Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Edwards discusses military, wearing military

Rep. Donna F. Edwards gave remarks on the Defense Acquisition Bill this week. She wore a jacket that incorporates this spring's military trend:

The last time we saw the military trend on the House floor, my concern was that Rep. McMorris Rodgers had chosen a look that was not formal enough. Rep. Edwards doesn't have that problem, but nevertheless, this style is not working for her. The flaps on her breast pockets stand so far away from her chest, it looks like she could take flight at any moment. This is not the goal of the military style! Many jackets in this trend will have some kind of pocket flap or detail on one or both breasts. Just make sure they are small enough not to stick out. Have them sewn down if necessary - if they would look weird sewn down, that's how you know they aren't small enough.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cathy McMorris Rodgers takes on too much, too soon

Cathy McMorris Rodgers spoke at a Republican press conference this week on earmark reform legislation. She wore a tweed jacket with a purple blouse:

The Congresswoman has put together a fashion forward look that would be pretty successful in another context. But for a Hill press conference, this is a case of too much, too soon. A bold color (purple) AND pattern (black and white) AND texture (tweed) AND an unusual jacket silhouette (no collar, cropped sleeve) adds up to a look that is too far outside mainstream business attire to be truly effective. The visual juxtaposition of her standing between two male colleagues in solid suits, white shirts and blue ties is a strong one, and she doesn't come out ahead. She would have been better served by a plain white blouse here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The First 100 Posts: Thank you!

Thank you everyone who came out for The Style of Politics: The First 100 Posts on Friday night. What a great evening!

If you haven't already, please take our survey.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Style of Politics: The First 100 Posts

Join us for Happy Hour tonight!

We are fast approaching the 100th post on Style of Politics, which calls for celebration!

Friday, April 23, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Top of the Hill
319 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC

Free food from 5:30 to 6:00 pm!

Door prize drawing at 7:00 pm, including:

Mar y Sol Joy clutch provided by Proper Topper  {Check out the cool outfit we put together for this bag here.}

 Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics provided by Oxford University Press, Inc. Autographed by the authors!

The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama provided by Knopf

Can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Patterns on television, part 2

We already talked about the many ways in which patterns can be dangerous on television. But there are some patterns that do work. Have a look at Kay Hagan on the Senate floor last week:

This textural pattern works out just fine on camera. What I really like about this jacket is the fit. It stays close to her body without being form fitting, and the shoulders aren't too wide. The contrast seams on the torso also add subtle dimension while directing not-so-subtle attention up to her face. There's so much going on in the jacket, she smartly sticks to a very plain white shell underneath. Nice outfit, Senator Hagan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Barbara Boxer on the Senate Financial Regulations Bill

Senator Boxer gave her thoughts on the Senate Financial Regulations bill last week, in emphatic agreement with Senator Dodd. She wore lavender:

You know how obsessed I am with color, and in this case, the color is right. Senator Boxer often wears shades of purple, and this one in particular is nice on her. My concern here is the fit of the jacket - it's too tight across the front. See how the buttons pull and there's a gap at the bottom? Not so good. It also seems to be flattening out her chest.

It's easy for these things to sneak up on us - something fits well, then it fits a little tighter, then it doesn't fit, but it happens so gradually, you can miss it. Most of us think about whether something fits the first time we put it on, or put it on again after a while. But we often don't think about whether something fits if we wear it frequently. It's a question worth posing every once in a while!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Maybe the Senate women should host a clothing swap

Susan Collins was on John Kind USA last week to discuss the Congressional investigation into the Fort Hood massacre. She wore a lilac skirt suit:

I like the style and the structure of this suit on Senator Collins, but the color isn't flattering on her. She does much better in strong, bold colors like red, as we've seen before. In fact, the first thing I thought when I saw this clip is that this suit would look so much better on Senator Mary Landrieu.

Cokie Roberts recently hosted a panel on the history of women in the Senate, where Susan Collins and some of her female colleagues from both sides of the aisle shared their experiences (definitely worth watching). With all the cooperative feeling on life in the Senate, maybe they should host a clothing swap. Senator Collins's suit could go to Senator Landrieu, Senator Landrieu's red suit could go to Senator Collins, everyone could stage an intervention about Senator Murkowski's insistence on wearing pink. It could be fun!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clinton and Nkoana-Mashabane have much in common, but different styles

Hillary Clinton welcomed her counterpart from South Africa Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to Washington last week. Look at the very different styles these two women inhabit:

No one could really accuse Secretary Clinton of being a shrinking violet (or of Anglo-American chromophobia) but it is interesting to me that she chose a color so close to her own skin tone, paired with a straight hairstyle and carefully edited jewelry. There is something to consider about the implication of a style that tries to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Foreign Minister Nkoana-Mashabane by contrast wears bright color, puffy sleeves, lots of jewelry and full, natural hair. Her style takes up as much physical and visual space as possible. To be sure, some of these differences are cultural, but maybe some style is one more thing we could learn from each other.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michelle Rhee's signature look

You probably saw news coverage on DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's recent labor contract proposal and how it might be paid for. But what you probably didn't see was a recent photo of her. I'm not sure why this is, but there are a lot of old file photos of her out there - you can see the length of her hair go up and down across newspapers, but you don't see a whole lot that's recent. So I went looking for something. Here's a speech she gave at the California Charter Schools Conference last month:

And you know what I noticed? She looks almost exactly the same as on her Time cover in November 2008:

Black suit

Dark lipstick

No jewelry

And very close variations on this look show up on all those file photos in between. It's a signature look, to be sure, but a rather severe one. She has a tough job and a polarizing persona that has nothing to do with how she looks. But if she's ever in the mood to take a more compromising stance, she's going to need to soften it up a bit. Even a switch over to a medium gray (a color that looks good on almost everyone) would be a start. The lipstick should really change in any case - a more sheer formulation in a classic red would do the trick, like Make Up For Ever in True Red 415.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Palin's wardrobe deja vu

Did you see the photos from Sarah Palin's Tea Party speech yesterday?

You read that correctly.  That was yesterday.  Does her outfit look familiar?  Oh wait, it does:

That was during her 2008 Vice Presidential run.

Now, I know I said earlier this week that I think Palin can and probably should keep wearing leather, including leather jackets. But this outfit, and this red leather jacket in particular, became one of the most prominent symbols of the firestorm surrounding her wardrobe during the campaign. For the record, these are two different jackets, so we can probably assume that the 2008 version was in fact donated to charity as the campaign said it would be. But the similarity is absurd. Could this possibly be a coincidence? I think probably not. What a clever way to thumb her nose a her detractors.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: A study in casual wear

If you spend enough time watching C-SPAN, you could be forgiven for believing our elected officials spend their entire lives in suits and pearls. But if last week's recess reminded me of anything, it's that the wardrobe definitely needs a change for the "everyday" events back in the home state. My favorite example of casual dressing these days is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

There is as much to think about when getting dressed for recess events as there is on the Hill, maybe more. You have to consider the event, the venue, the season, and of course your own personal style. But for a member of Congress, particularly in an election year, I might argue that the most important element of dressing at home is location, location, location. Regional styles that might be questioned or even ridiculed in other places are practically required at home, reminding your constituents that you're still one of them. That might mean cowboy boots in Texas, turquoise jewelry in the southwest, or a down parka in Alaska. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen represents South Florida. For her, hometown dressing is all about bright colors and natural fibers.

She wore a sky blue linen camp shirt to mail her Census form:

Pink to cruise the Miami River:

Lemon yellow with cut out detail on the sleeve for a veterans' event:

And a purple t shirt for a high school sporting event:

Now, you might want to say I'm cheating with this last one - this is clearly a team shirt in the school colors. But these kinds of shirts almost always come in two colors - one like this and one on a gray or black background with the other colors highlighted in the logo and mascot. For her, the purple works. But if it doesn't work for you? Switch to the other one. As long as you're not wearing the opposing team's color, that is.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Amy Klobuchar has many words and few pictures in Elle magazine

Pick up the April issue of Elle magazine and flip to page 256. You'll find a rather lengthy profile of Senator Amy Klobuchar. It focuses on biography and daily life, mostly, with only passing reference to actual policy issues. The article reminds me strongly of a profile of Sarah Palin that appeared in Vogue way back before most of the country had heard of her.

It also contains almost no photographs, save a candid shot of the Senator on the phone with her face half hidden by her hair, and a long shot in too-long pants and clunky shoes with the Capitol dome in the background. Roll Call's Heard on the Hill found the lack of photos atypical for a fashion mag (true) and makes passing reference to an apparently scrapped photo shoot. But I think a missing photo spread combined with almost no comments on her wardrobe choices are deafening by their silence. Someone at Elle doesn't think Klobuchar dresses well.

The Senator does ok, though. She often sticks to a pink and black color palette, one of the few style-related comments in the Elle article, and she kept that up on her recent appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show:

I particularly like the way the pink tones in her makeup compliment her hot pink jacket without trying to match it. Of course, only Barbie can wear hot pink all the time, and even she doesn't do that any more. But a cohesive color palette for your wardrobe will in fact simplify your life. As Senator Klobuchar says, "If you have one or two themes, then you have the same shoes, the same bag. Otherwise, it's a nightmare."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fey wears leather as Palin, but you don't have to

I suspect by now that everyone saw Tina Fey's appearance on SNL last night as Sarah Palin, but if you missed it, here it is:

She's recreating a Palin look from last month at a McCain rally, featuring a black leather motorcycle jacket. We've seen Palin in leather before, most memorably in a red fitted jacket during the 2008 campaign. Although I've said before that Palin's stylist made some serious missteps in the labels she chose for her client, for Palin, leather itself was an appropriate choice. She looked good, the jacket was on trend, and of course we know how much our leaders love red. Although this more recent jacket was perhaps not as successful from a style perspective, mostly because of the mash-up of jewelry that accompanied it, I see no reason why Palin shouldn't continue to include leather selectively in her wardrobe. The trend isn't going anywhere, and for her it provides sartorial support for her pro-hunting stance.

Palin isn't the only one grabbing headlines with leather lately. Rosa DeLauro's pink leather jacket got a lot of attention during the health care vote, as only one of several Congresswomen wearing leather in March. This trend is prominent on both sides of the aisle.

Although the Humane Society Legislative Fund gave DeLauro a perfect score on their most recent report card, she apparently hasn't made the leap yet to removing leather from her wardrobe, the way her House colleague Jared Polis has. But what if she decided to take leather jackets out of her wardrobe? There's no reason why she couldn't still incorporate the motorcycle jacket trend into her look. She (and you) would have two options:

1. Faux leather. This idea has something of a bad rap, and to be sure, there's a lot of ugly vinyl out there. You do have to choose carefully, but finishes and textures of faux leather have improved dramatically in recent years, and it can often be hard to tell the difference.

That difficulty in telling the difference, though, could leave you with some problems. If the point you're trying to make is not to wear leather, then wearing something that looks so much like leather could at best go unnoticed and at worst leave you needing a press release to explain your jacket every time you wear it. Which leads me to...

2. Other materials. Motorcycle-style jackets come in a wide variety of materials now, creating a look at least as chic as the original leather designs. And in the case of cotton and linen, these can be light enough to wear well in to the spring.

Both of these alternatives also have the added benefit of being significantly less expensive than leather, which leaves some of your budget for other investments.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Secretary Clinton adds a scarf to her introduction

Hillary Clinton introduced a speakers series at the State Department earlier this week. She wore a brown suit and a very well-placed scarf:

The Secretary paired this brown jacket with a shell underneath in the same color. That could be waaay too much brown, but the addition of a creamy print scarf effectively breaks up the dark color block and softens her look considerably.

Also, I wonder if she's growing her hair out? It's looking quite a bit longer in the back these days. Cute flip.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bachmann and Palin take a trip to the 1980s

If Michele Bachmann didn't say the year at the start of this clip, you could be forgiven for guessing the year was perhaps 1984. Both she and Sarah Palin sport some serious throwback styles here:

Now, I know the '80s are having a comeback right now. But you have to be careful.

The combination of the stiff, shiny fabric, the yellow/black color combination, the standup collar and the pushed up sleeves on Rep. Bachmann's jacket cross the line from modern trend to dated look. Her teased hairstyle exacerbates the problem.

Sarah Palin is definitely suffering from a moment of over-accessorization. Jewelry + flag pin + sequined jacket = a lot of look. The layering of pearls and cross also reminds me very strongly of Like A Virgin-era Madonna, and I can't be the only one. I'm sure that's not what she was going for.

I don't know about you, but I'm rather disturbed by hearing Michele Bachmann introduce Sarah Palin by emphasizing, in part, that she is "drop dead gorgeous." Here we are, carefully considering what we wear to produce a polished, professional image, but if the first thing people have to say about us is that we're pretty, we'll go with that? To hell with professional and appropriate if we can be "drop dead gorgeous" instead? Don't get me wrong, gorgeous has a place. We all want to be gorgeous sometimes. But it shouldn't be a professional qualification unless you're a model. How disappointing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Camera readiness: Know your venue

Media appearances are part and parcel of political life, and each appearance takes on perhaps even more importance for candidates for office. To be sure, there is only so much you can prepare for before an interview, both in terms of your look and your words.

But you can think about where you will be, and how you will look in that space. If you're going on the Rachel Maddow Show, you know that you'll be behind a desk, but a clear desk. Pants and skirts matter.  Maddow herself often wears jeans under that same desk, in a cultivated look of defiance.

Similarly, if you're being interviewed by Roll Call for the "Conversation With..." candidates video series, you know you'll be in front of a solid black curtain. You know what you shouldn't wear in front of a solid black curtain? Solid black.  Not one but two recent subjects didn't get that particular preparation note.

First was Suzan DelBene, running for the House seat in Washington's 8th District:

Not only is she wearing a black jacket, she has it zipped up so high, we can't see any color from the top she's (hopefully) wearing underneath. Lowering the zipper could have been a quick fix here. Again, assuming there's something appropriate under there!

Next was Jennifer Brunner, who is running for Senate in Ohio:

Her yellow top definitely helps break up the black, but she still starts to fade into the curtain behind her. This is another case where a great scarf could have saved the day, like this one from Isabel Marant, which also carries a Democrat-themed message. Well, maybe don't put the part about the shoes in front...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ladies' neckwear: a delicate balance

I know I said we were done with health care reform week, but I have just one more post on what Congress wore during the debate. This one is about neckwear again, but this time, on the ladies. This is a tale of two scarves.

First, Doris Matsui:

Then, Anna Eshoo:

You don't need me to tell you that Rep. Eshoo's scarf works, but Rep. Matsui's doesn't. They're both full, bold pieces that form the focal point of their outfits. So what's the difference?

1. Proportion. Rep. Matsui's scarf is wider than her face, dwarfing her. Rep. Eshoo's scarf has some fullness at the bottom, but it spreads out gradually and never looks bigger than her head.

2. Style. Bows always have the potential to look cutesy, no matter what the size. Big bows are pretty much impossible to pull of unless you're Minnie Mouse or Hello Kitty. Not a cartoon character? Keep the bows small or not at all.

3. Color. Wearing lots of stark white close to the face can be difficult for most people. A print in the right colors can enhance a look and cut through the severity of a suit.

Need more help working a scarf into your wardrobe? Try this:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Congressional Apparel Manufacturing and Fashion Business Caucus

With all the fun of health care reform week, we didn't get the chance to mention the formation of the Congressional Apparel Manufacturing and Fashion Business Caucus. The first big issue for this group of lawmakers will be intellectual property rights and design piracy. But I'm sure you're wondering what I'm wondering: Are these Congressmen more fashionable than the rest?

The caucus will be chaired by representatives from New York and California, the two states with the largest apparel industries. It's a good thing they're representing the interests of their constituents, because their individual looks, well....

Carolyn Maloney in all-over tweed:
The jacket or the skirt, ok, but both together is a lot of texture for one lady.

Jerrold Nadler in pinstripes:
A classic look, very nice. And no flag tie!

Diane E. Watson in earthtones:
I like the print and variation in this look. But she might benefit from a more sheer lip color.

Overall, the caucus chairs fare no better and no worse in selecting their wardrobes. Maybe working with the fashion industry will give them a little boost!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pelosi's Purple Palette

Health Care Reform week here on Style of Politics has to culminate the way the debate did: with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She wore purple, as she has before:
We have, of course, seen this look and this color palette before. And we're not the only ones who noticed! The Speaker's choice of color drew the particular attention of Heard on the Hill, and then of fellow style blogger Capitol Hill Style, who reprinted the Heard on the Hill column for those of us without the benefit of a subscription.

With all due respect to the HotH pundits, this analysis reads a bit like the time your AP English teacher assigned an essay on symbolism and you had to stretch it to 700 words. Suffragettes, royalty and bipartisanship are all well and good, but seriously. She just looks good in light, muted purples. Nancy Pelosi knows it, and we've known it since our first post.

Want to try her look yourself? Here are some suggestions, whether you're feeling bipartisan or not:

Sorry, the purple jacket doesn't come with a gavel.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alan Grayson and the stars and stripes

Rep. Alan Grayson made a rather unfortunate choice of necktie during the House health care vote. Don't blink or you'll miss it in this clip:

And here is he again in a different flag tie on MSNBC just a few days later:

Don't wear flag ties. Just. Don't. Do. It. They're tacky. They're ugly. And please don't tell me that I don't understand what you're trying to do here - you think a flag tie is patriotic? Really? Distorting the flag and tying it in a knot? I beg to differ. If you want to convey your patriotism in public office, your commitment to your civic duty, do us all a favor and just dress well.