Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elena Kagan got dressed. Two days in a row.

I suppose that after the Washington Post brouhaha over the appearance of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, I should have expected that people would be watching what she would wear during her Senate confirmation hearings. And sure enough, they did

In case you missed it, here's day 1:

Lots of praise out there for the blue color, and I don't disagree. She does well with this saturated royal blue. But the collar! It's such an oversize proportion and she is (famously) of a short stature, and those big black buttons just add to the overwhelming effect of that detail. She's back to her favorite necklace and earring set, which we've already mentioned is not the strongest choice for her either.

Day 2 got less attention, but I would say she looked better:

Medium gray works for just about everyone and this jacket, while less visually interesting, is a much better choice for her. We have another rounded necklace and earring set here, but it's an improvement over the perfectly round and reflective pearls.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

White is summery, but also tough to pull off

As temperatures have risen to near-boiling the last few weeks, we've seen some very effective uses of white in wardrobes on the Hill. Cathy McMorris Rodgers went for contrast, while Mary Landrieu took a tone on tone approach. But white can be tricky. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

Black and white is a fun motif, but it's not for everyone.

Hillary Clinton paired this white jacket with a black top, and her coloring just can't take the contrast. She's also suffering from the white itself - it's too bright for her, and it's reflecting the light back at us and up on her face at all sorts of weird angles, making her look tired.

Even if you can pull off the black and white look, you need the right accessories. No pastels.

Mary Bono Mack probably chose this scarf to put some color near her face, but unlike Secretary Clinton, she doesn't really  need it.  She could pull of the black and white look with a simple necklace.  This muted green actually washes her out. And do I even need to say it? She needs some lipstick.

Off-white is easier to wear. But don't overdo it.

Nancy Pelosi went for cream instead, but with long pants and a Nehru collar, that's a lot of one color, no matter what the color is.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Using the Red Jacket for contrast

Senate candidate Linda McMahon's recent campaign ad pokes fun at her job as the CEO of the WWE, and she uses her clothes to add to the effect:

She wears the iconic red jacket, in a particularly iconic style - the collar and bracelet length sleeves strongly channel Jackie O, which reads as the epitome of femininity. But there's even more going on here. Her chain link choker length necklace adds a toughness to her look, just as she shows "toughness" standing up to the wrestlers in the interspersed clips. Each element of her appearance is feeding back in to the message she's trying to send. Very effective.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A little shimmery eye shadow goes a long way

Nikki Haley won the Republican nomination for Governor in South Carolina this week. She appeared on CNN with John King on Wednesday:

This warm tomato red is a power color for her. She looks fantastic. This is why women in politics started wearing The Red Jacket in the first place.

It's her eyeshadow that concerns me a bit. It reflects so much light, it's distracting from her eyes. It's true that a woman with dark eyes and strong eyebrows has to be careful to stay away from eyeshadow that's too dark in a daytime look, but if you go too far in the other direction, this is the result. White and light colored shadows might not look shimmery in the pan or on the brush, but they reflect more light than medium shades simply because they are lighter. Combine that with intensely bright studio lights and you have a shimmery distraction.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The iconography of stripes

The opening of the Read My Pins exhibit at the Smithsonian got me thinking about the subtle and not-so-subtle messages we can send with what we wear. And then I happened to see this clip of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:

First of all, these sharply contrasting stripes are awfully harsh for her. Your eye goes straight to the jacket, and her face starts to look pale by comparison. But secondly, there's the cultural reference of black and white stripes to contend with. No one is going to mistake Secretary Napolitano for a prisoner while appearing on CNN, but it's not an inference I would even want to suggest if I she were my client.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Patterns on television, part 4

By now you know not to wear houndstooth or chevron stripes on television, right? Right? Well if you're still not convinced, have a look at Rep. Chellie Pingree on MSNBC:

I have to say that I wouldn't recommend this jacket for the Congresswoman on any day, let alone a television day. The texture is rough and the contrast is too sharp for her. But on camera? My, look how the stripes dance.

Just don't do it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What was that about hairstyles again?

I wonder what would have happened if Carly Fiorina were running against Dianne Feinstein instead of Barbara Boxer.

Senator Feinstein was on CNN's State of the Union this week to discuss US strategy in Afghanistan. She wore purple:

The last time we wrote about the Senator's hair, it was a bit longer, and that gave it some youthfulness. Here I think it's just a tad too short, which makes it stiff and just a touch too curly. Another half inch of length would calm down that flippy little curl above her left ear.

I love this rich purple color on the Senator, although I would perhaps remove the shoulder pads from her blouse. And here we also see a perfectly appropriate use of a multistrand necklace with a professional outfit.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sharron Angle and that other kind of makeover

A lot of people are talking about Sharron Angle's "political makeover" at the hands of the Republican party since winning their nomination for Senate earlier this month. What no one seems to be talking about is what she might need in terms of that other kind of makeover. The fashion kind.

Check out her pre-primary wardrobe choices in this montage from the Rachel Maddow Show:

Her wardrobe was boxy and brightly colored in a way that dates her clothes back about two decades. They're not as terrible as they could be, but this is a clear instance where she needs to dress for the job she wants, not the job she has. Does she look like a school board member? Sure. Senate candidate? Not so much.

Now have a look at her first television appearance after the primary election, on the Fox and Friends morning show:

The color is more subdued, the jacket is well fitted. The flower brooch, while a modern concept, doesn't relate to the rest of her outfit at all, but at least she's trying. Someone put some thought into this look, made a clear attempt at bringing Ms. Angle's wardrobe into the 21st century.

She kept the jacket but ditched the brooch for an appearance on Hannity later that day:

And that was it. We haven't seen her on a planned TV appearance since, so it's hard to say whether this outfit was a lucky choice or a carefully constructed change in her image. We all know by now what trouble a flashy "makeover" can cause. But some adjustments clearly needed to be made, so hopefully she's making them, with or without help from a professional.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bare arms are for cocktails

Remember that time when we talked about how dressy and professional are not the same thing, and people got all riled up? Well hang on to your pearls folks because we're gonna do it again.

Rep. Michele Bachmann was on Fox Business earlier this week to discuss the oil spill. She wore a black sleeveless top:

A sleeveless top with no layer over it isn't terribly professional to begin with. It's an awful lot of skin to show during a serious discussion of a major disaster. But just as in Governor Brewer's outfit that we discussed before, it's the combination of items here that really drives the complete outfit past the borders of professional. Sleeveless and multistrand necklace and dangling earrings and smoky eye makeup and she looks a bit like she came from happy hour in Georgetown.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Clinton adds a floral ruffled collar to the mix

Secretary Clinton's clothing choices tend to be very tailored and very precise, so it was unusual to see her pair her suit with a floral blouse with a ruffled collar for a recent diplomacy briefing:

This wasn't the most effective addition to her wardrobe. The blouse doesn't work for her, for a few reasons:
1. It adds a lot of volume around her neck, an area that she would probably prefer not to draw attention to.
2. It competes with her necklace for visual interest.
3. The pattern doesn't relate to her features at all. Nothing about her hair or the shapes in her face says "soft floral" to me.

I applaud her attempt at branching out, but she was much more successful with a subtle scarf than a prominent collar to use florals.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Could the contrast trim blazer be the new red jacket?

It looks like Rep. Cynthia Lummis is jumping on the contrast trim blazer trend in politics:

I wouldn't have paired this with a taupe shell with a high neck the way she did though. A bright white scoop neck would have been summery and more open. She has a great hairstyle, though. It's coiffed without being stiff. Maybe just a touch of an anti-frizz product like Fekkai Advanced Brilliant Glossing Cream.

Everybody's doing it. You can do it too!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who says white can't be tough? Part 2.

A few weeks ago, we saw Senator Mary Landrieu make a strong, bold use of white with a tone on tone outfit. This time, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers cuts a tough image using an opposite strategy - sharp contrast.

By pairing this white blazer with a cool slate gray shirt and red double strand necklace, she suggests the flags behind her without overtly depicting them. This look is immaculate and she's clearly ready for whatever legislative battles lie ahead.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Year of the Woman? Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Carly Fiorina discuss

Meet the Press had a segment this week on the media's favorite meme after last week's primary elections: 2010 is the "year of the woman." Carly Fiorina and Debbie Wasserman Schultz were on hand to discuss. I recommend watching the whole clip, which is about 6 minutes:

Without a doubt, we're going to have a lot more to discuss here!

Rep. Wasserman Schultz does the red jacket look really well here. Her hair is perfectly frizz-free too, although I am concerned that it looks rather stiff. For years, women with curly hair were encouraged to use silicone-based products to keep frizz at bay, and while they are effective, they can leave you with this stiffness problem, especially if overused. I recommend instead water based products like Deva Curl Angell and as much time as possible to air dry your hair before applying a hairdryer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dyer communicates with color

Jane Dyer won the Democratic nomination this week in the House race in South Carolina's 3rd district. She shot a campaign video on the campus of Clemson University:

When We Work Together, We Can Accomplish Anything from Jane Dyer on Vimeo.

I love the way she uses color in this outfit. The orange blouse is an overt nod to Clemson (she's an alumna). The intensity of the color could overwhelm her, but it's covered enough by her jacket to balance the look. Her suit is a cool stone beige - perfect for a hot southern climate and incredibly elegant on a tall woman. It also fits her really well, which is so important.

My only concern is, well, is she wearing socks? White socks? In general, hosiery should match your pants or skirt, but in the case of white and cream, it's usually better to break that rule and go for something "nude" color.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The irony of Fiorina's hairstyle opinions

Carly Fiorina inadvertently made a candid comment about her opponent's hairstyle on camera while waiting for an interview to start today:

There are two things that I don't understand about this.

1. Barbara Boxer's hair looks great. The style is appropriate for her age and flatters her face. Here she is in her latest campaign video:

 2. Fiorina's present hairstyle, which is short and undyed, has come in the aftermath of chemotherapy treatments for cancer that caused her to lose all her hair. But before that, she sported a style that was remarkably similar to Boxer's:

Has Fiorina's taste really changed that much in two years? Or are we just having a middle school moment here?

Short sleeves are short sleeves, not long sleeves

I don't want to keep calling out EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. I really don't. But she could do so much better. She recently wore a short sleeve jacket with a long sleeve blouse for a speech on energy independence:

First of all, don't wear long sleeves under short sleeves. I can't think of a (non-casual) outfit where this looks good. All this cream also does nothing for her. Beige clothes and beige backdrop quickly comes to equal beige face.

This is not to say that she can't wear white. Or short sleeve jackets. Or feminine details. She just needs to try doing them in a different way. For example:

Here we have saturated color near her face, white on the skirt, a short sleeve linen jacket (with a slightly longer sleeve to smooth out the arm), and feminine embellishment all over.

Ms. Jackson isn't my client, but I hope she's listening.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


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Color for color

Nikki Haley is headed into a runoff after yesterday's Republican primary for South Carolina Governor. At a recent appearance at a Tea Party rally, she gave us a great example of how women of color should wear pastels:

She chose a shade of peach that is warm like her complexion and just a little bit lighter than her skin color. These two elements combine to make her skin look creamy and radiant. She looks healthy - a major bonus for any candidate, especially one whose youth and vibrancy are assets to be emphasized.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dana Walsh wears pink

Remember when we talked about blondes in pink? California congressional candidate Dana Walsh took my advice! Here's her primary election day message:

This saturated shade warms up her skin tone and focuses our attention in a positive way.

Still a few hours before the polls close in California and we'll know whether or not Ms. Walsh will face Nancy Pelosi in the general election this fall.

The advantage of neutral colors in changing light

Karen Bass is the front runner in today's Democratic primary for California's 33rd district. She was interviewed last week at the Georgia Aquarium, where the lights cycled through a rainbow of colors:

Ms. Bass was extremely well served by wearing neutral colors on this occasion, although it was certainly a coincidence. The black, tan and white tweed looks great under yellow, pink, blue, green and so on. I also like that she keeps her jewelry small and understated to compliment her short hairstyle and not compete with her bold glasses.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dressy and professional are not the same thing

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer went to the White House last week to meet with the President about immigration. She wore a black pant suit:

The black pant suit is a black pant suit: serviceable, well-fitted and unremarkable. But what I noticed most is what the governor chose to pair her suit with: a print top, open toed shoes, dangling earrings and a French twist in her hair. Each of these elements individually might be ok for an important meeting at the White House. But together, they look like the "after" picture in a magazine article on how to take your business suit from day to night. She looks like she's going on a date, not defending her state's immigration enforcement law.

From another angle, we can see her hairstyle is basically a beehive:

This is where a lot of us get confused. We know that "dressy" is the opposite of "casual" but we need to remember that it's also the opposite of "professional."  Open toed shoes are dressy. There's nothing professional about seeing your toes.  Wearing your hair up can be great in a professional setting, as a bun or a French braid. But anything that could reasonably be described as an "updo" is not right for a discussion with the President about legislation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time for a clean slate

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson testified before the House Foreign Affairs committee on security between the US and Mexico. She wore slate gray:

The good news for Ms. Jacobson is that this color works on almost everyone. The bad news is that she's wearing way too much of it. The neckline of her top (dress?) is all but choking her in gray. She would look great in green instead, like this Classiques Entier blouse at Nordstrom. It's in stock at Montgomery Mall AND Tysons Corner. No excuses!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Are Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina trading closets?

As Barbara Boxer heads into an intense period of re-election campaigning, she appears suited up for battle - literally. Here she is on CNN discussing the Gulf Coast oil spill:

The light blue is a good color for her, and the wide open collar brings that color near her face where she needs it most. I wish this suit wasn't black though. It's too harsh and too sharp a contrast with her coloring, and she starts to merge with her surroundings a bit. But everything about this outfit says no nonsense, ready for business. She's sporting the tough look most often seen on her opponent, HP CEO Carly Fiorina, while Fiorina has gone in the opposite direction, bringing a new softness to her look in recent days. Perhaps the sartorial grass is always greener on the other side of the aisle. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Underpinnings are everything

Blanche Lincoln is entering the last week of her primary campaign for re-election to the Senate, with a final television ad that places her in the Arkansas sunshine:

The thing about sunshine is that it shows everything to the camera. Including, potentially, your underwear. You might know (I hope you do) that the best color bra to wear under a white shirt isn't white, it's nude. What you may not know is that in sunlight, that rule goes for all pastels, not just white. Unfortunately, the Senator didn't. We can see a modest but distinct outline of her undergarment through her pale pink shirt.

Why does a nude color bra work better? Because the white bra is brighter than your skin - it reflects more light through the shirt back at the viewer than your skin does. When the bra matches your skin tone, the amount of light coming back through your shirt is even, and the shirt looks like a solid color. If you find that you have trouble matching your undergarments to your skin color, MySkins offers bras and panties in 20 "nude" shades so you can find the one that works for you. They'll even send a color matching card to you in the mail for free, so you get the right color without guessing.

Color as a beacon

Senator Blanche Lincoln is headed into a primary runoff next week in one of the most closely watched races in the country. For her speech following the primary results on May 22, she chose a bright yellow jacket:

This bright primary color is extremely unusual for the Senator - her usual style is earthier and more muted. Ordinarily, I wouldn't recommend a change like this - the color has the potential to overwhelm her. But look at what her clothes have accomplished for her here! She is standing in the middle of a big crowd of people without a platform and we can find her easily. She looks bold, polished and important. This may not be a look that New York Magazine would recommend, but I'm all for it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Double duty jewelry

New Mexico Lt. Governor Diane Denish is unopposed in today's Democratic primary. In recent television appearances, she has learned how to make the state's distinctive style work for her:

This bold necklace serves two purposes:
1. Hammered silver is a pointed nod to the state's aesthetic heritage.
2. It's the perfect length to compliment the shape of her face.

Definitely a win-win.

Yes, that man is wearing a bicycle on his lapel

That's Earl Blumenauer, Co-Chair and founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus. In this case, a red bicycle.  But Rep. Blumenauer wears the Bike Caucus lapel pin frequently, and it comes in other colors too, like neon yellow, which he wore to present Mandy Moore with her own pin in March.

But the congressman doesn't reserve his pin only for bicycle transportation advocacy occasions. He was wearing it last week during a floor speech on defense spending and the National Guard:

So we have to ask, what does this look mean for Rep. Blumenauer, other than expressing a passion for cause he is best known for?

It expresses quirkiness, for sure, along with his signature bow tie. The gold tie in the video above is a bit too wide for him, actually. The fullness of it starts to dwarf his face (see also another time he wore this tie). But in general, the bow ties seem to work for him. If you're already known as "the bicycle guy" you're not really depleting much from your image with mainstream indicators of quirk like lapel pins and bow ties. What keeps him out of costume territory? A muted color palette. Blue, gray, gold, crimson. No novelty prints or creative tailoring.