Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Note on the Red Jacket

I want to be clear about something: my goal in writing here is not to "rewrite" the rules, but rather to show how there are no universal rules for dressing well. Every person has to find his or her own best look.

As an example, I just showed you (I hope) how a bright red blazer isn't an ideal choice for Nancy Pelosi. But on Sonya Sotomayor, it looks great:

The shape here isn't as structured as the one Pelosi was wearing, of course, and that's a good thing. The rounded shape of the wide shawl collar on this jacket compliments the Justice's hair texture. In this case, the color adds life to her face instead of draining it.

Nancy Pelosi

When I first started thinking about writing this blog, I knew my first subject would be Nancy Pelosi. I wanted to write about her because her style has evolved this year to reflect the fact that she looks best when she breaks some of the "rules" that seem to govern how most political women dress. What rules? The rule that seems to recommend that these women all dress like Nancy Regan, regardless of their own coloring, hair texture, or personal style.

For example, here's Pelosi in January 2009:A structured tomato red jacket; short, stiffly styled hair, button earrings. Everything considered de riguer for women in politics. But it doesn't suit her. The color washes her out, the shapes don't relate to her features, the reflectiveness of the earrings make her eyes look a little beady. Sorry, but it's true.

Fortunately her style has moved on from this image. First, the colors started to soften. Here's May 2009:
Now we see her face instead of her jacket. Then the hair started to come down:

And when you put it all together, she looks great:
She looks professional and authoritative but she still looks like herself, not some clone of an outdated idea. And when she leaves the Hill, the look softens even further, without losing the essence of who she is. This was at a charity event in June 2009:
I'm interested to see how her look continues to change. Maybe the Speaker can finally change some of the rules...

In the beginning

This blog has emerged from the confluence of a number of factors: an interest in image consulting, a love of Washington, DC, and the realization that there doesn't seem to be much editorial writing on the way women in politics dress, and the way they should dress. To be sure, there are plenty of pot shots taken at the appearance and clothing of our female leaders (and even occasionally our male leaders) by political writers, pundits and bloggers. And there's plenty of fawning over the lovely fashion choices of some political spouses. But I what I want to do is look at the way our officials, elected and appointed, dress themselves and how they should dress themselves. I think it's possible to make "Hollywood for ugly people" a little bit prettier. I believe the talking heads will pay less attention to a woman's clothes if she's wearing the right clothes. And I'm fairly certain I could be the one to help them do it. So here goes...