BUST: “Dressing The Resistance” Explores How People Have Historically Used Clothing To Activate Change from Joan of Arc to Madame Gandhi and more

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 Kiran 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. 

By Bust for Bust