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Breaking the Curse of the Election Day Outfit

Many women see the outfits they wore to vote as holding some bad juju.


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We chose our outfits so carefully on Election Day. “I wore one of my Nasty Woman tees, jeans, and a black sweater” a friend told me. “I wore the Jason Wu-designed Hillary T-shirt, black jeans, and a blazer,” shared another. “I wore my ‘Feminism Never Sleeps’ shirt because at the time it was my only shirt with a feminist slogan on it,” a third said.

As for me, I pulled on a favorite Madewell sweatshirt — one with a big heart on it — that I felt said it all.

Whether or not you had a special Election Day outfit, there is a certain sorrow to be found in googling “Election Day outfit” and finding a series of links that dramatically underscore the divide between “before” and “after.” All those things we’d embraced on November 8th — the all-white clothing in honor of suffragettes, the pantsuits, the Hillary tees, my sweatshirt (to say nothing of our hopes and dreams) — they belonged to the before, and were too painful to consider in the after.

Recently, though, I found myself missing that sweatshirt, left dormant in my closet since that night because looking at it brought up not only sad feelings, but also the uneasy sense that it might have been in some way cursed. Trump can’t take my favorite sweatshirt! I thought. And: Clothing can’t be cursed! Let’s be reasonable!

So, I put it on to meet a friend at a coffee shop only to find that we’d gotten our locations confused and she was at another spot 15 minutes away. I’d ordered her a latte at the first place, and they made it with skim instead of her requested soy milk. “I’ll come to you,” I texted, and waited ten minutes for them to redo her coffee. Then, while walking to her, sipping my iced coffee, I found a strange hair in my mouth that was definitely not mine. I spit it out into a tree bed and threw the coffee away, disgusted and confused (had it come from the coffee!? HAD IT COME FROM THE SWEATSHIRT!?). Upon reaching my friend, I ripped off the sweatshirt and sat there in my tank top because why risk things further? I still don’t want to throw the sweatshirt away, but I’m not sure I trust it.

This week, I met some friends to see Hidden Figures. Pre-movie talk turned to the protests in New York and Washington, DC: what we expected, what we needed to be prepared, and what we should wear. Which led to an informal poll: How do you feel about what you wore on Election Day? “I very ostentatiously wore all white — including white jeans — and afterward I felt like such an asshole,” said one friend. “Like I personally jinxed the election with my blithely optimistic outfit. Which is now ruined for me. But it's okay, because honestly why do I own white jeans anyway?”

Another friend’s daughter had nabbed her gray wool beanie hat. “We were in a very long line, and she was jumping around, so excited. I was anxious about my brother and his wife's last-ditch IVF results. I kept one hand on her head and would check for his message with the other as we waited. I was in touch with so much hope that day. Florida went red around the same time as the text finally came in: negative. I'm not superstitious, but later that month I left that sad old beanie in the back of a cab.”

I reached out further. “I wore my Friday Night Lights 'Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose’ T-shirt with my ‘I'm With Her’ pin,” said editor Kathleen Baxter. “I'd planned to wear my ‘I'm With Her’ T-shirt, which I'd worn on the first debate, with a pair of socks that say ‘Hell-raiser,’ also first debate wardrobe, but I changed it up, and then forgot my socks. So basically I'm the reason we are in this situation.”

Alana Lang Haughaboo, a teacher in Alabama, told me, “I wore a smart, long-sleeved white wool shift dress from J.Crew, a smug look piercing through my Prada bifocals, berry-colored lipstick, an heirloom cameo pin from my immigrant great grandmother, and high heels… After about a month, I decided the only way to ‘cleanse’ it was to wear it to church on Christmas Day. So I did. I don't know when I'll wear it again. I love the dress but it brings up bad memories and is possibly cursed.”

Maybe we’re a paranoid lot, or maybe there’s something to this. The immense optimism we felt prior to the election somehow flowed into our clothing choices, but when the tide turned, well, so did our faith in… not Hillary or democracy or America or our ideals, necessarily, but in our fashion choices. Something, clearly, had let us down, and it seemed easier to pin it on the outfit, or even ourselves, than anything else. Or maybe it was just an association thing. Or perhaps there really was a curse. Hey, tons of sports fans have believed in that stuff for decades. “I wore my ‘Pro-Choice, Pro-Feminism, Pro-Pug’ T-shirt to vote,” said editor Maris Kreizman. “And I have never been superstitious about clothing, but I definitely feel bad vibes coming off it.”

The good news is that women who put together ad-hoc pantsuits cannot be so easily crushed. From the ashes of our optimism there has emerged a resolved practicality, a staunch defense of our hopes and dreams. And you can see it in our clothes. “I've put no thought into my march clothes besides being comfortable and temperature appropriate,” Baxter told me. “I was all about my signs: ‘I'm the Outspoken Feminist You Were Warned About’ and ‘My Mom Blazed This Trail. I Will Not Turn Back.’” Artist Allison Malinsky said, “I'll be wearing all black, mostly menswear woolen suit items. And a big black mourning hat. Fierce.” Kreizman adds, “For the protests, it's my new ACLU ‘Dissent Is Patriotic’ shirt. At least the ACLU shirt I bought actually benefits the ACLU.”

That doesn’t mean our Election Day clothes are gone forever; in fact, there’s a comeback story at work there, too. Publicist Elizabeth Hohenadel Scott explained, “My [Election Day] shirt was designed by female American small business owner Brim Papery; it says ‘unapologetic,’ a reminder to be bold and fearless. I’m planning to wear the same shirt to march in DC this weekend.” Digital executive Alex Leo said, “I wore my ‘Nasty Women Vote’ shirt on Election Day. I still wear it. Saturday, I'm wearing my ‘Nasty Women Never Quit’ shirt, an American flag pin, and a hat with a four letter message for Mr. Trump.” And Jennifer Hill of Hoboken, New Jersey told me, “I wear my H T-shirt proudly and the sticker is still on my laptop. I'll probably wear it to the march. I'm proud of it and always will be.”

Luckily, we can learn from the past, and in many ways, we already have. If you’re worried about curses, or just the dreaded wardrobe repeat — or if you’re already dreaming up what to wear to the polls in 2020 — take a tip from Christina Wallace, an entrepreneur in Brooklyn: “I rented my inauguration pantsuit (with cape!) from Rent the Runway so, like a dress from a disappointing prom, I never have to look at it again.”