September 7, 2008

What the women wore on the convention stages.

Robin Givhan observes the fashions of various political women:
It is not sexist to have noticed that Sen. Hillary Clinton delivered her convention speech dressed in head-to-toe mango. Only an obstinately unaware person would have ignored this question: Senator, why are you dressed like a tropical fruit? One assumes it was to ensure an eye-catching photo for the history books and to underscore her "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" legacy.
But what about the potential first ladies?
The first lady serves as a reflection of her husband's administration and of womanhood, and one suspects that when there is a first gentleman, he will bear the burden of epitomizing an ideal of manhood and will be forced to wrestle with accusations that he is too much of a metrosexual, a dandy, a he-man or a wimp. Almost certainly, we will obsess about his ties.

When Cindy McCain made her first appearance at the Republican National Convention, she was wearing a buttercup-yellow shirt dress with a flipped-up collar by Seventh Avenue designer Oscar de la Renta. As is the current fashion, the dress looked as though the designer had found some inspiration in the early 1960s world of "Mad Men." It was feminine, reserved and lovely. Ballpark price for a de la Renta dress: $3,000.
I loved that dress. It is the most distinctive thing any political woman has worn this year. I read some bitching on the liberal blogs about how her outfit cost $300,000, but nearly all of that was the cost of some diamond jewelry. It wasn't a $300,000 dress. But you know, that dress was historically beautiful. And I suppose it's worth $300,000 now. The "off-the-shoulder, ink-blue velvet dinner dress that the Princess of Wales wore when she danced at the White House with John Travolta sold for $222,500" in 1997 (before the princess died).

De la Renta also designed the inaugural gowns worn by Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush and that cream-colored suit Laura Bush wore when she stood next to Cindy McCain at the convention, Givhan notes, pronouncing the Republicans "status quo." Meanwhile, when Michelle joined Barack Obama on the stage, she was "wearing a raspberry, lavender and black print silk dress by American designer Thakoon Panichgul," who is not a heavily established designer:
The dress, with its slim bodice and A-line skirt, came from his 2009 resort collection... [T]he Thakoon dress... was too informal and failed to reflect the significance of the occasion. And with that fabric belt hanging down the back, it resembled a child's special-occasion frock rather than something suitable for a sophisticated 44-year-old. The flats reinforced the tea-party aesthetic
Oops. So we want change... but what kind of change? A change might be for the worse. There's a reason why the status quo is status quo.

27 comments:

Lem said...

...one suspects that when there is a first gentleman, he will bear the burden of epitomizing an ideal of manhood and will be forced to wrestle with accusations that he is too much of a metrosexual, a dandy, a he-man or a wimp. Almost certainly, we will obsess about his ties.

Nancy used to ware Oscar de la Renta, who is Tod going to wear?

Kombi?.. why not?

Lem said...

The great Ted Williams is quoted as saying I've found that you don't need to wear a necktie if you can hit.

If Todd is a snowmobile champ, as they say he is, maybe he wont have to either.

Joan said...

What I want to know is, in what universe was Cindy's mustard-yellow dress "buttercup-yellow"? Is Givhan color blind? No, because she certainly pegged Hillary's mango pantsuit.

My build is very similar to Michelle Obama's so I always like to see what she has on, what she thinks she looks good in. IMO that sundress she wore on the view was adorable but a bad dress to be sitting on a sofa chatting on TV in -- too short! She could have worn something with a longer, fuller skirt, and then been able to sit more comfortably. The dress she wore the night of the nomination -- with flats! -- was too casual, as Givhan says. Flats! What was she thinking?

People have to get over this idea that high heels are uncomfortable. Unless you have a structural problem with your feet, well made shoes, including high heels, are quite comfortable. Different brands use different lasts and so some may be more comfortable than others, but that's no excuse for MO wearing flats the last night of the DNC. I recall, Ann, that you noticed that she was dressed to match her daughters, and the effect really was quite diminishing. A great pair of heels would have done a lot to grow that look up.

vbspurs said...

This is going to be one of those threads most (straight) men will revile. Many women can speak of fashion minutae until the moose come home. It's annoying, I know.

Having said that, I plunge into this thread with alacrity!

It must be difficult to dress Michelle Obama (and apparently, our own Joan) because the lady is, what, 6'0", 6'1"? She be tall.

I'm interested in her Chicago-centric designer, Maria Pinto, because I've not heard of her. So far, from what I've seen, it's a mixed bag but not an unexciting one.

When Michelle assumes a more calculatedly severe style, it can be an off-putting visual like this, a chaquette in black with scarf (to tone down her angularity).

But as far as I'm concerned, Michelle Obama should wear this shantung red fabric and colour every day of her life. This purple fuschia dress shows off those Jackie O arms to DEVASTATING effect.

But speaking of Jackie O, Michelle just cannot pull off the faux-Chanel look, with ropes of pearls strung around her like a deviant Inès de La Fressange or the quasi-Jay Lo here. Yikes.

I'm not sure what planet Givhan is on, but unless the HDTV camera lied, that's not a buttercup yellow Cindy McCain is wearing in that now-almost iconic dress. It's Goldenrod.

(I feel Trooper's eyes glazing over)

I suppose Woman of the Hour, Sarah Palin, doesn't have an established stylist: that's obvious by her overusage of the same black two-piece suit (which she wears so well -- but clearly, it's her go-to-formal suit, which most professional women have).

She also seems to be much more professionally-oriented in her clothing, but within feminity's reach.

It's going to be interesting watching cultivate a more polished look, should she be successful and become VPOTUS.

One thing is for sure, though.

She and Condi Rice are DEFINITELY on the same page already.

And possibly also with Ann. ;)

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

Do I smell another BHTV coming with Althouse and Givhan?

rhhardin said...

I'd suggest the Fall Cabela catalog myself.

Robin said...

Yes! Fashion! I'm sure there will always be those who consider this frivolous but fashion matters to women and we notice these little details. Well, I do anyway. My thoughts: Hillary must have been betrayed by a 'fake' friend in order to wear that mango-colored pantsuit. No real friend would have failed to give her truthful feedback about what a mistake it was to wear it. Michelle-Overall I rated it an UGH. Fushia/Black pattern? Yuck-O. Matchy-matchy with the kids? Nononono. Flats? Only if you want you super long legs to look stumpy--which they did. I think the style of the dress was very Jackie O (sans the weird belt) but the execution was a failure. Jackie knew that striking solid colors were the most compelling. (I'm not saying she never wore pattern-but judiciously) Cindy-a mixed bag. I liked the yellow dress although I thought it was a leetle fussy. Hated her hair during her speech and the up-do she had the night of Sarah's speech with the weird bump...hope she didn't tip the hairdresser for that one. Sarah- I was a bit disappointed in the suit she wore for her nomination speech at first, because I was hoping for a more striking color but came to believe it was a perfect choice because it was so neutral it didn't interfere with her message by distracting the viewer from her speech. I been pretty impressed with the modern cut of her suits and the great fabrics and colors she's chosen. Yesterday she wore a great chocolate brown jacket and the fabric appeared to have a subtle pattern that gave it dimension. Great choice.

rhhardin said...

What's attractive about Palin to men is she's cheerful.

Her actual looks are pretty average.

She's like Agent 99, Barbara Feldon, whose reliable fondness for Max is what actually made her attractive to roughly 100% of American males; lookswise she's average too.

So women, don't expect much from Palin accessories.

Jamie Bee said...

I think Michelle Obama wore flats on the night her husband accepted the nomination because had she worn heels, she would have appeared to be taller than him on camera and in the photos. Even though tall is considered sexy, when a woman is taller than her man, it can still be disconcerting for some people. Mrs. Obama wore flats to avoid that effect.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, when Michelle joined Barack Obama on the stage, she was 'wearing a raspberry, lavender and black print silk dress by American designer Thakoon Panichgul,' who is not a heavily established designer."

Ooh, it sounds to me like they're saying that Michelle's designer wasn't thoroughly vetted. I sense a scandal brewing. The press needs to jump all over that.

[Yes, I'm a guy. I don't have anything useful to contribute to this conversation. :)]

rhhardin said...

Hillary must have been betrayed by a 'fake' friend in order to wear that mango-colored pantsuit. No real friend would have failed to give her truthful feedback about what a mistake it was to wear it.

This would be a Maxine-like friend.

One of the best commenters, by the way, inventing rules women cannot escape by tone of voice alone.

mrs whatsit said...

How odd that there's no mention at all of Palin, either in Givhan's article or in the pictures. The omission is glaring: three shots of Cindy McCain, but none of the VP nominee?? Yes, it's primarily an article about First Ladies -- but there's detailed discussion of the cut and designer of Barack's suit, of the bolo tie worn by a Montana governor, and of that mango pantsuit of Hillary's -- a former First Lady, to be sure, but surely her more recent roles as Senator and candidate are more significant. And if it was supposed to be primarily a First-Ladies article, then why no hint of a mention of the First Dude? (My guess is that no woman noticed what he had on. Too busy looking at his handsome face.)

There's plenty that Givhan could have said about Palin (I could write what she would probably have to say about that retro hairdo myself!) and one has to wonder why she didn't say it. Was that understated, tasteful suit that Palin wore for her nomination speech off-the-rack, and therefore unworthy of mention?

KCFleming said...

Cindy, Hillary, and Michelle have the kind of money to afford real designers.

I wonder if the GOP floats Palin some dough to add to the mix, because, as of 2002, the annual salary of the governor was about $83,000. Plus first hubby weren't workin'.

Seriously. It would be tough for a middle income woman to face other women who can dress to the nines while you can only afford the fives.

mrs whatsit said...

I agree with jaerae: Michele O. wears flats to avoid looking taller than her husband. It's not the right look for a presidential candidate to be towered over by his wife.

As for Michele O's dresses, I think they are trying to soften and feminize her by putting her in flowered, curve-stressing dresses and keeping her out of suits or more tailored, structured dresses like the ones Cindy McCain wears. (Even the lime sheath that Cindy wore the night of Palin's nomination was structured through the shoulders so that it had its own shape, partly independent of hers.) Michele Obama's height and her broad shoulders and toned arms do play against the softened image -- but heck, if I had arms like that, I'd wear sleeveless dresses every day too.

mrs whatsit said...

Good point, Pogo. Of course, now that she's in the spotlight, designers will offer to dress her in order to get their clothes seen, whether the GOP comes up with some clothing cash or not.

But I kinda hope that they leave her hair alone.

George M. Spencer said...

It looked like that thing Palin wore was designed to be as dull and unflattering as possible and to take no attention away from her face.

The question is "What percentage of women (and men) will vote for her simply because they admire her gusty life story?"

Lots.

Harwood said...

*** yawn ***

EnigmatiCore said...

"The first lady serves as a reflection of her husband's administration and of womanhood, and one suspects that when there is a first gentleman, he will bear the burden of epitomizing an ideal of manhood and will be forced to wrestle with accusations that he is too much of a metrosexual, a dandy, a he-man or a wimp. Almost certainly, we will obsess about his ties."

Palin is running for VP, not President, yet we may be able to look at how the coverage was over Todd's attire.

I did not see anyone obsessing over his tie.

William said...

Cindy wears elegant clothes elegantly. It's a little off putting. You notice Michelle's body more than her clothes. That's a good thing. Michelle has a designer body. I fear that she is spending too much time in the gymn with her trainer and not enough time nurturing her children...Sarah is extremely attractive. I think designer clothes would upstage her naturalness. She is very pretty and more attractive because one sense that she has not spent a lot of time crafting her appearance.

William said...

Does Mrs Biden feel relieved or resentful that no one can even recognize her?

chuck b. said...

You cannot touch-a the Mango!

David said...

Michelle looked great at the acceptance speech. She has an athletic look, like Palin. She would not look natural in high end designer clothes. She's might try smiling more, if she can.

Cindy McCain is more of a doll baby, and can look hard, but she has a radiant smile. She's got a better body for designer wear than Michelle, who is a large and beautiful woman.

Jill Biden has a soft beauty and looks maternal--an affectionate look. Joe's kids seem to know they got very lucky with her.

Palin is so good looking that she can downplay it and still look great. "Her guy" is a hunk by any standard.

Eight very beautiful people.

In another post some purist was trying to convince everyone that beauty does not matter.

Well, it helps.

Joan said...

OK, I get that Michelle did not want to tower over Barack, but she could've worn a small wedge or kitten heel or something other than the ballet flats she chose (or were chosen for her.) I didn't realize she was that tall until I went back and looked at the photos specifically to see how she matched up, height-wise. If you look at the slide show at the link, there's a picture of Michelle on the View where she looks very tall, but that's because she's sitting next to Matthew Broderick, and he's short. In the photo of Michelle and Barack, they appear to be about the same height. She could've worn a one-inch heel easily, and looked more like a grown-up.

(I'm not as a tall as Michelle Obama, being somewhere between 5'7" and 5'8"... I think I've been shrinking. My comment was more to proportions.)

Mrs. Nadine Nehew said...

Maxine spends her time trying to get attached to some man, like some kind of a barnacle to the back of a boat.

Her idea of fashion consists of splashing herself with violet toilet water, and the different corsages pinned to her blouse, which she says her different boyfriends have each given her.

Of course, we all know that Maxine buys those corsages herself, as we've spotted her going in and out of the flower shop.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.

"It is not sexist to have noticed that Sen. Hillary Clinton delivered her convention speech dressed in head-to-toe mango."

Personally I was reciting lines from "Zorro the Gay Blade" movie.

veni vidi vici said...

to paraphrase that old chris kattan character, "Oh, Mango!"

She'saPistol said...

Is it just me or did anyone else notice that Cindy McCain was dressed in colours Republicans hold most dear: Gold and Green(backs)!?