AOC's critics need to stop talking about her clothes

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Some people (cough, Republicans, cough) simply love to trash history-making congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And she gets it: “It’s not an accident that, every cycle, the boogeyman of the Democrats is a woman,” AOC told Vanity Fair for its cover story on the change-making politician’s next four years. “A couple of cycles ago, it was Pelosi. Then it was Hillary, and now it’s me.” Well, another aspect of the magazine feature is drawing undue attention: the fact that Ocasio-Cortez got to wear some really fancy clothing for the photo shoot.

Notably, the beautiful portraits of AOC were taken by Tyler Mitchell, also the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue. Ocasio-Cortez is a powerful cover star — she’s the youngest woman ever to serve in congress, remember. And she’s weathered a striking amount of resistance from her older, male-r colleagues. Vanity Fair published its interview with AOC less than a week before she concludes her reelection bid in New York's 14th congressional district.

But as anyone who’s ever worked on a magazine will tell you, no, AOC didn’t shell out $14,000 for those couture outfits. You see, the Daily Mail (and other tabloids and tweeters) published a hand-wringing take essentially calling her a Socialist hypocrite for dressing in expensive duds. The site posted a breakdown of what each couture look cost — including a fabulous, fringed suit by Loewe worth $2,850 that Ocasio-Cortez reportedly got to keep.

That amount of money was likely not exchanged for the designer items. For those who don’t know, magazines get lots of freebies in exchange for including fashion brands in their pages, and the models wearing the expensive clothes didn’t buy them from a shop, either. In the rare instance where they get to keep stuff, it’s usually a gift. And I mean, how can you be mad that AOC got to keep this one especially incredible piece. You think she’s gonna wear that fringey pantsuit on the floor of Congress? I wish she would. We, the people, would love to see it.

This tweet is not necessarily wrong. AOC wearing beautiful, valuable clothing is an example of privilege. Capitalism made those gorgeous threads worth an obscene amount of money. But they are also unique works of art, and getting access to them doesn’t mean you’re secretly rich, it just means you’re famous and lucky.

Ocasio-Cortez is certainly famous — but she’s earned her notoriety and influence through hard work and bravery. Her new adjacency to wealth doesn’t negate her commitment to equality for people of all tax brackets. And her posing in some fancy clothes doesn’t negate true tales of the congresswoman struggling to afford housing in Washington, D.C. either. If anything, this backlash against AOC in Vanity Fair exposes a tired fixation on a woman’s appearance.