Last fall, we here at The Style of Politics began to notice a change in the way Michele Bachmann was dressing. For appearances with the mainstream press or in the House, her style became much more conservative and achromatic. The colorful, more feminine look that had been her signature became reserved for appearances at Tea Party rallies and on Fox News.
The frillier, decorative look that I began to think of as "date night with Fox" survived on cable news well in to 2011. Here she is in March:
The rosy cheeks and flip hairdo we've known for so long hadn't been seen much in Congress this year, but here they were on conservative cable. Bachmann played well to this particular audience, that places keen emphasis on femininity in women candidates (for an excellent discussion of this, see Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister).
But by May, it was gone. As speculation of a Bachmann presidential run reached the boiling point, her straight hair and gray suit had reach Fox News too:
Look carefully here, and remember what you see: plain suit, three-strand pearl necklace, pearl drop earrings. Got that?
Here it is again in her campaign announcement:
And again in the CNN debate:
It seems Bachmann has found her look.
I'm not sure that she can sustain a no-color wardrobe over an entire campaign, but we see a strategy emerging here. Where Hillary Clinton was mocked for too much color (and too many pants) and Sarah Palin was mocked for spending too much money and wearing labels as famous as she was, this wardrobe seeks to disappear. It may work for now, as long as the candidate inside doesn't disappear with it.