Pantsuit Nation started as a private Facebook group and has grown into a rallying cry
Supporters vow to wear pantsuits in honor of Democratic nominee's signature style
For some Hillary Clinton supporters, November 8 is more than Election Day.
It’s pantsuit day, and they intend to dress accordingly.
Plans to wear the Democratic nominee’s signature style on Election Day started in the private Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. It’s where Clinton supporters gather to gush over the candidate and share what her historic candidacy means to them, though the group is not affiliated with any campaign or party.
In little more than two weeks the phenomenon has spread from the private group to become the latest feminist rallying cry for Clinton. There’s a public Facebook page and people are using #PantsuitNation to join the conversation on social media. Even Beyonce caught the fever, opting for a black-and-white polka-dotted number at her Friday night Clinton rally.
Just as with Trump supporters who plan to wear red, it’s a (sort of) subtle way of showing solidarity amid restrictions on wearing campaign paraphernalia to the polls. But to those in the group, it’s more than a fashion statement.
Members of Pantsuit Nation come from swing states, red states and blue states, but they share a devotion to the first woman candidate, expressed in heartfelt and often soul-bearing posts.
What is Pantsuit Nation?
Many posts come from women – and some men – who feel isolated among Trump-supporting friends, families and neighbors. They don’t feel comfortable talking politics on their Facebook feed so they turn to the group.
Others are simply looking for a safe space where they can go gaga for Clinton without having to check their language for fear of inviting unwanted political debate, critiques or worse.
The posts – which we’re not attributing to anyone because the group is private – feature variations on the following themes:
“I’ve been wanting to discuss this for a while, but I’m deep in the heart of Trump country and I’m sure most of my friends could care less…”
“This group has made me so happy. Happy to know how many people actually want to change the world. Happy to know that there’s so many Hillary supporters like me…”
“All these posts flying by my news feed are giving me hope and courage…”
Who started it?
Maine resident Libby Chamberlain started the group after the final presidential debate. She was inspired by a conversation with a friend who found herself defending Clinton’s sartorial choices to young women.
To Chamberlain and her friend, woman wearing pantsuits was a way to challenge gender roles through an item of clothing historically seen “as a man’s prerogative,” she said in email.
“We talked about how beautifully and stoically Hillary embodies women’s fight for equality, and how the pantsuit is an emblem of that struggle,” she said.
“It’s a symbol that might be lost on younger women, and so I wanted to do something to re-appropriate that symbol and everything that it means to me as a feminist and Clinton supporter.”
What does it do?
Members share stories of fights with relatives or being the only person with a Clinton-Kaine yard sign. Stories about mothers who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment or mothers who became citizens this year and voted for the first time.
They share voting selfies after casting a ballot – the group warns not to post pictures in voting booths – and pictures of all manner of HRC paraphernalia: T-shirts declaring “I’m with her” and “Nasty woman,” nail art, hairstyles, signs, even food bearing the HRC logo. Many share pictures and stories of a time they met Clinton.
The group has ballooned to more than 1.3 million members, evolving from a safe space into an organizing group whose members spent the weekend before the election fund-raising and canvassing – and looking for pantsuits.
It turns out pantsuits can be hard to find in a pinch, especially on the cheap, causing some to offer improvised solutions such as tracksuits and Halloween costumes. Organizers suggest trying Goodwill, your mother’s closet or online retailers for last-minute solutions.
What should you wear?
Chamberlain plans to wear a white pantsuit for its symbolism in women’s rights and women in politics. It’s the color activists used during women’s suffrage to symbolize the purity of their movement. It’s also the color worn by Shirley Chisholm when she became the first African American elected to Congress and Geraldine Ferraro when she accepted the vice-presidential nomination of a major party ticket in 1984.
At this point, though, Pantsuit Nation is about more than an article of clothing, Chamberlain said.
“Our members are relieved to find a place where they can support their candidate without fear of anger and attacks,” she said. “For many, this group has become a safe space to share their stories and support one another; we’re hoping to continue this safe space post election.”