Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pelosi on what's next for the House

Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters Thursday about wrapping up health care reform and moving on to other items on the agenda. She wore earth tones:

I like this color palette on her - taupe and cream work well with her hair color. But the velvet color on this jacket looks very heavy, doesn't it? Velvet absorbs so much light that it can be very difficult to wear close to the face. The necklace is just the right length. Notice how the shape of the necklace echoes the shape of her face. The jacket is maybe a tiny bit big in the shoulders, but overall, a good look.

Palin, the Stylist, and the Budget

This week, the stylist who dressed Sarah Palin and her family during the campaign "came out" and identified herself in response to Ms. Palin's mention of her (although not by name) in her new book. The story broke in the form of an interview in the New York Times with Lisa A. Kline, which you can read here.

Kline defends the job she did, stating:
A. She was given very little time to get the family outfitted, so she had to pay retail prices.
B. No one on the campaign gave her a budget or questioned how much she spent.

And after doing that job, we know there were two significant results:
1. Her clients looked great.
2. It didn't matter how great her clients looked, because their clothes created a huge media firestorm.

So what went wrong here? Kline wants us to acknowledge points A and B and subsequently give her credit for result 1, but no blame for result 2. I can't do that, and here's why.

It's true, she had very little time, and that with more time, she could have procured many of those clothes directly from designers and using professional discounts instead of going to Saks and paying full retail. But come on, does anyone really believe that the public would have been more accepting of a Valentino jacket that she got for $1,000 through an insider discount, instead of the full price $2,500? The problem here was that she fundamentally did not know who her client was or what image she was trying to project. It was as if she had shopped for a "politician" stock character with brown hair and a nice figure instead of understanding who the governor of Alaska was and what her political image was all about. New York magazine is right in saying that even the average American "doesn't go to T.J. Maxx when they're in a pinch," but if Ms. Kline had taken the same shopping trip to Macy's instead of Saks and Neiman Marcus, we would be having a much different conversation right now. Ms. Palin wouldn't have been as chic or as elegant, but for this client, that probably would have been a lot more comfortable.

Kline also reminds us that no one questioned her spending, and wants us to conclude that there was no way she could have understood that she was out of line on this project. That's a pretty embarrassing abdication of responsibility. She was hired to be the clothing expert for this campaign. Who should know what this wardrobe should cost better than she does? Simply because the campaign (or a private/secret donor or whoever) had the money doesn't mean it was appropriate to spend that much. It was her job to take responsibility for the look of this family - not just ensuring that the clothes look good, but also considering what the clothes say. I can only conclude that Ms. Kline was not up to the job.

There have been people who try to claim that the male candidates were wearing suits that cost at least as much if not more and aren't criticized, and so scrutiny of the cost of Palin's wardrobe is therefore sexist. This, of course, is not true. Do you remember John Edwards's $200 haircut? That was a story for weeks.

A good stylist has to think about these things. All of them. Looking good is not enough.

Senators Landrieu and Lincoln on health care debate in Senate

Senators Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln spoke on the Senate floor on Friday about their voting intentions on the health care bill.

Senator Landrieu wore a black jacket over a red shell. The fit is nice, but black is too harsh against her fair skin and light hair. She would be much better served by charcoal or navy. Her glasses are awfully dark, too. There's nothing wrong with a bold statement in eyewear, but I think these are taking over her face.

Senator Lincoln did go with navy, but she could probably take the black if she wanted to. My concern here is with the fit of the jacket. It looks baggy in both the torso and the sleeves. Her scarf cuts her off at the neck and puts red up near her face - not her best color in this case.

Is it too much to suggest they trade outfits?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sarah Palin calls Newsweek's reprint of her Runner's World photo sexist

I have some ambivalence about covering this story at all, but I think we have something to learn here, so I will. By now, you've probably seen that this week's cover of Newsweek features a photo of Sarah Palin in running shorts and sneakers that originally appeared in Runner's World magazine, under the headline "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah?"

Ms. Palin called this use of the photo "sexist" on her facebook page, a claim that Tina Brown counters in the clip above (or in this article, almost verbatim) as being no worse than provocative photos of Bill Clinton or Elliot Spitzer in the recent past. I agree with that comparison, and also with Brown's conclusion that Ms. Palin's outrage is largely for effect.

But as I said, we have something to learn here. Why is this photo embarrassing? It's not because she's wearing short running shorts. There's nothing wrong with them, actually, and she has a great figure. The problem here is the context in which she's wearing them. Even though this photo was taken for a running magazine, she's not running. She's not at a gym or outside. She's posing like a beauty queen, leaning on an artfully draped flag. It's a portrait, and no one should show that much leg in a portrait. If she were running down a road, or running on a treadmill, or even standing on a treadmill as if she had just stopped running, the photo would not have the same effect. There would be no story here. So the moral of the story is not that you should never be photographed in anything other than a jacket and pearls. It's the same as everything else - you simply need to wear the right clothes for each occasion.

And did you notice her warm up jacket? It's red.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Carly Fiorina is running for Senate

Carly Fiorina's announcement of her Senate run was bold in more ways than one:

Most obviously, she's now sporting a post-chemo steel gray cropped hairstyle instead of the light brown highlighted wig she had been using recently.

She also opted for a very closely fitted tone on tone gray suit. Big earrings were a good choice. I think she looks great. It will be interesting to see how her look develops along with her campaign.

Karen Mills Takes Questions

SBA Administrator Karen Mills took questions in a live chat today that included video:

There are a few changes I would recommend. First of all, she's wearing too much jewelry by half. A bracelet AND a watch AND a ring on each hand AND a necklace AND a brooch AND earrings is very distracting.

Second, the high degree of contrast between her blouse and her jacket doesn't compliment her coloring. Personally, I wouldn't recommend a black suit for her at all, but if you're sticking with the black suit, I would have gone to a medium blue for the blouse. The shoulder pads are too big too - see the way they extend past the edge of her natural shoulder and point upwards?

It looks like she got a nice neutral manicure though, which was a good choice.

Secretary Clinton's remarks on Burma in a textured Red Jacket

Hillary Clinton wore a textured red jacket with a black shell and a shiny metal necklace for a press conference in Manila last week.

The texture of the jacket is echoing the textures of her face in a way that is less than flattering, and the dark shell under such a bright jacket makes her look pale. I also think the necklace is too long for her - see how it almost looks like she's wearing a medal or award around her neck? She's been making some great clothing choices lately, but this was not one of her better days.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Secretary Clinton speaks at the Brandenburg Gate

We've talked about what colors look good on Hillary Clinton, and I don't think this muted brick red is one of them. A turquoise or pink or even the orange on the edges of this scarf might have been better. You can see her from afar though.

Her hair is perfect. The lift at the crown keeps the straight style from plastering to her head.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Susan Rice on The Daily Show

Please have a look at the suit Ambassador Rice wore on the Daily Show last week. I want to show you something about fit and fabric. You get the best look at her suit when she walks in at the beginning:

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There are two things that are unusual about this fabric: it's a little bit shiny, and it's a little bit soft. This would ordinarily make this more of an evening suit, but it works here. She looks dressed up, but not over-dressed. The suit is also very carefully tailored for her. Notice how it ties on the side, causing the waist to nip in and flatter her hips. Not for nothing, she could wear this on an after-work date, which is pretty much exactly how I think everyone on the Daily Show should appear.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: A Color Comparison

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz spent a lot of time on television this weekend after the health care vote, and what she wore gives us another good example of why color matters.

First, here she is on Face the Nation:

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The pale pink blouse and taupe suit complement her coloring. Her skintone looks even.

Now let's compare this to her appearance on MSNBC:

This saturated blue overwhelms her. See how the skin around her eyes looks white and papery? It's not that she can't wear blue - it's just that she shouldn't wear this blue. A dusty cornflower blue would work much better for her.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Secretary Clinton meets with Singapore Minister - in a Red Jacket

Nice collar, right? It's a little bit unusual and adds some visual interest. The length of this jacket is iffy though. It doesn't cut her clear across the widest part of the hip, which is good, but I think it's maybe a little bit too long. And the sleeves are definitely too long. Hemming a sleeve can make a huge difference in the look of a jacket, but be really careful if you try to do it yourself. Too short is way worse than too long.