SOUTH ASIA: VICE-PRESIDENT ELECT KAMALA HARRIS CUTS A STRIKING FIGURE ON THE WORLD STAGE

SOPHIA JARAMILLO WRITES — As newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris will be endlessly discussed for her diplomatic relations and duties, her fashion will also be discussed, as it should be. It is necessary to bring light to the impact of all areas of her identity.

Being of South Asian and African descent, Harris’ mixed heritage will allow her to stand as a role model and fashion icon for many young girls and women across the globe. Her style frequently includes sneakers with suits, namely Converse. Indian fashion designer Pria Kataaria Puri remarks that Harris’ decision to wear comfortable sneakers “conveys a sense of reliability and loyalty,” and that “conforming fully to traditions seems a bit outdated in [this] day and age,” implying that these playful elements of her personal style show her connection and association with today’s youth.

As a woman in the office of Vice-President, Kamala Harris joins the tradition of women in the White House (First Ladies, usually) who have been looked to as fashion icons over the years. She frequently wears pearls, as do so many politicians. Harris knows the challenges women have faced and the obstacles they have overcome, which she shows in her attire. During her acceptance speech, the Vice-President-elect not only mentioned the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement, but further added to their symbolism by sporting a white suit. For the feminist movement, white symbolizes moral purity. This suit also gave nods to Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968 and who adorned a similar white suit. It also gave a nod to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who wore a white power suit the evening of her nomination by the Democratic Party in 2016.

With our new Vice President, we can see a new age of fashion in the White House, which may well have meaning for people of color everywhere, including the South Indian village of Thulasendrapuram, where her grandfather was born.  A local farmer, Renganathan, says that Harris is “a great lady and an inspiration. She belongs to [the] soil [of Thulasendrapuram].”

Harris’ victory portends good things for the future of women in India, especially in light of the current anti-Muslim sentiment. What will her ensembles reveal about her style and status?

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