The Politics of Fashion
Monday, November 8th, 2010
Republican Sarah Palin transformed her “soccer mom” image with refined and feminine pencil skirts and blazers. Part of Palin’s appeal stems from her Main Street, regular-Joe persona, and yet the majority of her outfits are pricey couture designs. She claims to remain accessible to her conservative middle-class followers with flattering, feminine outfits that maintain her image as a friendly, approachable politician. But her highly publicized shopping sprees alienate her from the public because they reflect a “designer-label elitism” that separates her from her prime demographics: men and women who can’t afford the couture labels she adores.
As Secretary of State and Speaker of the House, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi hold positions of power in Washington. While they're always careful to look composed and professional, their actions and responsibilities speak louder than their personal style. Neither Pelosi nor Clinton relies on fashion to make a point about their characters, but they still use it to project an image to the public. Those signature pantsuits are part of their power play in politics: dress like one of the boys if you’re going to play in the sandbox with them. Masculinity is a symbol of power in our society, like it or not, and Pelosi and Clinton’s power suits are an acknowledgment of that deeply ingrained aspect of American culture.
Fashion can reflect power and femininity. The right outfit can make a politician approachable and the wrong one can alienate her from the public approval. Public personalities use clothes as a tool to get our attention and mold their reputations in the public eye. They use style to project the persona they wish to convey to the American public, whether it’s a true representation or just the one they want us to believe. These women are smart enough to know that people judge each other just as much on appearances as on character. Fashion is just another outlet through which politicians influence the American public’s perceptions of their personas.
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