Female lawmakers wear symbolic white to Trump’s State of the Union address

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), center, and other lawmakers at President Trump's State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Some female lawmakers chose to wear white to the speech in solidarity with women and a nod to the suffragette movement.
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

The women wore white.

For the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Trump wore a navy blue suit and bright red tie, and, off to his right, Vice President Mike Pence was in a dark suit and royal blue tie.

However, to the left of Trump, in the place where former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sat in 2018 attired in a dark suit and blue tie that perfectly mirrored the outfit of the president that night, was new Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a suit of almost blinding white. And throughout the chamber of the House of Representatives, there were pops of white, those bursts of color contrasting sharply with the sea of dark suits that surrounded them. There are now 102 women serving in the House of Representatives, a record number, and it seemed that all were wearing white.

Lawmakers, dressed in white in tribute to the women's suffrage movement, applaud as they attend the State of the Union address at the Capitol on Tuesday.
(Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

And it wasn’t only on the floor of the chambers that the color white asserted itself. In the visitors’ gallery too were outfits in eye-catching white, most notably on Ana Maria Archila, the social activist who famously confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in the elevator in the middle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. She had been invited by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as her guest for the evening. (Naturally, Ocasio-Cortez also wore white, the same color of the pantsuit she wore at her swearing-in ceremony in January, grabbing the attention of the cameras when the freshman class gathered for a group photo.)

In the past couple of years, white has become the ubiquitous color of female empowerment — worn by Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 when she became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party; worn by stars on the red carpet when the momentary #MeToo shift to black had run its course; worn by Kesha as well the female stars (ranging from Camila Cabello to Cyndi Lauper) who backed her up last year at the Grammys when she sang a defiant “Praying.”

That color was also worn by Melania Trump at last year’s State of the Union address — the first lady wearing a form-fitting Dior suit that some observers saw as a subtle troll of Clinton. (On Tuesday, the first lady came in a black Burberry trench coat, adorned with military-style buttons.)

Vice President Mike Pence, clockwise, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi react as President Trump delivers his second State of the Union address from the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Washington D.C.
(Shawn Thew / EPA-EFE / REX)

The color white has long been associated with the suffragette movement. On the day of her swearing-in ceremony, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come. From suffragettes to Shirley Chisholm, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the mothers of the movement.”

Early on Tuesday, the sartorial theme had been foreshadowed by a photo posted on Twitter by several congresswomen, including Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), that quickly went viral. “.@HouseDemWomen wearing suffragette white and continuing the fight for equality at the #SOTU. #StateOfTheWomen #HerStory,” Haaland tweeted.

First lady Melania Trump, center, smiles as she arrives to attend the State of the Union address at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.
(Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

And in a brief interview with CNN before entering the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, Ocasio-Cortez harkened back to the historical significance of white.

“2019 is the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote,” said Ocasio-Cortez, adding that it had a special significance in a year that saw a record number of women elected to Congress. “It shows that for over 100 years, this battle for women’s equality has been long and it has been hard, but it has reaped many rewards in our democracy.”

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