July 9, 2005

What to wear for a sentencing walk.

You might not control what you wear on a perp walk, but you may be able to style yourself for a sentencing walk. WaPo's fashion writer Robin Givhan comments on what Judith Miller and Li'l Kim wore:
[Kimberly] Jones emerged from Manhattan federal court dressed in a blue-gray blazer and trim trousers with a simple white blouse. A belt with a large decorative buckle hung low around her hips. She was carrying a rather large blue Louis Vuitton handbag -- Le Fabuleux. It is $3,200 worth of goatskin and brass hardware that says "fabulous." One can imagine that a cell phone, a lipstick and a tin of Altoids make up its entire contents.

Jones's hair, which during her trial was often worn in a prim bun or sweet ringlets, hung loose and straight down her back. Her jaw was set. She did not look angry or sad as much as she looked resigned. (Indeed, her face displayed more emotion when she arrived -- and before punishment had been meted out -- and she had to squeeze through the crowd to get into the courthouse.) To use a description often used in the context of hip-hop, Jones looked hard. She released a statement in which she thanked her fans for their support and noted that her prison sentence was just one more hurdle in her short but difficult life. No worries; she would persevere.

In contrast, Miller arrived at U.S. federal district court dressed in black trousers, a quilted black jacket, a yellow shirt and tortoise frame sunglasses. She was clutching a wad of papers and the usual wireless, digital gear. She was also carrying a black shoulder bag whose most distinguishing feature was its ability to keep a multitude of writing tools within easy reach. In essence, it was an elaborate form of pocket protector. Miller was smiling. It was a pleasant smile. And it was still spread across her face as she was driven off to jail.

The women seemed acutely aware that the sentencing walk -- like its predecessor, the perp walk -- defines them in the public's mind. In its execution, it is not enough to stand straight and hold one's head high. This is a powerful visual image capable of conveying subtleties and broad strokes. Both women were playing to their fans.
Givhan goes on to describe the effect serving time will have on the two women's careers. Since Li'l Kim is a rap artist, according to Givhan, it can only help. For rap fans: "The prison term seems less an ordeal than a right of passage." Well, you can argue about whether that's politically incorrect, but it sure is a usage error. Where are the WaPo proofreaders?


chuck_b said...

That's awful. An intern should have caught that. Then again, my local paper sometimes confuses principle for principal. Sigh.

I also want to say that I detest the perp walk. Even when I detest the perp. It's a vulgar, unnecessary display of government power that makes the justice system seem cruel when it should just seem cold. People who disagree w/ the case get more reasons to fear and loathe the government and people who agree wih it get, what? The coarse satisfaction of gloating? Who is well served by this?

Beldar said...

I've said a lot of disparaging things about Judith Miller — but none relating to her writing and investigative skills, and none relating to her personal style. As famous scofflaws go, she's a classy lady.

electro-dude said...

For those of us whose grasp of the language is still at the level of a WaPo editor, could someone please point out the usage error?

Ann Althouse said...

Electro-Dude: It's not "right of passage." It's "rite of passage."