We are on the eve of the centenary of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom as conquered by the struggles of Emmeline Pankhurstʼs suffragettes, the forerunners of many battles for the rights and freedoms in Europe and in the world. Revolutions, Stalin said, cannot be made in silk gloves. But it was with gloved hands and wide-brimmed hats, velvet bows and ankle skirts that the largest and most successful revolution of the twentieth century began, the one that eventually led to the conquest of women’s rights. In the first decades of the last century, the participation in the labor market; the desire of dynamism and outdoor sports; and the growing political activism of women brought a radical change in female clothing. English suffragettes, in particular, were pioneers of the fashions of their time, communicating through the aesthetic choices a political message of strength, beauty, modernity and democracy. After centuries women abandoned the very rigid corsets, and in exchange the militant of women’s suffrage adopted outfits both stylish and practical; suitable for city life, the protest marches, the distribution of leaflets in the streets, and for the subversive actions of shouting “Deeds, not words!”. With their two-piece dresses (skirt and blouse), women activists of the women’s vote affirmed a refined femininity, combative and self-assured, an image of woman ready to take care of public affairs with an equal footing with men. As equals, but without giving up their differences. Seventy years have passed since the first vote for Italian women, however just a year since the first time vote for women in Saudi Arabia. Every democratic achievement for women in the world was the result of large public battles, but also small personal revolutions. To challenge the ban on women driving cars in the Riyadh in the new millennium is the same as wearing a skirt which allowed women to ride their bikes in London in the early twentieth century: the gestures, the garments, are already part of the politics.

Giorgia Serughetti

photography Fabio Gasparri 

styling Federica Trotta Mureau

make up Francesca Petrangeli