Shirley Chisholm Outfits

Netflix’s Shirley Chisholm Outfits: Wardrobe of the first Black Congresswoman in the United States

More often than not when it comes to portraying a fearless and history changing woman, like Shirley Chisholm, it takes an equally strong and undaunted actress to take up the call. Exactly what happened when after more than ten long years of trying Netflix gave Regina King a platform to create the biographical drama, Shirley (2024). But for us here at Elemental Spot, Shirley (2024) is about more than just Chisholms groundbreaking run for President of the United States, it’s also about how the Shirley Chisholm outfits captured the essence of who she was. And how hard she was willing to fight for what she believed in.    

The official trailer for the Netflix Shirley Chisholm biopic, Shirley (2024). 

Shirley Chisholm’s Formal Navy and Cream Suit in Netflix’s Shirley

Adding a black beanie hat to her look keeps her make-up and pink hair from looking too girlie. Riverdale, The CW. 

Even Shirley’s friends and family were surprised when she said she wanted to run for President of the United States, but already in Congress nobody doubted her determination. Shirley, Netflix.

By the time that Shirley Chisholm was to announce her groundbreaking, and politically changing, presidential run in 1972, she had already marked her place in the history books. Her feet firmly under the table as the first Black woman to be elected to the US Congress in 1968, it is fitting then that when we first see her behind her desk in the Netflix biopic Shirley (2024) she looks every inch the politician she was known as.  

With her simple single breasted navy blue suit blazer, with its cream collar and front edge, modern three quarter-length sleeves and accompanying gold jewelry the perfect example of an understated powersuit. The sort that even Kelly Rowland’s Mea Harper would love to have worn.  

A Rare Shirley Chisholm Floral Print Suit 

This dark floral suit is one of the few times that Shirley comes close to conforming to the typical masculine politician uniform, adding the print no doubt to reinforce her differences and femininity. Shirley, Netflix.  . 
Regina King as Shirley Chisholm, in Netflix 2024 biopic Shirley.

For a woman whose Shirley Chisholm outfits were full of bold and daring prints, it was rare to see the Presidential candidate in a softer, more floral pattern. Unusual for the time period as the early 1970’s was still dominated by the hippie culture and fashions that came around during the swinging 60’s. Particularly bell bottom trousers, maxi-dresses and the wild and colorful flower power prints. However even when Shirley did wear delicate florals, she tamed it by going for a subdued color palette of blacks and creams with just a hint of orange. While sticking steadfast to her signature look of the two-piece matching skirt suit.    

The Presidential Announcement Skirt Suit of Shirley Chisholm

The navy blue and cream block pattern, that is almost identical to the original, is finished off with matching navy buttons and blouse as well as Shirley’s standard gold jewelry. Shirley, Netflix.  
Shirley Chisholm in 1972 after announcing her run for Presidency.

When costume designer Megan Coates was brought onto the Netflix biographical drama that would become Shirley, she didn’t just want to interpret the now famous looks that the Congresswoman wore. Instead she wanted to recreate them. And there was no better place to start than with the geometrical block print that she wore to announce her groundbreaking presidential run in 1972. Seen here on the talented, and passionate Regina King, the pattern covers her simple short single breasted collared jacket and matching pencil skirt.    

Shirley wore the jacket buttoned and adorned with a statement gold layered necklace for her renowned press conference. 
Who was Shirley Chisholm and what has been her lasting legacy. 

Regina King as Shirley Chisholm in her Rebellious Roll Neck Sweaters in Netflix’s Shirley

Just because everyone thought Shirley’s chances of becoming President were no existent, didn’t mean she was going to give up, or that she didn’t have some other plans in place. Shirley, Netflix.  

As we have already learnt the Shirley Chisholm outfits that we see echoed in the Netflix biopic, and worn by the real Shirley years ago, steer clear of what would have been considered the mainstream fashions of the early 1970’s. No pastel shades, flared pants or flowery dresses, instead Shirley preferred the more modest look of the roll neck sweater. Associated at the time with groups who symbolized rebellion and intelligence, maybe Shirley liked the subtle hint of uprising that the soft and supple turtleneck sweaters reflected in her political aspirations.    

Shirley didn’t like being questioned by this little boy regarding how she could be President of the United States since she is a woman.
The dressed up public facing Shirley was also a reflection of her away from the job, preferring the modest look of her simple knit roll neck sweaters and fitted pencils skirts.   


Shirley Chisholm’s Monochromatic Geometric Prints in Netflix’s Shirley

Just by the nature of being a Black woman in Congress, Shirley already stood out in the crowd. So why not use her clothes and love of fashion to make sure those eyes stayed on her. Shirley, Netflix.
Geometric Print Mockneck Top
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Known for her bold and daring geometrical prints, she used her Shirley Chisholm outfits to make sure that she was never far from people’s thoughts and attention. Although she already stood out for being Black and a woman, there was no harm in using both to her advantage with bold prints of blocky geometric designs. Often even sticking with a more pared back monochromatic color palette so that the daring and adventurous patterns could speak for themselves.  

One of Shirley’s boldest patterned looks, making quite a statement even when in the simple monochromatic white and black.   (here in 70’s Graphic Lilli Ann Coat)
Lilli Ann 70s Vintage Tapestry Coat (Sold out, occasionally available on 1bidsauction)
One of the original Shirley Chisholm looks that inspired the movie’s outfits. Credit, Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock.
Vintage 1970s Mod Hippie Dark Brown & White Floral Tapestry Print A line Mini Shift and Jacket Coat Suit Set

Shirley’s Beige Suit, Patterned Blouse and a Meeting with the Black Panthers 

Don’t underestimate Shirley Chisholm, she might dress prim and proper and have chosen a soft, feminine suit in a subtle beige but she knows what she wants, and how to get it. Shirley, Netflix.  

Shirley Chisolm wasn’t the only one changing history in the late 60’s and early 70’s, especially when it came to the representation of the Black community. So it was only natural that she would seek the endorsement of The Black Panthers. A powerful movement, with representation all over the United States, their backing was of the utmost importance. 

But in our Netflix biopic, Shirley deliberately chooses a simple dark beige two-piece suit for their initial meeting. Featuring gold buttons, a statement belt and strong shoulders, the beige is soft and delicate, and results in her being underestimated. Yet the splash of brightness from her signature roll neck blouse and a snappy comeback or two, is all it takes for the Black Panthers to learn Shirly wouldn’t be messed with. 

Shirley might have just been a school teacher from Brooklyn but she never let it stop her from going for her dreams, or pushing the political envelope.

A Softer More Feminine Side to the Shirley Chisholm Outfits in Netflix’s Shirley

Always perfectly composed in public, Shirley knew she could never let her haters see her crack because as a Black woman they would use it against her in a heartbeat. Shirley, Netflix. 
In some cases even her jewelry got softer and more feminine like this amber pendant necklace.  

Shirley might have been a powerhouse in front of the public and on the camera, never losing her composure or letting the racists and misogynists see her cry, but she wasn’t always bold, daring and fearless. Reflected throughout the movie in the Shirley Chisholm outfits that add some softer, more delicate tones of pinks, creams and reds, to give her a more human edge. Just like her pink check jacket or her blue patterned tunic dress with its gentler looser silhouette that she wears in a private moment at home.  

Not the usual fitted shape of her two-piece skirt suits, Shirley’s blue patterned tunic dress, although just as beautiful, represents a moment in her life away from the public.   

“Unbought and Unbossed” Shirley Chisholm and the Man’s World of Politics

Just because people thought she sounded like all other politicians with her political promises, Shirley was quick to remind them she didn’t look like any other politicians. Shirley, Netflix. 
Shirley Chisholm (Regina King) in her simple, and subtle monochromatic houndstooth cape.

American politics in the 1970’s, including many years before and after, might have been a man’s world, but that didn’t mean that history making Shirley Chisholm just lived in it. Never satisfied with the status quo, she pushed for more, and is one of the catalysts that paved the way for the changes America has come to see.

Using her clothes as a way to stand-out in the drab male dominated political world, as we have already seen, sometimes she conformed like wearing her simple, yet feminine black and white houndstooth checked cape for a photo opportunity. And other times she did her own thing and made sure everyone’s eyes were on her…  

Shirley goes for a feminine, soft and delicate look with her pale green and cream matching jacket and dress, making sure she is the center of attention. 

Even though the true story of Shirley Chisholm and her presidential run of 1972 should be reason enough to watch the Netflix biographical movie, it is ok to be just as drawn to the Shirley Chisholm outfits as you are to the trailblazer herself. It would be hard not to love her use of pattern and color, along with her subtle rebellion at the establishment through clothes. And considering she chose her wardrobe wisely to stand out in the crowd and make sure her name would be on everyone’s lips, I don’t think she will mind also being remembered for her groundbreaking outfits.  

MOVIE:Shirley (2024)