Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pitch perfect pink

Rep. Donna Edwards chose a rosy pink color and gold jewelry for a taped message in her office about the Patient's Bill of Rights:

She got this look just right. This shade of pink makes her look healthy and vibrant, and her earrings compliment her short hairstyle well. 

"But wait!" you say. "Her dress is sleeveless! Her arms are bare!" Well, yes. But she's not on the House floor, or on a news program or being interviewed by a journalist. She's sitting in her office, having a chat about health care with her constituents, via YouTube. Not the same thing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pledge to America does not include ties

The Republican House leadership held a press conference in Virginia to announce their new policy agenda: "A Pledge to America." Perhaps you've heard of it? The group included three women, but it was the way the men were dressed that was striking: Not a single one of them wore a tie.  Have a look:

The no tie-open collar-sleeves rolled up look is well known on the campaign trail, often in town hall style events. It connotes ease, relatability and a readiness to roll up his sleeves and get to work (get it?). But seeing it here en masse looks a bit odd, not unlike if they were all wearing the exact same tie. Of course, they're not all identical. Some shirts are white, some are blue, some are blue plaid. A few opted for jackets. Rep. Jeb Hensarling wore a red polo shirt that looks like it perhaps was laundered one too many times - a bit too informal in comparison to the others.

But not one, not even the leader Rep. John Boehner, opted for a tie. And that's why it looks weird. They had to have coordinated their outfits. Either way in advance, or right before, urging those with ties to take them off. And how do I know that it's not just a coincidence? Because the women are a lot more dressed up. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Marsha Blackburn are wearing suits with button down shirts and plenty of jewelry. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, sporting a baby bump, went for a soft jacket and bold jewelry. All three of these women are leaders in their party and appear regularly at press conferences like this one. They know what's going on. But odds are, they didn't get the no-tie memo because none of them would literally wear a tie, so they were left without information about how to dress in line with their colleagues.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm really not. But come on, Blackburn shows up in a full suit and heels and not one of those guys wears a tie? I'm not buying it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Houston, we have a jacket

This week Rep. Cynthia Lummis recorded a message to her constituents in her office on the Federal Workforce Reduction Act. She wore a black turtleneck and an ecru jacket:

I assume that Rep. Lummis intended this jacket to be part of her regular outfit, but the shiny texture makes it look like outerwear. The shine is not only distracting - it also makes her face appear more textured by comparison. The turtleneck alone would have looked much more relaxed and approachable instead.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where has all the color gone?

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently spoke with reporters on c-span about the new health care law, parts of which take affect today. Uncharacteristically for the Secretary, both her clothes and her makeup stuck to a black and white color scheme:

Although we've discussed in the past how the Ms. Sebelius looks best in dusty pastel colors, I actually don't mind the black. She has strong features and can pull it off. But the eyeshadow is doing her no favors. By choose a relatively opaque white shade, she makes the lid look larger and heavier, and the eye itself look smaller and darker. Her usual lavender or taupe would work much better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bare arms are still for cocktails, and for movie premieres

If you're going to appear on a news program as a public official, you really shouldn't have bare arms. I've said this before. But what happens when you have more than one appearance to make in an evening?

Michelle Rhee recently sat down with ABC News to discuss her service as DC Schools Chancellor, and whether she just cost Adrian Fenty the nomination in the DC Democratic Mayoral primary (she says yes). After a montage of file footage showing Rhee in her signature structured black clothing, she suddenly appears on the screen in a burgundy dress with a cowl neck and no sleeves:

Seeing Ms. Rhee sitting down for a formal interview in this outfit was jarring in the first shot, until the story continues to mention (and show footage of) her appearance on the red carpet for the premiere of a documentary about DC public schools in which she stars. On the red carpet, she's wearing the dress - it's obviously the same night, although the shot is quick and it's never explicitly stated.

ABC could have just as easily chosen not to mention the red carpet appearance, or mention it but not show it. And then we would all be scratching our heads trying to figure out why on earth she was dressed this way. Even with this explanation, I can't recommend this look. Her shoulders practically glow under the studio lights. This dress, as a dress, is pretty conservative and not all that dressy. It would have looked great with one of the many black blazers we know she owns thrown over the top of it. And then we might not even have noticed that she just walked in from a movie premiere.

It's ironic, too, that a woman known for wearing black eschewed that traditional evening wear shade and opted for color instead. But the burgundy works for her. She could even include the dress-plus-jacket look in her regular work wardrobe.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Senators, three looks

Senate Democrats held a press conference last week on the Small Business Jobs Creation Act. This clip shows in quick succession three women of the Senate with three very different looks: Mary Landrieu, Barbara Boxer and Maria Cantwell.

What was most striking to me about these three women was the difference in their makeup styles. Consider:

1. Mary Landrieu has the "no makeup" makeup look. Maybe a little too "no makeup." I would recommend a foundation with a little more coverage, especially around the nose area, where it looks like she got a little too much sun. Even a so-called 5 minute face can feel like a lot of work when you're going on little sleep and have a full day ahead, so I'm always looking for shortcuts, both for myself and for my clients. Personally, I really like Stila One Step.

2. Barbara Boxer has gone to the other extreme and is really wearing a lot of makeup here. The combination of heavy foundation and thick eyeliner has given her face an almost mask-like appearance. A lighter, glossier lip and peachier blush would also make her look more naturalistic.

3. Maria Cantwell got it just right. With subtle lavender eyeshadow and a creamy rose lip, we see past her makeup and focus once again on her words.

No matter how much makeup you're wearing, it's important to take it off at the end of the day, lest you regret it in the morning. As I said, shortcuts are key, but you've got to find the right ones. I recently tried Payot Eau Demaquillant Express, and I'm extremely impressed. [Full disclosure: I received a free sample during New York Fashion Week. But I'm going out to buy a bottle now!] Payot is a French heritage brand that is just now coming in to the US market via Beauty 360, the fancy-makeup offshoot of CVS. Although they carry a number of Payot products on their website, you'll have to go directly to the DuPont Circle store for a bottle of this one. It's quick, it's effective and it's not drying. Try it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Warren suits up

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I have been looking forward to writing about Elizabeth Warren in her new role with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This excitement has a lot to do with her hair. Warren's signature bob is distinctive, flattering, and easy to care for.

Up until now, her clothing style has been, well, mostly professorial, even as she came to Washington to work with TARP. Turtlenecks, cardigans and soft shapes were main features in her wardrobe. So it was interesting to see that for the day of her appointment in the Rose Garden and subsequent interviews in the media, she chose a jacket instead:

This is definitely a more business-like look, although funnel neck hearkens back to the turtlenecks of the past - the high necks work well with her hairstyle in particular.

My favorite part, though, is the animal print on the cuffs. Not only does it lighten up the severity of the jacket, it lends a sartorial nod to the idea that Warren is ready to "roll up her sleeves" and get this new agency up and running.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One problem too many

On Monday, Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke on the Senate floor about the Education Jobs Bill. She wore a beige suit:

You know what I'm going to say, don't you? This color is so close to her skin tone, she just blends into... all beige. If this were my only concern with this suit, I might suggest pairing it with a scarf in a color that works better for her, like a bright, true red, and the suite could be saved.

The problem is that the jacket is also quite shapeless. Without darts or a lapel, her shape is entirely lost.

How about something like this little peach number instead?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All eyes on O'Donnell's red jacket

Everybody is talking about Christine O'Donnell today after her upset win in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware. For her victory speech, she went for the most classic look in politics: The Red Jacket. Here she is:

Although we know The Red Jacket can be risky, for Ms. O'Donnell it was the right choice. True red is a great color for her. The shoulder pads are a little bit big, but if there were ever a moment where she needed heft and added physical presence, this was it. There is absolutely no question whatsoever who is the candidate in this crowd.

My concern, as before, is her hair. It isn't in a ponytail this time, but it looks a bit unkempt. At the end of a long election day, that's to be expected. But this is a good reminder that if you're keeping your hair long, you need to invest in regular trims just as frequently as if you had a short hairstyle. Straggly ends are for teenagers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fundamentals on primary day

Happy primary day! Today we'll see primary elections in New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Maryland, featuring a number of candidates we've already featured here like Christine O'Donnell,  as well as incumbents like Barbara Mikulski and Carol Shea-Porter.

Today, let's look at one more candidate: Reshma Saujani, who is challenging Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary in the House 14th district.

Two features strike me:
1. She's young
2. Hello, black eyeliner (Lest you think this is just the video, check out her website - it's not)

So let's talk about what this means. First, she looks young. That might not be a bad thing. But in this case, I think she might be reading a little too young for a member of Congress, especially when you put her next to Carolyn Maloney, who is formidable. One of the biggest factors in making her look young is her long hair, well below her shoulders, which she wears loose and mostly unstyled. This is just a very young look. Even if she weren't ready to lose some of the length, a barrette or possibly even some curls might make her look older and more polished - something that looks like she did more than wake up and run a brush through it.

Second, the eyeliner. This much dark kohl on the upper and lower lids is closing in on her eyes and making them look smaller and harder to read. For voters looking for honesty and trustworthiness, having open, visible eyes is really important. I would recommend something much softer for her, perhaps a dark shadow applied with an angle brush on the upper lid only. That would outline the eye without shrinking it. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Down on the farm

The last time we saw Robin Carnahan shoot a campaign ad on her farm, we saw the wrong color and not quite the right style. But this time she got her outfit exactly right:

She took our advice, and this time went with a light, soft blue. And plaid! Now she looks like she belongs.

Ms. Carnahan also makes excellent use of the contrast in her style against her opponent in a sharp suit - a technique that we also saw Alex Sink use to great success in Florida. This time it's not about femininity per se, it's more about earthiness and the insider/outsider perception of Washington by the voters.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Go bold

We've seen before how prints can be challenging to wear. The scale has to be right. The style has to work for you. The colors and the contrast have to compliment your skin tone. Oh, but when it's right, it's so right. Have a look at State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith:

All the elements came together for her in this jacket. The earthy color palette is great for her. The style, shape and size of the print is gently echoed in the waves in her hair. The proportions of the jacket are in alignment with the proportions of her features. Clothes are rarely perfect, but this comes close.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the move

We've talked before about using color as a beacon when you're in the middle of a crowd. We got two great examples of this technique over the weekend in outdoor events.

First, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm running in a road race (the video is a little dark at the start - skip to 0:35):

She wears the same tshirt as the rest of the group, with the race logo on it, but while theirs are burgundy, hers is white. This helps her stand out from the others - although her distinctive blond hair helps too.

We get an even better example from Linda McMahon in a Labor Day parade:

In the middle of a sea of supporters wearing navy blue shirts with her logo on them, the candidate wears a bright green blazer. Not only do we see her right away, there's no question who the leader is here. It's a powerful visual.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When yellow isn't mellow

By now you've probably seen clips of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer during last week's debate. She wore yellow:

The governor's hair and skin tone are already very similar. With this yellow shade, which is much brighter but has similar undertones, her hair and face look more yellow as well, and her eyes look very dark in comparison. She sort of glows, and not in a good way.

She would have done better with a lighter, cooler yellow, or even just a switch to blue or green.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is that the Constitution in your pocket, or are you just excited about urban development?

Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke to the crowd at a community event in Ward 8 last weekend. She wore a sleeveless blouse and narrow white pants:

This look is effortless and comfortable, as usual for the DC Delegate. But. What is in her right pocket??? It looks like a large book or something. This is a perfect a reminder of why sometimes you shouldn't do something, even if you can. Just because you have large pockets doesn't mean you should put large items in them. Especially on a slim pant like this - there should be nothing thicker than a piece of paper in your pocket.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The man with the tan

Even though we know that women in politics get more scrutiny of their looks, men are not exempt either. The man of the moment whose looks are being examined is House minority leader John Boehner. Even when the remarks are relatively positive, people just cannot stop talking about his tan. Often speculation about his skin color and its source are even more blatant.

Check out this montage of MSNBC coverage assembled by Politico:

His political opponents have even gone so far as to produce a widely-seen ad that sends the "founding fathers" to a tanning salon to look for him:

With all this discussion, I thought we should look at Boehner directly, in a CSPAN video of a recent speech in Ohio:

In this case, he doesn't look orange, which is the most frequent point of mockery. But his tan does bring his skin color really close to his hair color, and that low contrast is only emphasized by the high contrast between his black suit and white shirt and light tie.

Whenever you're doing makeup for television, you should remember that camera-ready products have a yellow base, because the camera reads skin tone in shades of red and blue. Self tanner, like some foundations, has a red base, so the camera reads the skin tone even redder, or essentially as orange. Self tanner works by creating a chemical reaction with the dead skin cells in the top layer of your skin. This is why you're warned to exfoliate first and avoid heels and elbows, which have thicker layers of dead cells - they would have more interaction with the tanning chemicals and come out darker. So self tanner is acting like makeup, creating a layer of color on top of the skin.

Tanning: Just don't do it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rice goes to print

UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice chose a jacket with a bold print for a recent press conference:

The scale and style of the print work for her, but the contrast between white and black is too stark for her.

Something like this might have worked better: