Just like the pink pussy hat became the accoutrement of the Women’s March on Washington last year, black dresses have become the official uniform of the #MeToo movement. Now, as the Hollywood-driven effort to speak out against sexual assault and harassment gains national momentum and visibility, it’s beginning to have a positive impact on retail.
According to data from retail analytics firm Edited that analyzed more than 500,000 products currently on the market, sellouts of black dresses increased by 225 percent in January of this year, compared to last year. The uptick can, in part, be attributed to the Golden Globes, where celebrities dressed in all black and wore #MeToo pins to support Time’s Up Now, an effort to halt harassment in the workplace. (At the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, artists instead pinned white roses to their outfits in solidarity with the movement.)
“We now live in a culture with increased demand for products that identify with wearers’ beliefs and interests,” said Katie Smith, retail analysis and insights director at Edited. “Celebrity influencers have a great power to use fashion to express opinions and raise consciousness of social and political issues that are impacting people’s everyday lives.”
Seeing an opportunity to capitalize, brands have also increased black apparel offerings for women by 57 percent, according to Edited’s findings. This uptick spans across retailers of all price points — from the luxury formalwear market to online retailers like Boohoo, to fast-fashion companies including Forever 21 and Zara — pointing to national solidarity among both notable figures attending major events and those watching with friends at home.
At the same time, inventory of “feminist apparel” — including garments emblazoned with empowering statements and phrases — increased by 234 percent in January, compared to the same time last year, according to Edited.
“This, combined with retail’s ability to be flexible on assortment and get trends to market fast, means fashion is acting as a greater mirror for social mood than ever before,” Smith said.
Edited hypothesized that the increase in sales is also a response to a similar effort in advance of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday. Many female members of Congress plan to also wear black to make a statement about sexual harassment and assault. Participating attendees also plan to wear small red pins to commemorate the recent death of Recy Taylor, an African-American woman who was raped by several white men in Alabama in 1944 and was threatened to silence.
“We want to show solidarity with the #MeToo movement, really to first basically thank the victims of sexual harassment who have had the courage to come forward,” Florida state representative Lois Frankel, one of the chairs of the Democratic Women’s Working Group organizing the effort, told Racked. “To have solidarity with… folks who are fighting for a cultural shift that enables men and women to work side by side in safety and dignity free of sexual harassment.”