If any ensemble sums up 2016, it is the pantsuit—a sartorial statement representing power and progressivism. Hillary Clinton’s own rainbow array of suits inspired think pieces, Instagram accounts and even a highly popular invitation-only Facebook group called “Pantsuit Nation.” But on December 19, the pantsuit became a form of protest.
Monday afternoon, as the Electoral College cast its votes, a group of actresses clothed in monochromatic suits stood silently in New York City’s Madison Square Park. When bundled up passers-by stopped to view the scene, they were handed scissors and encouraged to cut sections off of the women’s suits.
The New York Times’ Style reporter Valeriya Safronova, who supportively covered the event, noted the “funereal atmosphere” of the performance—a 21st century adaptation of Yoko Ono’s 1965 feminist one act “Cut Piece.” 52 years later, directors JoAnne Akalaitis and Ashley Tata were inspired by Clinton’s defeat and Ono’s iconic work to articulate a timely message to New Yorkers.
“It was an incredibly symbolic piece about women’s bodies and about the male animus towards women’s bodies,” Ms. Akalaitis told Safronova.
“There is no armor for a woman any longer,” she continued. “If professional women felt that somehow a pantsuit was going to cover us in a way that’s protective and powerful, that symbology is out the door.”
A director/producer who participated in the skit opined that its timing was key to the message. “I certainly think Hillary was very known for her pantsuits,” she explained, “so to have this idea of it being cut away as the College is voting feels very connected to what is happening in this moment.”
Elizabeth Marvel, one of the actresses who performed, described the experience as a “moment of sadness,” but also of “strength and resilience…It was almost spiritual.”