On Tuesday, Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri who beat incumbent William Lacy Clay on Election Day to become the state’s first Black congresswoman, posted a predicament on Twitter. “The reality of being a regular person going to Congress is that it’s really expensive to get the business clothes I need for the Hill. So I’m going thrift shopping tomorrow,” she wrote, followed by, “Should I do a fashion show?” In no time, her fellow congresswomen, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, among others, responded with their advice for navigating the expensive style norms on Capitol Hill while on a budget.
The reality of being a regular person going to Congress is that it’s really expensive to get the business clothes I need for the Hill. So I’m going thrift shopping tomorrow.
Should I do a fashion show? ⬇️
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 11, 2020
“Thrifting, renting, and patience as you get your closet together sis. Capsule wardrobe will be your best friend. Ayanna Pressley has the accessory game down. Good news is that all these practices are very sustainable and good for the planet,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who worked as a waitress and bartender before running for Congress, in a tweet. She followed up with, “We’ll do a shopping day together. I got you!!” Tlaib also praised thrifting: “I get the most compliments from the clothes I got from thrift shops.” Pam Keith suggested renting rather than buying: “My trick is Rent the Runway for more posh outfits. Never have to wear the same outfit twice.” In other words, progressive women in Congress stick together — and apparently have similar shopping tactics, too.
Prior to running for Congress — which Bush did after seeing a photo of Michael Brown’s body on the street in Ferguson, MO, and witnessing the violent way that police treated Black Lives Matter protestors who marched following his death — Bush was a registered nurse and a pastor. She gave up her health insurance and both jobs to pursue a role in politics.
On Thursday, Bush followed up on the now-viral tweet with a fashion show featuring three new jackets she thrifted. In the first of three tweets, she wrote: “Most members of Congress aren’t working class. So when a regular person like me runs, it’s hard to handle everything from how much it costs to run, down to the clothes I’ll need to wear at work. But we make it work.” To the beat of Beyoncé’s “We Run The World (Girls),” Leikeli47’s “Braids tuh’da flo(w),” and Cardi B’s “I Like It,” Bush showed off her thrift haul, which included a dark red blazer, a coral-colored peacoat, and a long, purple trench.
Most members of Congress aren’t working class. So when a regular person like me runs, it’s hard to handle everything from how much it costs to run, down to the clothes I’ll need to wear at work.
But we make it work.
Here’s a sneak peak of a few of my thrift fits:
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 12, 2020
Alongside the haul, Bush shared more information about the difficulty involved with shopping as a new Congresswoman, putting emphasis on the inaccessible nature of Congress for “regular people” who, while running, do not have access to a steady paycheck. She also touched on the pink tax, the difference in price between consumer goods marketed toward men and women, which she says plays a large role in her current fashion struggles. (Products marketed toward women are priced significantly higher than those marketed toward men.) “The clothes I wear in the Capitol could make headlines, but a man does not have to worry about that. We’ve got to spend more on our wardrobes, and then caring for them costs more on top of that,” she wrote. At the end of the makeshift catwalk, Bush thanked her “siSTARS,” including AOC, Pressley, Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, for their help. “Love y’all,” she wrote.
Bush’s fellow Congresswomen weren’t the only ones to come to her rescue. Designers and retailers including Jason Wu, Rent The Runway, and Christian Siriano all tweeted that they would be happy to help her get outfitted for her new role.
According to The Guardian, the median net worth of a congressperson in 2018 was $511,000, eight times that of the average U.S. household. Since Bush has yet to earn a single dollar for her new role, she can’t dress to match her wealthy coworkers, many of whom are men whose outward appearances aren’t criticized and nitpicked in the same way that women’s are. An outdated double standard? Yes. The truth? Also yes. Luckily, Bush has the squad.
This is also about the pink tax. The clothes I wear in the Capitol could make headlines, but a man does not have to worry about that. We’ve got to spend more on our wardrobes, and then caring for them costs more on top of that.
Jacket 3 ✅ pic.twitter.com/b5HNQRG0po
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 12, 2020
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