By Sylvie Labelle

Since humans have been wearing and making clothes, we have been creating fashion. As a method of restriction or as a tool for revolution, fashion has been used to control and enforce traditional social norms while on the other hand driving for the liberalisation of society, calling for the recognition of social injustices. Fashion icons and celebrities often use fashion as a medium to convey messages and show solidarity with social causes. This month, actress Cate Blanchett attended the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in France, wearing a dress that has caused a flight of discussion amongst activists and fashion critics alike, bringing fashion as a form of protest to the fore. 

At first glance, Blanchett’s dress presented itself as a basic, played-safe, off-the-shoulder black dress. However, such judgement would be made in vain as when Cate began walking down the carpet, an optical illusion of sorts came from her dress, as when the inside of the back revealed a white and green inner lining. With the backdrop of the red carpet, the dress almost undeniably appeared to be a show of solidarity with the state of Palestine. While the actress has not yet come out and released a statement clarifying whether her intentions were to protest the genocide happening in Palestine, or if it was just a coincidental optical illusion, Blanchett has been very outspoken in extending her support for Palestine’s right to statehood, saying that she stands against the current Israeli occupation. 

Despite previous extensions of solidarity from Blanchett, wearing this dress to such a significant fashion event was an alternative form of protest. This form of protest made it impossible for there to not be a discussion about Palestine not only amongst the film and fashion world but across the media in general. While Cate may have not said anything directly concerning the conflict, her fashion choices did the talking for her. The dress, whether some may argue its intentions, added a layer of important political discourse to the festival, showing that clothing is more than fabric we wear on our bodies, but a vehicle that can transcend aesthetic value and serve a purpose in the name of activism. 

However, the question that I want answered is does making fashion statements like this do anything beyond starting a conversation and getting a few likes? Can much be taken from a celebritiy’s clothing choices, and are the motives really as honest as we would like to think? Can protesting through fashion choices be used as a publicity stunt, and a front to appease fans and an effort to not have to speak out about political crises and ‘letting the clothes talk’.

However, the visibility that fashion protests bring especially when celebrities are involved cannot be ignored. A platform as large as Blanchett’s can reach thousands of people, making it impossible for the media and for people to ignore the current genocide in Palestine. And maybe all protests like these do is start a conversation, but maybe that is enough.