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What to Wear to a Protest March

By Wardrobeoxygen @wardrobe_oxygen

What to Wear to a Protest MarchThousands are expected to come to Washington DC on January 21st to march on the first day of incoming President Donald Trump's administration. As someone who lives in the area and attended rallies and inaugurations at this time of year I can tell you it's going to be cold, you're going to be on your feet for a long while, and basic necessities like bathrooms and bottled water are few and far between. What's a woman to wear when sending a message to the government that women's rights are human rights?

Feet First

There's plenty of other boots out there that are perfect and may be even more perfect for the weather; just be sure to find one that has a grippy sole, insulation, arch support, a roomy toebox, waterproofing, and be sure to break them in and find them easy to move quickly in before the day of the march.

Have a Base Layer

I swear by Lands' End's Thermaskin collection. Their silk-like pieces are so thin they can slip under suiting pants and even leggings without feeling like the Michelin Man, yet keep you extremely warm. They also come in regular, petite, and plus sizes up to 3X. I recommend the pants and long-sleeved shirt for an event like this, though a tank or cami is great if you'll be moving more and just need to focus on keeping your core warm. Silk underwear accomplishes the same thing though at the time of posting I haven't been able to find a brand that carries a broad range of sizes; if you know of one please share in the comments.

The Coat Matters

What to Wear to a Protest March

Time to Accessorize

Accessories are key. They can be stuffed in a pocket or bag when not in use, but can keep you extra warm and toasty when standing and waiting or if the wind picks up.

For hands, I like the combo of thinner touchscreen-friendly gloves and waterproof mittens to go over. In this day and age, you'll be using your phone a lot to text meetups with friends, take photos, and share updates on social media. Having thin, pliable gloves with a functional touchscreen pad will make it possible to do all this without having bare fingers. I've been a fan of The North Face's eTip Gloves for a while. They stretch to fit a variety of finger sizes, don't have any irritating seams, and the eTip truly works. While these won't keep you warm in sub-zero temps, they're wind and water resistant, machine washable and durable, and keep your fingers protected enough while using your phone. Over them, I like the LL Bean Baxter mittens, which are super warm, waterproof, and fit over gloves.

For the top half, I like using a mix of items instead of an all-in-one. A beanie, ear warmer/headband, scarf, and a pair of large lightweight sunglasses will give you options depending on the weather and whether you're walking, chanting, or standing and huddling to stay warm. Like my jacket, I prefer a hat with some color and personality so I can be found in a crowd. For a scarf, I find a pashmina style to be the most versatile as it can wrap around the head, the throat, or be crossed across the body and tucked under the coat for extra core protection. Wool and fleece are great choices because they repel moisture; wool will also wick it away so it's a good choice if you run hot. Sunglasses (you know I'd wear my signature 62mm Ray-Ban aviators!) will protect your eyes from the sun, wind, and anything else without restricting your vision or your complete identity.

With a large crowd and the possibility of security, it's best to have as few bags and items to carry as possible. Keep the purse at home. I recommend a smaller backpack that you can comfortably place over both shoulders either on your back or your front. In here you can carry the essentials and only the essentials - a march is not a time when you need your cosmetics bag, a picnic blanket, or hair styling tools.

Again I reiterate, bring as little as possible, but pack thinking you may be there longer than expected and with fewer facilities than expected. The basics:

  • Water: Bring water as it may be hard to find. I really like those reusable water bags, as they don't take up much space or weigh much once empty. Don't expect stations to refill them though, bring enough for 12 hours - if you have too much you can share with others who didn't bring enough.
  • Snacks: Energy bars are the best as they don't take up much space, can be broken and shared with others, and can be eaten without having to remove your gloves.
  • Medications and Glasses: If you take medication, bring enough for a minimum of 12 hours even if you think you'll be there far less. Better safe than sorry. If you wear contacts, bring a backup pair of glasses and eye drops.
  • Personal Care Products: I recommend bringing a travel-sized pack of wet wipes. They can be used for the porta-potties but also for other cleanups during the day. One of those purse packs of tissues is also awesome, especially in cold runny nose weather. If you're having your period or want to be the BFF of someone who may have had theirs come earlier than expected, bring a couple tampons or pads. Again plan for 12 hours even though your day will likely be shorter. If you have a nervous stomach, some Immodium AD may be your BFF. I recommend bringing at least one clean bandana. It's not heavy, won't take up much space, and can prove quite useful for a face cover, washcloth, pouch to hold small items, head covering, and more.
  • Communication Essentials: If you don't have a sturdy phone case, this is a good time to get one. Also bring a battery pack to juice up your phone mid-day (or be the hero of a fellow protester). Business cards are great to share contact info with new friends made. Some paper or a notepad is also good to bring. I recommend a Sharpie as it can write on most anything, even if it's damp from rain or snow.
  • Personal Identification and Money: Bring your ID, your insurance cards and medical information, one credit or debit card, and $25-$40 in cash. If you don't have phone numbers memorized, consider a piece of paper or write on your arm the number of an emergency contact just in case your phone dies or gets lost. Along with a pre-filled Metro SmarTrip card (you do NOT want to have to add more money after the march - TRUST ME), download the Uber or Lyft app as a backup. All money and IDs should be on your person - my Lands' End Squall parka has an interior pocket perfect for such items. This is a time when that money belt or neck wallet your mom bought you before your first overseas trip will come in handy. Not only will this prevent pickpockets, it will keep your hands free and make it easy to move quickly.
  • If you have room, a bit of duct tape can prove quite useful for making signs on the spot, helping out a fellow protester with a broken bag, and other unexpected situations.
  • If you are unable to stand for long periods of time, I recommend bringing something like a cane seat even if you don't normally use such a thing. With some bungee cords you can even strap it to your backpack when not in use.
What to Wear to a Protest March

While a march is a time to connect with like-minded individuals to hopefully make positive change, it is a serious event and not a music festival. Feel free to dress in the color associated with the event, wear clothing and accessories relevant to the cause, and bring signs. However, leave at home the glow sticks, goofy hats and glasses, the tutus, and anything else that belittles the situation. Along with this, a protest march is not a place for drugs or alcohol. Do not bring anything that could be considered a weapon. That includes your pepper spray and that tiny Swiss Army knife on your keychain. Keep your jewelry and expensive items at home. As for children, you as the parent know best. If it's one where there's a good chance for arrests and violence I'd keep them home. I've been to several protest marches and rallies over my lifetime and taken my child when she was little; the biggest issue I've faced was the lack of bathrooms.

The purpose of attending a protest march is to have your feelings heard and congregate with like-minded individuals. The energy of such an event can be amazing and so energizing... if you are a part of it. While it's great to document being part of such a monumental occasion, remember why you are there. Every so often, put down the phone and connect with those around you that you don't know. Share your stories, be part of the community, and you may meet a new friend and have one of the most life-changing experiences. And be sure to stay hydrated!

Please note there are affiliate links within posts on this site. If you click on them and make a purchase I may make a small profit. If you choose not to support that, I believe I have provided enough information about each item that you can use a search engine to find this or a similar product online.

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