dressing the resistance header bust magazine 4426f

Clothing can be anything the wearer wants it to be, from a symbol of personal expression, to a class signifier, to simply the thing that keeps one protected from the elements. It can also play a part in creating social and political change. In the recently published book Dressing the Resistance: The Visual Language of Protest Through History, author, costume designer, and dress historian Camille Benda explores all the ways in which fashion has been used by women as a tool of activism. From Joan of Arc’s armor to the mere existence of the miniskirt, clothing has always been a powerful instrument for those fighting for change. –Marie Lodi

 15th century 

Joan of Arc wears male military armor after a vision of leading France to war.


DTR p136right c07dbPhoto: Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, France/Bridgeman


Sojourner Truth dresses in Quaker garb to communicate her role as an abolitionist.

DTR p36right 1374fPhoto: Library of Congress


Irish rebel hero Constance Markievicz designs a uniform for Citizen’s Army women.

DTR p136left 64908Photo: Kilmainham Gaol, Ireland


British designer Mary Quant helps popularize the liberating miniskirt.

DTR p76left b5270Photo: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy Stock Photo



Middle school student Mary Beth Tinker DIYs anti-Vietnam war armbands.

 DTR p174 37ef8Photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive /Alamy Stock Photo



CODEPINK shocks Republicans in pink sequined vulva costumes.

DTR p159bottom 2b377Photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive /Alamy Stock Photo




Russian protest group Pussy Riot sports neon balaclavas and fishnets.

DTR p159bottom 2b377Photo: © PhotoXpress/ZUMAPRESS/Alamy Stock Photo;



Kiran Gandhi runs the London marathon while free bleeding.

DTR p194topright 05c11Photo: Courtesy of Kieran Gandhi



At the Weinstein trial, protestors wear red lipstick and black mesh across their eyes like blindfolds.

DTR p162 ce4a9Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri


The pink-wearing Gulabi Gang defend women’s rights in India. 

DTR p106 1 af88dPhoto: Joerg Boethling/Alamy Stock Photo


Portland moms attend Black Lives Matter protests wearing yellow to identify themselves. 

DTR p26 08be1Photo: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

 All images courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

This article originally appeared in BUST's Spring 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!