Katharine Hamnett meets Thatcher

In 1983, Katharine Hamnett launched first of her protest T-shirts: they were designed to be copied, slogans and all, and read: CHOOSE LIFE, WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW, PRESERVE THE RAINFORESTS, SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE THE WHALES, EDUCATION NOT MISSILES, etc. Thanks to the excess media coverage, she was chosen as the designer of the year by the British Fashion Council the next year and was invited to the Downing Street to meet with the Prime Minister.

Hamnett was not a supporter of the-then PM Margaret Thatcher, and was reluctant to go. But she decided to seize the photo-op to make a political statement. The United States had recently deployed controversial Pershing II guided missile being in West Germany, and Hamnett wore a slogan T-shirt declaring “58 per cent Don’t Want Pershing”, specifically ensuring that the lettering on the shirt would stand out in photographs. She wore it under her stylish jacket, and removed the jacket just before meeting the prime minister. She made headlines the next day.

Vogue magazine called it one of the most iconic moments in fashion, but Hamnett admitted that her fashion statement didn’t make quite the impression on the Prime Minister that she hoped. Hamnett remembers: “She didn’t notice it at first, but then she looked down and made a noise like a chicken. Then quick as a fishwife she said: ‘Oh well we haven’t got Pershing here, so maybe you are at the wrong party’, which I thought was rather rude as she had invited me.”

Although she later became increasingly skeptical of whether T-shirts can make a difference, Katherine Hamnett enjoyed the idea of the copiers of her T-shirts unwittingly promoting her messages. In 2003 Hamnett sent models down the catwalk in London wearing T-shirts shouting “No War, Blair Out”, and thousands wore copycat T-shirts to the anti-war march before the invasion of Iraq. Hamnett concedes that there is also a danger with T-shirts (and marches) that they “give people the feeling that they have done something when they haven’t”.

The Woman on Page 194


Usually, this site doesn’t consider these media-hyped photographs as iconic, but the above photo is so emblematic of everything that is wrong with our media-addiction and is rightfully causing some outrage so I find it worthy to mention it in passing.

Sized only 3×3 inches and buried on page 194 of September issue of Glamour magazine, the photo was part of an article on body acceptance. It seemingly rejects the idea that models like Lizzie Millier above can’t be glamourous or fashionable because of their ‘plus-sized bodies’. Nearly nude photo of 180-lbs, 5’11”, 20-year old by Walter Chin went against mainstream by not being airbrushed–a practice so common in magazines like Vogue, Playboy and Glamour.

Although she has a body mass index of 25.1 (two-tenths above what is “normal”), she is not technically ‘plus sized’, as many bloggers were clamoring. The average American female has a BMI of 26.5. Although many are saying that she will change the face of the fashion (they limited their opinions to facebook, twitter and blogs), that lofty goal may be impractical. “We are a culture where the Karl Lagerfelds of the world proclaim Kate Moss too fat,” wrote Newsweek.

Miller seems to be cherishing her 15 minutes of fame though: “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked. When J. Lo and Beyoncé came out and were making curves sexy, I started to accept myself more. It’s funny, but just seeing them look and feel sexy enabled me to do the same.” She sat through an interview with MSNBC, which is still devoting pretty big chuck on cable news time to her.