Search This Blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fashion in Politics

Appearance is a huge part of politics. Voters will not elect or support someone that does not look a certain way, and especially for women this is a huge issue. A male politician has a neutral dress option: dark suit, white shirt, tie. What does a female politician have? Nothing of the sort. Women are constantly being judged based on what clothes they are wearing, not what new revolutionary or intellectual ideas that they have. Voters want someone that looks put together, that looks appropriate, and does not dress too "out there." Take Condollezza Rice for example, she wore a dark coat and heeled boots, and much of the American public was uncomfortable with her dressing "too sexy." This is an issue for female politicians in America. They are constantly judged based on what they wear.

Michelle Obama has worked hard on a national campaign to fight child obesity while serving as First Lady, but when she steps out most of the headlines about her are related to what she chose to wear. This is unfortunate for her because it shifts the focus of whatever she does to her attire, and if it is not deemed appropriate then it doesn't matter what she originally set out to do, because all eyes are on the clothes. To give Mrs. Obama quite a bit of credit, though, I think that she has done wonderful things to choose her clothing very wisely. She recognizes the position that she is in, and has not only showcased up and coming designers like Jason Wu, who designed her dress for the Inaugural Ball, but she has worn very affordable and modest clothing, so that a typical American woman has even a hope of being able to emulate her. This is a very smart move politically as well, because she seems much more relatable when you have the same cardigan in your closet that the First Lady is wearing to lunch.

And finally,what "fashion and politics" blog post would be complete without discussing Hillary Clinton? The current Secretary of State has come under probably the most fire than any other female politician about her attire. There are many a blog post on the internet bashing Hillary's fashion choices, regardless of what she may have been doing to better America. The critical language used is astonishing:

"Nice try with those chic shades, Hill but not even Jackie O could salvage this look from the depths of frumpiness. The retro braided headband is bad enough, but the boxy black jacket is not helping Hillary's cause. We just hope Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was not as horrified by this look as we are." 

She really just can't catch a break, can she? No matter that she was conducting State business with Australia, she should be dressed perfectly as well. Even Tim Gunn, one of the very prominent (and genius) mouthpieces of American fashion had some very critical words about Hillary:

“All these big, baggy menswear-tailored pantsuits. No, I’m really serious. She wears pantsuits that are really unflattering.”

Would the same be said if Barack Obama wore a poorly tailored suit? I doubt it.

And now I open it up to you, readers. What do you think about this? Is there a double standard surrounding fashion in politics in respect to gender? Is it fair to expect women to dress on a different standard than men? 


  1. It is an unfair double standard, women should be judged on the quality of their work and not their fashion sense. It shows that women in American culture are still more valued for their looks than they are for their intellect or other meaningful contributions to society.

  2. Agreed. I think it's interesting how clothing is no longer shirts and pants; it's rather a reflection of someone's power, attitude and feelings. But it seems this symbolism only applies to women..


Leave a comment!