The 10th annual Women in the World summit had a very ‘Pantsuit Nation‘ vibe about it, befitting special guest Hillary Rodham Clinton, who closed out the event with an outspoken interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
The Pantsuit Nation moniker was coined by a private Facebook group in 2016, created by a self-described “stay at home mom and part-time school administrator,” Libby Chamberlain, three weeks before the U.S. presidential election.
Chamberlain created the group to invite around 30 Clinton-supporting friends to wear pantsuits to the polls on Election Day, and to function as an informal support group in the weeks leading up to voting. What happened next was unexpected.
Within a span of 24 hours, Pantsuit Nation had grown to 24,000 members. By the end of the election its membership had risen to 3 million, and raised more than $200k for the Clinton campaign. On election day, thousands of women took photos of themselves in their pantsuits and posted them to the Facebook group — like a social media version of “I Voted” stickers.
Currently, Pantsuit Nation has 3.8 million members, worldwide, and continues to operate as a forum for them to reflect on what the 2016 election—as it approached and in its aftermath—has meant. Inevitably, those conversations touch on a lot of hot-button issues, from immigration to LGBTQIA rights, racial justice to healthcare. These days, the group also aims to move its conversations toward opportunities for in-person activism.
While the pantsuit as ‘protective covering’ has more recently been called out by style writers as old-fashioned, its currency as a symbol of female empowerment shows zero signs of diminishing when done with the kind of self-defining flair seen at the 2019 Women in the World New York summit.