“I don’t know what y'all are doing, but I like it,” a driver shouted from her car window as she passed by a group of women clad all in pantsuits on a grassy median in the Heights this morning. Sporting suits all different styles and colors, from white slacks to black suit jackets to “Nasty Women Vote” T-shirts, the ecstatic ladies held signs aloft along Heights Boulevard in support of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
They are members of the “Pantsuit Nation,” a private, invitation-only Facebook group created about two weeks ago in honor of Clinton. Those apart of the group say it's a "safe environment" where they can post personal stories, discuss reasons why they're voting for Clinton, and what they love about the former U.S. Secretary of State without being attacked by social media trolls. Pantsuit Nation—which vowed to don the Democratic candidate’s signature look of pantsuits on Election Day—has increased its ranks to 2,679,930 followers since Houstonia last checked at 12:32 p.m., with new members being added very minute.
A Texas chapter was just created yesterday—hard to believe considering the turnout of women in pantsuits this morning in the Heights. “[People in the group] encouraged individual states to start their own chapter, and Texas now has almost 9,000 members within 24 hours, ” says Ruthie Miller, a freelance copywriter and Pantsuit Nation, Texas chapter member. “They were encouraging people to wear their pantsuits today and to put it on social media because it’s going to be both a historic day and election.” In addition to a quickly growing base of Facebook fans, Pantsuit Nation currently has its own hashtag, #Pantsuitnation, which is going viral today as people all over the country post photos in support of the movement.
Miller, who refers to herself as an amateur photographer, posted in the Texas-based Facebook group at noon on November 7 informing everyone that she would be open to photographing members who wanted to meet on Election Day—in their best outfits, of course—to help spread the word online. She was immediately met with an overwhelming amount of interest from people in and around the city. Before long, Miller set up a meeting for this morning at the electrical box on Heights Blvd. at 6th Street that's decorated with a painted mural of Ann Richards, the 45th governor of Texas and politician famed for fighting for women's and minorities' rights in the early 90s. “Ann Richards was such a prolific figure in American, Texas and women’s rights history that it was perfect to take the pictures there,” Miller explains. “It was a great way to honor her and to encourage others to tell their stories and to get out there and vote.”
Unlike several Pantsuit Nation members, Miller was fortunate to have a pair in her closet that her mother had given her when donating clothes to Goodwill a few years ago. Many women admitted in the group they didn’t own a pantsuit and posted statuses asking where they could buy one since wearing the suit jacket and slacks is a key symbol to members. “I think it means that we get things done, and that we are sometimes forced to confirm in ways that would not be our own choice by organizations that believe women should come in one specific mold,” says Lauren Summerville, a Texas-chapter member who traveled all the way from Kingwood to meet Miller. “We show solidarity by wearing it, whether we’re at the polls, taking the kids to school or just sitting at home watching TV.”
Around 50 to 70 members showed up along the median, a mix of mothers with young children, men and women of all ages. Even passersby walking their dogs or driving on the street stopped to take photos with the group. While Houstonia was outside chatting with the attendees, many on their way to work honked their car horns as they passed and shouted chants out the window. “It felt like a momentum this morning, and we rallied to harness our energy towards social change,” says Summerville.
After an hour of picture taking and meeting new friends, the group dispersed. Some left for work and others agreed to meet up for mimosas. The Texas chapter plans to hold a second meeting today from 3 to 5 p.m. at Eleanor Tinsley Park downtown.