The little black dress has been the go-to wardrobe staple for millions of women ever since Vogue published Coco Chanel’s first “LBD” sketch in 1926. In their feature, they called it “Chanel’s Ford” and insisted that it was the future, a “sort of uniform for all women of taste." Chanel herself later admitted that, “I imposed black; it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.” Nearly a century later, the little black dress is indeed still going strong. Its meaning however, has gone far deeper than even Coco Chanel could have imagined in her time.
On Sunday, January 07, 2018, the world watched as an award show red carpet was overtaken by a multitude of black-clad figures in quantities never before seen at such an event. Black gowns swirled and sashayed in every imaginable fabric, stark black tuxedos were paired with black shirts and lapel pins that read simply, “Time’s Up.” The usual crowd of interviewers were there, from all the top networks and streaming services, also all dressed in black. This year was different, and the questions asked of the Hollywood stars were anything but routine. That night, the questions were not “Who are you wearing?”, but “Why is this cause important to you?” to “What needs to change in Hollywood and beyond?”. In fact, the questions almost entirely pertained to one topic: The Time’s Up movement and women’s equality.
This movement, born out of the #MeToo phenomenon, has been a long time coming. For decades, even centuries, women have suffered sexual discrimination, harassment, and assault in the workplace and at home. We have been systematically denied leadership positions, creative power, equal pay, and an equal say. We have been forced to overthink our outfits on a daily basis:
Is that top too sexy?
Is that skirt too short?
Are those heels too high?
If I wear this outfit, will I be taken seriously today?
Will I get that promotion tomorrow?
Will my boss hit on me?
Will my coworker touch me again on his way to get coffee?
If something happens will this outfit make people think I’m complicit in my own assault?
We have been forced to alter our personalities, to become “cold” and “cutthroat” and “sharklike” in order to get ahead in ways never expected of men. We have had to choose between “taking our career seriously” and having children. We have been assumed to be “weak”, “emotional”, “too sensitive”, “not as competitive” and “too soft”.
When Hollywood turned out in black for the Golden Globes, it was to show that Time is Up for these outdated, misogynistic, anti-feminist, and outright oppressive ideals. Through fashion, they showed solidarity with not just women fighting for equality in Hollywood, but in every industry. And almost every woman who received an award throughout the evening made reference to the movement.
During her acceptance of the coveted Cecil B. DeMille award, Oprah Winfrey, that very night becoming the first black woman to receive the honor, said, “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up!”
The speech was an especially powerful moment in the broadcast, made even more poignant when the camera panned out over the sea of black-clad attendees, most of them teary-eyed and visually moved by the sentiment. With every mention of Time’s Up or Me Too, the audience broke into thunderous applause, looks of intense determination and empowerment creasing the foreheads of nearly every woman in the room. And it wasn’t just actresses in the room. They were joined by the rising number of female directors, producers, writers, and musicians who have slowly and bravely been breaking into an industry that has shunned them for years. And they were also joined by activists.
Eight actresses brought real-world activists as their plus-ones: Emma Watson was accompanied by Marai Larasi, co-chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition; Michelle Williams brought Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement and senior director of the non-profit Girls For Gender Equity; Amy Poehler’s guest was Saru Jayaraman, a workplace-justice advocate for restaurant workers; Meryl Streep had at her side the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen Pooplus-one to Laura Dern was Monica Ramirez, advocate for female farmworkers and Latinas; Puerto Rican activist Rosa Clemente accompanied Susan Sarandon; Native American activist Calina Lawrence stood by Shailene Woodley’s side. Last, but not least, Emma Stone was joined by sports legend and trailblazer Billie Jean King, whom she portrayed in the film Battle of the Sexes last year.
All wore black and all carried the spirit and scope of the movement with them as they were interviewed on the red carpet next to their respective Hollywood stars.
Anna Wintour once said that “Fashion is a reflection of our times. Fashion can tell you everything that’s going on with a strong fashion image.” Strong is certainly an appropriate adjective for the Golden Globes red carpet and telecast that night. While the gowns themselves may have had little to say, the unity signified in a striking lack of color spoke volumes. In taking a backseat, fashion became the essential tool to put the movement center stage in front of the entire world.
Days before the Globes, the leaders of the Time’s Up movement took to social media to launch the hashtag #whywewearblack, and to encourage their followers to get involved and wear black on Sunday in solidarity. In doing so, those 300 Hollywood leaders inspired millions to take to Instagram and to the streets to show off their black outfits and their commitment to a movement that has gone global — to don the uniform and sound the rallying cry of a growing army in the fight for equality.
The visual display, social media presence, and Hollywood buzz have made Time’s Up a resounding success so far. In addition to providing resources and support for women and men facing discrimination in all industries, the organization has established a legal defense fund for those pursuing legal action against their harassers, discriminators, and abusers. To date, the fund has raised over $21M, $7M over the initial $14M goal and counting. The visibility of the movement in Hollywood has inspired more women to come forward with their own experiences, and proven that when it comes to sweeping abuse under the rugwith words like “it’s just the way things are”, and the “boys will be boys”time is, indeed, up.
The #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #whywewearblack movements revealed to the world the sheer scale of the problem, the fight to put an end to it, and the vast numbers of those willing to commit themselves to the task.
A little black dress has been a wardrobe staple for nearly a century. During that time, it has made women feel beautiful, elegant, and confident. But now, that little black dress has a deeper meaning.
When you wear yours, remember the spectacle of that sea of black at the Golden Globes. Remember the strength and passion and resilience of those women leading the charge. And, above all, remember that you are not alone. That you, too, are part of the moment and the movement. That you, too, united with your sisters and brothers in black, have the power to affect change — the power to change the world. When you wear that little black dress, know that for sexism, bigotry, inequality, and abuse: Time is up.
To learn more about the Time’s Up Movement, resources, and legal defense fund, visit www.timesupnow.com.