The President of Hooterville
Hillary Clinton tempts America

My goodness.

As someone who likes to mock the media as much as the next blogger, I think the blogging obsession with Robin Givhan’s column on Hillary’s new look is a bit much.

If this was on the front page of the WaPo or even on the editorial pages I think everyone might have a legitimate complaint, but it was in the Arts and Living section and Givhan is, after all, the fashion editor. One reads Givhan for her social commentary on fashion and she is quite good at it. From her greatest hit:

There they were — John, Jane, Josie and Jack — standing with the president and before the entire country. The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues — like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers. There was tow-headed Jack — having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother — enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother’s skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes.


The wife wore a strawberry-pink tweed suit with taupe pumps and pearls, which alone would not have been particularly remarkable, but alongside the nostalgic costuming of the children, the overall effect was of self-consciously crafted perfection. The children, of course, are innocents. They are dressed by their parents. And through their clothes choices, the parents have created the kind of honeyed faultlessness that jams mailboxes every December when personalized Christmas cards arrive bringing greetings “to you and yours” from the Blake family or the Joneses. Everyone looks freshly scrubbed and adorable, just like they have stepped from a Currier & Ives landscape.


Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It’s not about catering to personal comfort. One can’t give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual — and his family — to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.

As someone who has worked in the fashion industry and still does in a tangential way, what people wear, and how they wear it, really does say a great deal about them. Like it or not, image, while not everything, owns the lions share of the publics perception of candidates, and what that candidate wears is the primary signifier. That’s why everything from a red tie with a proper knot to a flight suit (flashing a little codpiece) is carefully stage-managed to convey the proper image. The hard part for most politicians (and I’m mainly talking men here) is the transition from generic Senatorial (the no-brainer dark grey suit, white shirt, splash-of-color-tie) to the casual (jeans and button-down shirt screams”I can’t let go of the trappings of power!”). Part of the problem is body type; no matter how big of a suit that you put on Denny Hastert he still looks like a sausage about to burst out of its casing. When he is casual, it’s worse. On the other hand Mitt Romney is the very model of the modern major executive, but in informal settings he can’t seem to lose the starch and you get the feeling that he has someone iron his jeans for a perfect crease. This coveys an image of ingratiating artificiality and people pick up on that which is why he is most often compared to a game show host. As for Hillary Clinton, she’s the first serious national candidate for the presidency and the fashion rules for female candidates haven’t been written yet. This is a topic that Givhan is good at, Maureen Dowd – not so much, Chris Matthews – not at all.

Flashing a little bit of national exposure political cleavage is something new…if you discount that time Denny Hastert left a few to many buttons undone.

But lets not go there. That way lies nausea.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....