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Cate Blanchett’s dress in Cannes: how fashion can be political

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Crossing the red carpet during the premiere of The Apprentice at the Cannes Film Festival, 55-year-old actress Cate Blanchett caused speculation about a possible subliminal message on her dress.


Did Cate Blanchett make a political statement on the Cannes red carpet? The actor wore a Jean Paul Gaultier gown that was black, light pink and green, which when against the backdrop of the red carpet, looked a lot like the colours on the flag of Palestine. Blanchett has been vocal about supporting a ceasefire, describing herself as a “witness” who “cannot look away”. However, she hasn’t confirmed whether the Cannes dress was a deliberate statement or simply a coincidence. #cannes2024 #cateblanchett #palestine #israelgaza

♬ vertigo – insensible & énouement

Showing that fashion is much more than a garment, the look caught the attention of the media and the public for allegedly making a pro-Palestinian demonstration. The dress in question is a customized version of Haider Ackermann‘s creation for Jean Paul Gaultier‘s summer 2023 haute couture collection. The two main colors of the dress were black on the front and white on the back, but the lining on the back was in a shade of green.

All the way across the red carpet, Cate made a point of posing for photos holding and lifting the back of her dress, leaving the green lining completely exposed. The combination of the green lining, the black of the front, the red of the carpet at her feet and the white created a subtle but striking reminder of the Palestinian flag.

It is worth remembering that the city of Cannes had banned any kind of demonstration and the festival itself issued a statement saying that this year it was necessary to focus only on cinema, so that there would be no acts of political demonstration and protests in general. “This year, we have decided to hold a festival without controversy to ensure that the main interest of all of us is cinema”, said Cannes director Thierry Frémaux at a press conference.

Blanchett hasn’t stated whether the look was in fact a pro-Palestinian demonstration, but the actress has spoken out on the subject several times. She always uses her platforms to talk about the situation in Gaza. She recently addressed the plenary session of the European Parliament as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Silently, without having to say a word, and breaking protocol, she moved the festival and the internet. In a way or another she was quietly remembering one of the main pillars of fashion, protest.

how fashion can be political?

Fashion communicates in different ways and politics is also made up of images, symbols and meanings. Fashion has everything to do with politics, both as a form of manifestation and as a way of regulating the sector. One of fashion’s main objectives is the power of expression.

It’s not only about aesthetics, it’s a mirror of society’s transformations in a powerful means of communication. Through it, we express what we believe, our values and feelings about the world around us. Everything is influenced by political, economic, social and ecological events. In other words, fashion is a powerful tool for political expression, as it reflects constant changes in society. The clothes we wear can tell stories, express identities and even challenge social norms.

A great example is that in order for us women to be allowed to wear pants, mini skirts and even choose not to wear a bra, many women had to take a stand and go against the rules and norms of the time, and this has everything to do with politics. The short skirts of the 1960s symbolized the sexual revolution and the search for freedom. In the following decades, the punk style of the 70s and 80s became a cry of protest against the system, while in the 90s, grunge fashion reflected young people’s disenchantment with consumerism. 

It is an extremely lucrative sector, in terms of haute couture, supermodels and celebrities, where a desire for consumption is created. But it also has a profound and symbolic side. It allows us to create ongoing narratives of struggle, activism, and social change – which help and have helped shape our society. Each garment, each trend, each brand carries a story and a message, whether or not it reflects the politics of the world. Fashion and politics are therefore intertwined, and Cate Blanchett made good use of her space to wear a beautiful dress as an act of political protest.


The Cannes Film Festival has been welcoming directors, actors, actresses, film professionals, producers and various celebrities since 1946, to raise debates about the world of cinema, see what is being produced around the world and exchange industry experiences, as well as promote small awards ceremonies. Films from all over the world are entered, evaluated and selected by a team of experts. The festival exhibits and rewards the cinematographic works of film students and the screenings that take place at the festival are divided into: competition; a certain look; directors’ fortnights; critics week and cinéfondation.

The most important award at the event is the Palme d’Or, which is awarded to the best film in the competition. In addition to all this, the Cannes Film Festival is well known for its red carpet, which is about 60 meters long and has 24 steps where film professionals from all over the world and major national and international celebrities pass by, making it the most publicized cultural event on the planet, and therefore a major target for political speeches, demonstrations and protests.

The festival has a history of demonstrations and protests on the red carpet. Cate Blanchett wasn’t the only one who used fashion to make a statement at the festival, despite the bans. Also this year, Bella Hadid used fashion as a political act. With a dress that tells a story, made from a fabric that honors her own Palestinian heritage, the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people.

In 2016, Julia Roberts and Sasha Lane went barefoot in protest at the etiquette imposed that women should not wear flat shoes at the event. In 2018, Kristen Stewart also took off her heels on the red carpet, making headlines. That same year, more than 80 women came together to protest against gender inequality in the film industry.

The world’s largest cultural event for the appreciation of the seventh art, which takes place every year in May, is no longer just about cinema, but a place of expression and voice. Fashion as a political act moves the world and the festival every year, that’s undeniable.


This article was edited by Isadora Mangueira.

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allana ostan

Casper Libero '27

Estudante de jornalismo da Cásper Líbero. Apaixonada por moda, esportes e viagens.