of debate — does one wrap one’s self in the flag, both as a defensive measure (dissent is patriotic!) and as an statement of self (I, too, am a part of the nation!). I’ve never, ever been a fan of the combo of red-white-and-blue in clothing; I grew up in the 1970s and had enough of it then. So, these are my own preferences for wearing one’s love of nation, one’s pride in the foundational beliefs of democratic representation, tolerance, and cooperative enterprise. Call me patriotic, please.

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