From obscure Congressional candidate to national figure, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has exploded into the American political consciousness since her “earthquake” victory over Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in Tuesday’s primary.
Now a dead certainty to be elected in New York’s safe 14th District, she is set to become the youngest women ever elected to Congress. She is also getting attention for how she won, advocating progressive policies that are not part of her party’s mainstream. These include guaranteed Federal jobs for everyone, Medicare for all, and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
But before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suddenly became a standard-bearer of the left, she led a life of economic struggles and political activism. This millennial who describes herself as “an educator, an organizer, a working class New Yorker” is much more than just an instant icon.
Her resume leads like many other professional young people her age: she graduated from Boston College with the help of scholarships, odd jobs and tutoring gigs in economics. Moving back to the Bronx after graduation, she began teaching at the National Hispanic Institute. But following the death of her father and the 2008 financial crisis, she began bartending and waitressing for extra income.
As a result of the high cost of living in the city, her mother would eventually have to move away to Florida. These daily struggles all shaped the young politician’s ideas, and gave her the courage to pursue them.
“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” she says in her campaign video. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family – mother from Puerto Rico, Dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.”
She also made a clear distinction between her own insurgent candidacy and her establishment rival, Joe Crowley: “It’s time we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn’t live here, doesn’t send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us.”
She described the primary race as being about “people versus money.” Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign cost a meager $128,000. Experienced fundraiser Crowley raised a collossal $2.78 million. The people won.
When asked about her advice for fellow young people trying to make a difference, Ocasio-Cortez is succinct: “Don’t ask permission, roll up your sleeves, and start knocking on people’s doors.”
She certainly did not ask permission to win on Tuesday, and she is already making a difference to the national political discussion. But while her policy statements are grabbing the headlines, we also thought her fashion statements deserved some attention as well. Here are our favourites:
Patterned with pride
The candidate captions this picture: “Because you never know who’s watching.” Chatting with a little girl on her campaign trail, Ocasio-Cortez covers up most stylishly. Her outfit is made up of a darker layer underneath a beautifully patterned black and white overcoat.
An elegant endorsement for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
It’s a great day indeed when you get the official endorsement from New York progressive icon like Zephyr Teachout. The smiling women are stylish and chic – Ocasio-Cortez wears an outfit of dark black separates contrasted elegantly by a navy blue blazer with thick white piping along the edges.
Business with a brain
On a mission to pinpoint the issues affecting her immediate community, Ocasio-Cortez visited family businesses in New York’s 14th district discovering that high rent was causing many businesses to fail. She toured the area in an outfit both simple and refined – a body-skimming pencil dress ending neatly below the knee. Dressed in elegant navy blue, she paired the formal dress with a pair of understated nude heels.
Walking for change
A woman on a mission, Ocasio-Cortez took to campaigning by spreading her message on foot. Flanked by a group of supporters, she is positive and polished in a pair of black pants, a black T-shirt and a cobalt blue blazer.
It’s not everyday that you see Ocasio-Cortez sporting dressy designer garb. We’re used to seeing the New York native in sleek but affordable daywear. So when this high fashion shot appeared in Interview Magazine, it was met with some criticism. The young politician is gorgeous in a tailored emerald green pants suit complete with stiletto heels from Manolo Blahnik. In true Ocasio-Cortez style though, there is a charitable element involved too. The suit in question was designed by Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst whose brand uses only recyclable plastics in its packaging. Fashion with a purpose – we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Check out more political fashion reviews at our Fashion Review archives.