This season’s Bachelorette, Hannah B., has surprised us in a lot of ways: she’s gotten way better at toasts, she’s stopped saying Roll Tide every 12 seconds, and she’s actually revealed herself to be more of a feminist than I think any of us originally thought. But the surprise my friends and I can’t stop talking about is Hannah’s kick-ass power suit wardrobe. While she’s certainly had her share of pageant gowns and high-slit cocktail dresses (she had one of my favorite first-night dresses ever), her suits and jumpsuits are what have really caught our attention this season and I don’t think that’s an accident.
As I mentioned, this season has taken some feminist turns that none of us expected. Before the season began we didn’t know much about Hannah B., except that she was from Alabama, competed in pageants, and seemed to be pretty traditional in her Christian values. And while she certainly has stuck to her religious roots (most recently in her respect for Luke P.’s “testimony”), I think it’s safe to say that Hannah has pleasantly surprised a lot of us. She’s pushed back against Luke P.’s possessive ideas of marriage, had open conversations about developing physical relationships with men on the show, and become an unlikely advocate for women’s bodily autonomy.
So, this brings us to her suits. From the beginning, suiting has been a symbol for Hannah as the Bachelorette: in her Cinderella promo, she sheds her long princess gown for a pant suit. And in the last several episodes, we’ve seen this same transformation in Hannah’s wardrobe as it’s notably shifted from favoring sequined gowns to suiting. She’s worn more suits, jumpsuits, blazer-style jackets, and work-appropriate coats in the last three episodes than ever before. I’m a strong believer that clothing is strategic and, to me, this wardrobe change signals two significant shifts:
In terms of storyline, it’s pretty clear that Hannah is literally getting down to business. Riga was a huge turning point for Hannah and ever since the “stay in your lane” night (which I feel was a huge missed jumpsuit opportunity, just sayin’), Hannah has been a lot more serious and her suits are an easy way to signal that. Wearing a bright red suit to tell a guy you’re falling in love with him? That’s pretty bad ass.
As I mentioned, Hannah is turning out to be more of a progressive figure as the season goes on and I think her suits are an interesting way of representing this shift, as well. Hannah is feeling her power as an independent woman and is pushing back against patriarchal bullshit. Using power suits as a sign of this resistance to traditional gender roles is a pretty straightforward symbol of this.
I also want to acknowledge that suits obviously aren’t the only way to dress powerfully and that I recognize that the idea of menswear on women being seen as ‘powerful’ is inherently problematic. But since I’m addressing this from a symbolic realm, I’m giving myself license to make that connection. Also, it’s worth mentioning that her gowns have also become more regal in style, which can certainly also be seen as a way of dressing ‘powerfully’ that is more traditionally feminine.
Ultimately, I love that the Bachelor franchise is showcasing a Bachelorette who has a complex relationship to feminism. Will Hannah be teaching Critical Feminist Theory any time soon? No, but the conversations she’s having with the men on the show are leaps and bounds more progressive than we’ve seen in the past, even with Bachelorettes who have identified as being more liberal like Becca. I like to think that dressing Hannah in a selection of bad ass power suits is a way the show is leaning into these conversations and into this element of Hannah’s character development albeit in a pretty reductive way (this is the Bachelorette after all).
Anyway, all this to say that I hope to see more of Hannah’s suits in the future and can’t wait for her to kick Luke P.’s ass to the curb. In a red motorcycle jacket no less.
P.S. Check out more cultural musings: the pros & cons of Robbie Tripp’s Chubby Sexy song, a review of Mary Beard’s Women & Power, and is internet ‘authenticity’ hurting our mental health?