Dress Like a Woman, Hillary.

I know it’s considered chauvinistic to focus on what powerful women are wearing instead of what they’re saying, but we live in a visual culture, so get over it.

If an article starts like this, run. Run away as fast as you possibly can. Unless, you know, the author follows it up with an analysis of the suits that men are wearing and their personal fashion choices.

This article does not.
I should have run.

Erin sent me this really interesting article by Katie Betts of the Daily Beast, who seems to think that Hillary’s fashion choices – which she suggests are made “to fit in, not to stand out” – are indicative of her desire to be just like everyone else and judged on her actions instead of her clothing.

Well, that sounds terrible.

I agree with Ms. Betts that we are probably at a point when women can dress like models and be substantial, powerful, and taken seriously. Michelle Obama, the woman Ms. Betts uses to demonstrate this, is not a good example, since she is not a policy maker in her own right, while Hillary Clinton most definitely is (while Clinton was First Lady, I would have said the same about her).

But what if Clinton doesn’t want to look like a model? What if she has other things to do than accept Katie Betts’ standards of beauty and femininity? What if pants suits are easy, and some mornings, the pink is easier to reach than the grey, and one time she forgot to pick up the grey from the dry cleaner so she wore the blue?

Or, consider the cognitive dissonance. Maybe Hillary wants to wear her pink suit jacket to the White House, but maybe she has a “…fear that wearing something noticeably feminine and remarkable would sideline her even more in the AfPak discussions…” And then Betts tries to use the Michelle Obama example again, because she wears “brightly colored cardigans and floral print dresses.” To reiterate the difference: Obama’s going to Mexico as a ceremonial gesture of friendship and playing with little children. Clinton sometimes talks about nuclear weapons. It’s a pretty legitimate fear that if you walked into a discussion about nuclear weapons wearing a Michelle Obama dress, you wouldn’t get taken as seriously. We don’t want the world to be that way, and like I said before: I really think most people are probably beyond that.

But Clinton’s job is also to interact with people who may not take her seriously in pink, so the cognitive dissonance between dressing “femininely” and dressing in grey lives on. This may just be reflective of Clinton’s perceptions of American culture, in which she must dress like everyone else until she’s speaking with the Greek ambassador. But I don’t think she needs to stand out in her clothing choices to be a strong woman and a good leader.

I know Katie Betts writes about fashion, so she’s getting paid to criticize what other women are wearing, and we can’t really take her that seriously. But telling Hillary Clinton her suit looks “mannish” is just obnoxious – especially when the only noticeable difference between her suits and Pelosi’s are colors.

And the final nail in the coffin:  when was the last time you saw a man wear a colored suit? Now, those guys are boring. It’s like they have to dress like everyone else. You know what bothers me? They’re dressing to fit in, not to stand out.

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