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Here’s Why the Women of Congress Wore White for the 2019 State of the Union Address

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

Democratic women again used white clothing to make a coordinated fashion statement at the 2019 State of the Union address.

Borrowing from the color used by the early 20th century movement to recognize women’s right to vote, the House Democratic Women’s Working Group invited lawmakers to wear white as a sign of solidarity once more.

“Wearing suffragette white is a respectful message of solidarity with women across the country, and a declaration that we will not go back on our hard-earned right,” Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel said in a statement to CNN.

U.S. President Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington
A sweeping view shows dozens of Democratic congresswomen wearing white during President Trump's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2019.Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

It’s not the first time the group has done this. In 2017, the House Democratic Women’s Working Group asked women members to wear white to a presidential address to Congress, as a way to show support for women’s issues. In 2018, the group asked both men and women members of Congress to wear black to the State of the Union address to show solidarity with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

“We have a different lens and we approach things very differently, and for us, we wanted to show all the young girls across the country, all the young women that the women’s rights movement hasn’t stopped, it’s continued and it’s now in the United States Congress. We’re here. A lot of us have been out and about fighting for equal pay, fighting for medicare – for all those things that I think are really important to women. Now were actually at a place where women are making those decisions,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib told TIME during the 2019 State of the Union.

President Trump Delivers State Of The Union Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other female lawmakers cheer during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, D.C.Alex Wong—Getty Images
New York Representative (D) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (C) poses for a picture with other women ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on February 5, 2019.Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

The women of the #116th were asked to wear white tonight in tribute to the #suffragetes Tonight, I honor women like #AlicePaul who led the movement & women like #IdaB who were excluded from it. Kente cloth & the color white. Holding space for both #womanists & #feminists, always,” Ayanna Pressley wrote before the 2019 State of the Union.

Other prominent women have worn the symbolic color in recent years, including Hillary Clinton, who wore a white pantsuit to the 2016 Democratic national convention where she became the first major party female nominee for president. More recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore white when she was sworn into Congress last month, noting on Twitter that she “wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come.”

People were quick to notice that Trump’s daughter Tiffany Trump wore white as well, as Melania Trump had done before her. While it’s hard to say what her motivations might have been, the coincidence was not lost on the internet.

To join in the display of support, a number of congressmen also wore white ribbons on their lapels.

Alana Abramson contributed reporting to this story.

Correction, Feb. 6

The original version of this story misstated the name of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a photo caption. It is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not Alexandria Octavio-Cortez.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com