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The Meaning Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Swearing-In Outfit Holds A Connection To The Past

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On Thursday, Jan. 3, a record 127 women were sworn into office on Capital Hill. Among the 106 of the newly sworn-in Democrats was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old Bronx native who is now the youngest member of Congress. The New York Representative wore an all-white suit and her classic red lip for the ceremony, and the meaning behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's swearing-in outfit is so inspirational.

On Jan. 3, Ocasio-Cortez dressed in a white pantsuit as a nod to the woman that paved the path before her. In a tweet, she explained that she "wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the mothers of the movement" like suffragettes, who fought for women's rights to vote in elections or Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black woman elected to Congress. Her explanation in full read:

I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come. From suffragettes to Shirley Chisholm, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the mothers of the movement.

Ilhan Omar, who made history on Thursday when she became the first Muslim congresswoman, echoed Ocasio-Cortez's sentiments in a tweet on Jan. 4, writing, "Wearing white for our swearing in was a small way we could honor those that paved the way for us."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Instagram

Ocasio-Cortez also wore her signature red lip to pay homage to Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who was reportedly advised in 2009 to wear a neutral nail color to her confirmation hearings to avoid unnecessary scrutiny. Sotomayor completely ignored the suggestion and wore bright red nail polish, which inspired Ocasio-Cortez to wear a red lip to her 2019 swearing-in ceremony and also inspired Omar to wear bold black manicures.

The final piece of Ocasio-Cortez's outfits was her large hoop earrings. On Twitter, she wrote:

Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman.

Large hoop earrings have been historically labeled unprofessional, according to Latinx media website Remezcla, Latina women and other woman of color thanked Ocasio-Cortez for representing them on such an important stage.

Ocasio-Cortez's outfit isn't the only thing making headlines in these first few days of 2019. A video that was widely shared on Twitter one day before the swearing-in ceremony shows a much younger Ocasio-Cortez dancing on the roof of a building at Boston University, from where she would go on to graduate with a degree in economics and international relations. In response to the trolls who criticized the video online, Ocasio-Cortez posted a new video of herself on Instagram dancing outside of her office at the U.S. Capitol. The cheeky caption read, "If Republicans thought women dancing in college is scandalous, wait till they find out women dance in Congress, too!"

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Ocasio-Cortez was among many women who made history on Thursday. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Rashida Tlaib joined Ilhan Omar in becoming the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Jahana Hayes, National Teacher of the Year in 2016, became Connecticuts first Black congresswoman and Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts' first Black congresswoman. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person ever elected to the Senate, and one of the first two women ever elected as senator in Arizona.

There's no doubt that Jan. 3 saw a new and diverse energy in Congress, and thanks to meaningful touches like a white pantsuit, the women who paved the way for them were there in spirit.