Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Classic Palin

Sarah Palin appeared at Glenn Beck's rally this weekend in what we now think of as a classic Palin look:

She has returned to the high hairstyle, which may or may not involve a Bumpit. She wears white, the color of hope and new beginnings (notwithstanding her stated position on "the hopey-changey stuff"). The white also serves to make her look glowing, healthy and vital as she stands against the relatively natural backdrop of stone steps. She has a large and prominent jeweled flag pin. I was a little puzzled by her choice of wedge sandals as footwear, until I considered how they add to her height, along with her hair. All of this put together? We're back in candidate mode here folks. Gone are the retro throwbacks and the tough leather jackets. Candidate Palin looks tall, clean and shiny.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What does it mean to be attractive?

Last week, the candidates in the Republican primary for the New York Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand held a debate. They were asked to compliment their eventual opponent, Senator Gillibrand. Here is what attorney Bruce Blakeman had to say:

"She's an attractive, bright woman, who I believe is a good mom." Yes, he really said that.

Here is Senator Gillibrand's reaction:

Of course, this isn't the first time the Senator has encountered public comments about her looks, and she was clearly prepared.

Even while Mr. Blakeman insists this was in fact a compliment, we can read his implication readily here: Pretty girl, go home and take care of your babies. It's really only one step removed from the era when women candidates with young children were constantly asked who was taking care of their children while they were running for office.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Madam Secretary, where did you put your hair?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recorded a message for Uruguay Independence Day sporting a much different hairstyle than usual. She pulled her hair back:

I'm all for trying new looks, but this experiment was not successful. Suddenly our eyes are focusing on the lines around her mouth, and her eyes seem to bug out a little.

She does much better when her shoulder-length hair is blown out straight around her face:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Using color to send a message

Last week, Rep. Maxine Waters spoke to reporters about the House Ethics Committee investigation into her involvement in the banking industry. She wore green:

In most cases, I would caution you against placing too much emphasis on the iconography of color. It doesn't really matter what a particular color "means" if it doesn't look great on you.

But in this case, Rep. Waters's choice of spring green, which does look great on her, was a shrewd choice because of the meaning of that color as well. On other occasions, we have frequently seen Rep. Waters in black, gray or red, which are good colors for her in general. Those colors also connote strength, power and authority. But in this instance, when she is trying to counter allegations of abuse of power, black would read as severe and red as aggressive. This warm, clear green conveys an impression of honesty, cleanliness, calm and reassurance. I can think of no better choice to accomplish her goals here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blanche Lincoln returns to the field

Senator Blanche Lincoln released another television ad shot in an Arkansas field, with a critical difference from the last one:

This time, we can't see her bra. Maybe she wore a nude color bra, as we suggested. Maybe this shirt is more opaque.  Maybe there was just more cloud cover the day they were shooting. Whatever the reason, we're no longer distracted by her underpinnings.

This ad isn't perfect either. The Senator would have benefited from a last minute check before the cameras started rolling, to smooth out her shirt in the front. I would have also recommended a makeup artist to apply some natural looking color to her lips and cheeks, and to do some additional grooming on her brows.

But at least this time we're listening to her words and not her wardrobe!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another great reason not to dress like a man

Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink just released a campaign ad that positions her as an outsider candidate:

By wearing peach and cream, Ms. Sink creates a strong visual contrast between herself and the bickering male alternatives in the background. By wearing structured shapes, she projects an image of strength and professionalism, but no one would confuse her with the men, who now look generic and undistinguished.

UPDATE 8/29: Politico named this one of the top ten political ads of the summer

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catch a wave

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a PSA for her city's annual Back to School Rally. This being summer, she wore seersucker:

The mayor isn't moving, but her jacket sure is - the stripes are waving back at us from the screen. Friendly, perhaps, but also super distracting.

If you're devoting the time and resources to sit down and record a video message this carefully, do some test shots with your clothes and hair before you commit to the final cut.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who needs fashion anyway?

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano gave a press briefing last week on the border security bill. She wore brick red:

You know that I put only a limited emphasis on fashion and trends in this forum. But the combination of muted brick red with black collar and trim is so dated, I can't not say anything. It sort of reminds me of "holiday party" outfits that were popular about 15 years ago. The low contrast of the two colors, and the muted color palette aren't doing her any favors either.

As we've said before, a clear, true red would have been a much better choice for her.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Too much of a good thing

Robin Carnahan released a new video last week in her run for Senate in Missouri. She wore purple:

Unfortunately, we see more of her shirt than we do of her face - the color is too saturated and a bit too dark for her, even in bright sunlight. It also somehow doesn't relate to her surroundings. Do you wear purple on a farm or a ranch usually? I would have recommended tan or light blue or even a warm green instead.

As she has a lot of color in her shirt, she doesn't have quite enough in her brows. Like many blondes, Ms. Carnahan would benefit from the strategic use of some brow powder in a shade selected specifically for blondes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Striking the balance

We already know that the neckline on our clothes matters - we don't want to show too much cleavage, and we want to choose the right shape to compliment our faces. But your neckline and your jewelry can also highlight another feature: your balance points, or the "magic" focal points below your chin that are most flattering for your particular face shape. It's a concept that's a bit difficult to explain, but easy to illustrate.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gave us a great example last week:

The pendant of her necklace draws our eye directly to her first balance point: it falls at the same distance from the bottom of her chin as the distance from her hairline to her chin (i.e. the length of her face). Would anyone ever look at her and realize that's why it looks good? No, of course not. But you know it looks good, don't you? Now you know the secret. Try it out in the mirror.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Did you hear? Elena Kagan was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Oh, you did? Well did you hear she wore pants? She did!

I don't think we have any reason to fear the pants suit, as long as it is well-fitted, which this one is. Justice Kagan looks infinitely more comfortable in her clothes and her skin than she did in the skirt suits she wore during her Senate confirmation hearings.

Unfortunately, she's still gravitating to round bead necklaces that aren't very flattering, but considering that this is one of the last outfits a wide public audience will see her wear before she dons the big black robes, she made a good choice.

Now all the remains to be seen is what kind of collar she will pair with her robes. Justice Sotomayor wears one that Justice Ginsburg gave her as a gift when she joined the Court.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jewelry that speaks

New York City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin got on the seersucker bandwagon last week, but even her great outfit couldn't marshal the attention of a group of restless senior citizens:

A seersucker jacket paired with a bright white shirt could be too white overall for Ms. Lappin, but she made a shrewd choice of jewelry: a turquoise statement necklace, which gets a clear, saturated color up near her face. Depending on your overall personal style, a statement necklace can be a great addition to an otherwise very neutral outfit that features seersucker suiting. What's a "statement necklace?" Try these:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Go with the flow

There are two ways to beat the heat in July and August: Expose more skin (not recommended) or make your clothes lighter and more flowy. UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice chose the latter:

"Mint green pantsuit" doesn't sound like a great choice. But I'm hard pressed to dislike this outfit. It fits well and the colors work for her. Most of all she looks comfortable. Not "I feel like I'm wearing my pajamas comfortable" but rather comfortable in her own skin, with her own look. Sometimes that's the most important thing: know your style. It sort of reminds me of Rosa DeLauro.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maternity in the Capitol

This week Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers announced that she is expecting her second child in December. She did not mention during this floor speech last week commemorating the 20th anniversary of the ADA:

When I saw the pregnancy announcement, I immediately thought that it may be challenging for her to figure out what to wear, for two reasons:
  1. Her only role model for maternity-wear in Congress is....herself, from her last pregnancy two years ago.
  2. She's a pretty stylish lady, as we've seen on this blog, so I suspect she won't be easily satisfied with a Bella Band and some big sweaters.

What to wear? Neutral colors are a good bet, especially for fall. They allow the clothes to be worn over and over in a short period of time without looking strange. Black isn't great on her, so I would recommend medium grays and navy blues. Interesting jewelry keeps the outfits from looking boring:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Asymmetry is interesting, part 2

Last month we saw great examples of how asymmetry can create visual interest from Carly Fiorina and Kathleen Sebelius. Now the Health and Human Services Secretary has done it again, this time in blue:

The collar, in addition to being asymmetrical, also has some weight to it, adding structure to this short-sleeved top.

I'm not sure that I would have selected the pearl necklace to pair with a top that features big black buttons. I would recommend a think silver chain perhaps. But otherwise, this outfit is a vision.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pattern and piping

We know from many, many examples that patterns can be tricky to wear. Rep. Diana DeGette gave us a great example of how to do it right:

This blue pattern with ribbon piping trim is visually interesting and still works well on camera. This medium blue is a nice color on her, and the white in the pattern creates great contrast, complimenting the contrast between her dark hair and creamy skin. The trim is an unusual detail, making the jacket distinctive and giving it an air of higher quality.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sarah Palin's new book

I would have written a post about the cover photo for Sarah Palin's new book, America by Heart. America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag

But Michael Shaw at BagNews has already said it all, so I don't have to. What to make of her clothes, jewelry and photo selection? Check out his post here.