A few weeks ago, on a wet but crisp autumn day in Greenwich, I happened to catch a glance at a sparkling spider brooch through a shop window. Maybe it was Halloween being around the corner that made me take a closer look at the curious brooch, and maybe it was the novelty of something terrifying being presented as dazzling that made me buy it. Nevertheless, I was now the proud owner of a diamond spider, which I wore on my shoulder to class on Halloween.
That evening, in the spirit of Halloween, I posted a picture of the spider accessory on Instagram for my friends to share in the novelty, and what I had believed to be uniqueness, of my new brooch. This act was soon to show me the power of social media, especially in spreading and creating trends in fashion. A friend sent me a message replying to the image I posted, ‘Lady Hale!’ he wrote, starting my search online to find the relation between Brenda Marjorie Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, PC, and my new spider brooch.
On 24th September, Lady Hale declared Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament “void and of no effect”, while wearing a large, statement spider brooch fastened just below her shoulder on her black dress. The spider summons connotations of entrapment, a stealthy creeping of subtle dominance. Lady Hale was the black widow to Boris Johnson’s Brexit. Vogue described the brooch as ‘maximalist perfection’, and clearly the fashionably inclined public agreed, as web searches for brooches, particularly animal shapes, increased that day by 126%. Supporters of Lady Hale and her politics rallied behind her on social media, putting a spider emoji in their bios online, spreading news not only of her power move, but also of the accessory worn during it.
Politics and fashion have been entwined since the beginning, with politicians using specific motifs to show power, and designers to allude to their beliefs. The brooch is a small yet imposing way to express an idea, quickly fastening onto anything in any placement at the wearer’s discretion. Lady Hale’s very public brooch approach displayed to the public how impactful such a novel accessory can be, giving her words added depth and connotations.
British fashion brands like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood express their punk ethos through brooches, reminiscent of the 1980’s DIY safety pin aesthetic. Westwood’s recurring ‘penis’ motif dates to her 1970’s ‘SEX’ boutique, when t-shirts were printed with controversial, phallic designs referencing homosexuality. This motif has been reincarnated into a diamond brooch, for a modern wearer to also show support and place their beliefs in the narrative of the brand, constructed by Westwood.
While we have yet to see Lady Hale fashioning a Westwood penis brooch, it is fascinating to watch the influence of how her spider spread on social media, inspiring a multitude of copies and t-shirts replicating this powerful moment. The web has been cast into the unstable Brexit climate, providing proof of the power behind a great accessory as well as social media. My impulsive spider brooch purchase will certainly not be my last, bring on brooch season!