Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wasserman-Schultz and Shea-Porter stricken by blue eyeshadow

I had hoped that by now, in 2010, we would all be on the same page about blue eyeshadow. It has a role to play, but that role is not "matching the blue clothes I'm wearing." Unfortunately, two members of Congress were on some other page during the health care debate.

First, it was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz:
My concern about this eyeshadow is not just the color, it's also the shimmery formulation. Because Rep. Wasserman-Schultz has fuller eyelids, she would benefit from a matte shadow instead, in a neutral color. Stila has a really nice matte shadow right now.

Then blue eyeshadow showed up again, even brighter, on Carol Shea-Porter:
It's tempting to say "just say no to blue eyeshadow" but of course that isn't true. You should know by now that I'm a never say never kind of girl when it comes to fashion and beauty. But there is such a thing as too much color, and this is it. Rep. Shea-Porter might do well by trying a soft eyeliner and no shadow at all, focusing instead on some more color on the lip. Her suit is so saturated, the rest of the look needs to be simple.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

McMorris Rodgers vs. Schwartz: Trendy vs. Old School

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the level of formality in what women in the House were wearing during the health care debate varied widely. At no time was the variety more pronounced than when Allyson Schwartz spoke right after Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Here they are:
Rep. McMorris Rodgers is on this spring's military trend. It's a cool look, but the relaxed fit and cotton fabric of the jacket combined with the loosely tied scarf make it rather casual for the House floor. Maybe on a regular session day, but this was a big, high profile day, so I would have gone for something with more structure in a more powerful color.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz went in the opposite direction, both ideologically and with her look. Here we see the classic red jacket, gold necklace and carefully coiffed hair. She wore this with black pants, which kept the overall look more businesslike - had she gone for the matching red skirt and pumps, we might have thought she wandered in from an anniversary party instead of coming deliberately to work. I still think the overall effect is more dressy than professional, but not bad.

At least no one was wearing blue eyeshadow. Oh wait, that's tomorrow's topic!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rosa DeLauro's pink leather jacket

This month's action on health care reform generated a lot of television footage of our lawmakers (and some legislation, too). Therefore, this week we will review what everyone wore on the House floor during the debate. Ok, not everyone. But many.

The biggest fashion-related story during the debate was without question Rosa DeLauro's pink leather jacket. At one point, the jacket was actually trending on twitter in DC. Here she is:
Not everyone making note of the jacket was a fan. But as I've said before, even when I try to find fault with Rep. DeLauro's style, I just...can't. Sure, the white padded shoulders are a bit too strong, and the purple and gray scarf is a bit too long, and the magenta frames of her glasses are a bit too bright. But mixed together on her it just creates a certain kind of style alchemy that I can't deny. She's confident in what she's wearing and it shows.

Pink leather is actually having a fashion moment right now:

So maybe there's something to this look after all. And Rep. DeLauro wasn't the only one wearing a leather jacket in the House that day. So was Dina Titus:
Definitely a variation on the "red jacket!"

Leather is a fashion-forward, if potentially controversial, choice for women in the House. I had some concerns at first that perhaps these leather jacket looks were too informal for House proceedings, especially those being as closely watched as these, but as we'll see in some upcoming posts, the level of formality during the health care debate varied widely. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Barbara Mikulski debates health care bill, nearly drowns in red jacket

Senator Barbara Mikulski gave remarks on the health care bill during the Senate reconciliation debate on Wednesday. She wore a red jacket with a black patterned blouse:
The Senator is so completely overwhelmed by these clothes, it's as if she's drowning in them. Two layers of voluminous, stiff fabric buttoned all the way up to her neck are doing her no favors. And the bold, sharp pattern on her blouse is distracting.

She would do so much better in something with an open neckline and more subtle pattern, like this Milly dress at Lee Lee's Valise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Maria Otero on World Water Day

March 22 was World Water Day. Undersecretary of State Maria Otero gave a special briefing. She wore a printed, beaded jacket:
I can see how this jacket was a good idea in theory. Sort of. But there are a lot of problems with this. The pattern is just too large and there's too much space between the flowers to use it on a jacket - we never see an entire flower except on the side of the sleeve. It starts to look like a mistake, like the jacket was supposed to be made out of something else, but they used this fabric instead.

But even if the pattern were smaller, the color palette and the style of the print just aren't appropriate for business attire. At least not on a jacket. On a blouse, maybe. Or a scarf. Just not a jacket.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nydia Velazquez encourages census participation with a bold look

Rep. Nydia Velazquez created a Spanish-language PSA on the 2010 Census. She wore a boldly patterned jacket:
This could be a lot of look for anyone, but she pulls it off because she keeps everything else very refined:
  • A neutral color palette. The same jacket in red? Not such a good idea.
  • Simple earrings and no necklace. Keeping the jewelry away from the jacket prevents the pieces from fighting with each other.
  • A sleek hairstyle, for similar reasons as the jewelry.
  • No collar or cuffs peeking out. The jacket remains the focal point of the outfit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ginsburg and Sotomayor speak to National Association of Women Judges

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor spoke to the National Association of Women Judges earlier this month about their experiences on the modern court. What they each chose to wear reflects differences in both their personal style and their generation. Justice Ginsburg wore a red suit with a patterned silk scarf over her shoulders:
Such a large scarf could overwhelm a petite woman like Justice Ginsburg, but this pattern echoes the angles in her facial features and works to soften her look a bit. Without the soft folds of the scarf, her large glasses and smooth hairstyle might look severe.

Justice Sotomayor wore a black suit with asymmetrical buttons and lots of jewelry:
The suit is pretty conservative, and Justice Sotomayor would have benefitted from some color near her face. But have a look at her jewelry! Dangling earrings and lots of stacked silver bracelets. This is not the pearls-and-button-earrings jewelry set that was standard issue for the previous generation. This jewelry reflects her personal style and makes what would otherwise be a very plain outfit considerably funkier.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sebelius discusses heath care reform on Meet the Press

I'm sure we'll have a lot to look at from the health care reform debate over the course of this week. For now, let's go back, waayyy back to two weeks ago, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went on Meet the Press to discuss the process. She wore blue:
As we've noted before, the Secretary looks best in cool, muted colors like this dusty blue. What I noticed right away, though, was her brooch in the shape of a dove.
Does it look familiar? It looks a lot like the one Madeleine Albright wore in an official portrait. As we know, Secretary Albright has an enormous collection of brooches and pins, which she actually used to send diplomatic messages. Was Sebelius trying to send a message here? Peace in the health care reform debate?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Carly Fiorina's convention speech manicure

Carly Fiorina spoke at the California Republican Convention this month. She wore red:

And I do mean RED. Obviously, she has a perfectly tailored suit in a bright tomato red that is a bit outside the color palette we usually see on her. It's an interesting juxtaposition between the power color and the femininity of the ruffle details. Reminds us of another woman in politics, doesn't it?

But check out her hand holding the microphone: her nails are painted the same red. Matching the nails to the clothes only works in red, and even then it's a tough look to pull off, although she does. Nail color is probably the only
place in your wardrobe where red can actually be considered a neutral. Try this look in pink and you'll look like a deranged housewife from Edward Scissorhands.

The other important feature of this manicure is that her nails are short and natural. It's just a good buff and a few coats of polish like Essie Red Nouveau.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pelosi defends handling of Massa, matches her necklace to her jacket

Rachel Maddow asked Nancy Pelosi in an interview this week about her opinion of the House Ethics Committee's handling of Eric Massa's resignation. The Speaker wore a jacket, shell and necklace all in the same color palette:
I'm not against matching on principle, as some of my fashion colleagues are these days. But I don't think this look works as well for the Speaker as it could. She needs more contrast in her clothing, both between the items of clothing and between her clothes and her skin. Although obviously the jacket and shell are in green shades, the tone is close to her skin, which opposes the strong contrast between her skin and her hair.

If she changed out the necklace or the shell or both for a deep, warm forest green, this jacket would work a lot better for her. Or maybe switch to a blouse with some embellishment on the collar, like this Robert Rodriguez on Bluefly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Red Jacket: Senate success stories

We've talked before about how so many women in politics choose bright red structured jackets because of this myth that this is what you're "supposed" to wear as a female politician, even if it's not the best look for you. But sometimes it is the best look for you, or you can adapt the look to make it work. There were two great example of this in the Senate last week.

First, let's look at Susan Collins during a budget hearing for the Department of Transportation:

Senator Collins went for the classic red jacket look. This warm red color works for her coloring, and she wears it frequently. She stands out behind her microphone, even with the staffer in a busy print behind her. The important thing to remember here is that this jacket works for her. The same exact outfit on someone else might not.

Now let's have a look at Claire McCaskill in a floor speech on discretionary spending:
Senator McCaskill has made modifications to the classic red jacket look. She went for a jacket that is longer and unlined, making it less structured, and layered it over a darker red print top. The length of the jacket and the color variation both help to create a longer body line. Try to imagine Senator Collins's jacket on Senator McCaskill. Doesn't really work, does it? So much structure would make her look boxy.

Don't ever imagine that you "can't" wear a particular color or style or fabric. You just have to find the right shade, the right combinations, the right pieces to make it work for you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Political fashion history: Geraldine Ferraro 1984

March is Women's History Month, so let's have a look back at what women in politics were wearing in the past. Today: Geraldine Ferraro's Vice-Presidential run in 1984.

When I started looking at some of the iconic press photographs from the campaign, I was struck by how feminine her look was. For example, here's her Time Magazine cover from July 23, 1984:

She's wearing a dress and long pearls. Not a suit, not black. Of course, this dress is that bright red that we know so well in politics today as The Red Jacket. But there's no hint here of "dressing like a man" that we hear about (and fear) for women in politics today.

The shapes she wore were feminine too. Look at this campaign photo:
Dusty blue, pearls again, and a soft shape to the dress with a decidedly girly short-sleeved jacket.

We can contrast this with what Sarah Palin wore as a vice-presidential candidate 24 years later:
While this Valentino jacket later became infamous for its price point, no one argued with it style, which was structured, covered up and achromatic. Practically the polar opposite of Ferraro's red, delicate dress. I'm not sure if this is progress or not, but it's notable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grayson and Bachmann on Larry King Live: Applegate and Glinda debate healthcare?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am prone to neither hyperbole or sarcasm in this forum.


Did you see Larry King Live last week, when Reps. Michele Bachmann and Alan Grayson discussed the health care debate? Watch:
Maybe they don't remind you of anything. But I used to be a theatrical costume designer, and I was struck by two very strong visual references for these two characters. Congressman Grayson's black, shiny pinstripe suit, white shirt, bright red tie and
red pocket square folded into points reminded me so strongly of Mr. Applegate from Damn Yankees, I actually had to double check the YouTube address and make sure this clip wasn't some kind of parody. If you're not familiar with the musical, Mr. Applegate is the devil in a sharp suit.

And once my mind went there, well, all hope for serious thought was lost. All I
could think of when I saw Congresswoman Bachmann's soft pink sweater, pearls and flip hairdo was Glinda, the Good Witch of the North from the Wizard of Oz.

Please understand that this is not a political commentary at all, but hopefully a bit of a cautionary tale. Sometimes our clothes can make references, connections or images that we don't intend and might not even be familiar with. Either of these outfits might not have been terribly remarkable on their own, but when juxtaposed next to each other in the classic Larry King split screen, a story was born.

Be careful out there, folks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Doris Matsui introduces YouTube channel, over-accessorizes

Rep. Doris Matsui added an introductory message to her YouTube channel this week. She tells us how honored she is to represent Sacramento, and she wears a lot of accessories:
You may be familiar with the phrase attributed to Coco Chanel, "Look in the mirror before you leave the house and take one thing off." In this case, the Congresswoman really needed to take two things off, probably the flower brooch and the earrings. There is just way too much going on in this outfit. It's worth noticing also that her blouse has prominent round buttons, which act almost like accessories themselves.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Marsha Blackburn discusses Medicaid expansion

Rep. Marsha Blackburn commented on the idea of Medicaid expansion at a Republican press conference this week reacting to the President's health care letter. Her outfit was fairly unremarkable, but let's have a look at her hair:
The Congresswoman wears her hair with an overlapping part in a style that many of us remember once calling "the Rachel." But something isn't quite right with Rep. Blackburn's version. It's a bit too long in front, leaving too little difference between the length of the layers. The effect is that her hair seems to sit on top of her head, around her face, instead of looking like it's a part of her. Compare to the actual "Rachel:"
This is a great example of why regular haircuts are important even if your style is long. A cut is as much about shape as it is about length.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Louise Slaughter comments on healthcare, shows us how to do nautical

Rep. Louise Slaughter spoke at the President's meeting on healthcare last week on the need for reform. Her outfit had a distinctly nautical theme:
A jacket like this, with bold brass buttons, can be a challenge. What do you wear with it? It's tempting to go very very simple, like plain white tee kind of simple. And you can. But the other direction is to run with the nautical theme to a point. In this case, the Congresswoman chose a narrow striped oxford shirt and rounded gold jewelry that coordinates with the buttons. This is one time where matching your earrings and necklace is a good thing - mixing it up would just leave you with too much going on. Even her official House pin goes with the nautical theme in a way.

As I said, this works as long as you only take it so far. What's too far? Earrings shaped like anchors, any kind of rope detail on the blouse, a red handkerchief. You get the idea.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ann Kirkpatrick asks questions about FEMA

In a continuation of the House Committee on Homeland Security meeting we looked at yesterday, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick had some questions about FEMA. She wore coral and turquoise:

This is a lot of bold color for the middle of winter, but it works for her. Notice also the proportions of her jewelry - big bold necklace means very small earrings for balance.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Janet Napolitano testifies on 2011 Homeland Security budget

Janet Napolitano explained the 2011 Homeland Security budget before the House committee on Homeland Security. She wore a tan jacket and a turtleneck:

Do you recognize this jacket? This is a beautiful jacket, elegant and well constructed. But it's just not the right choice for the Secretary. As we've seen before, she looks so much better in vibrant color, especially red.

But let's imagine that this is the Secretary's favorite jacket. She loves it, and she wants to keep wearing it. What to do?
  • Lower the neckline of the blouse underneath, and choose a color there. A red or blue or aqua crewneck would be much softer than a black mock turtleneck.
  • More delicate accessories. A chain with a pendant and earrings that are airier and less solid would lighten things up.
  • Jewelry on the jacket. I'm not sure if Secretary Napolitano is really inclined to the Albright brooch technique, but it's an option.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Claire McCaskill questions Blackwater contracts

Senator Claire McCaskill questioned contracts with Blackwater during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week. She wore a red jacket, and her signature glasses with black frames:

The Senator's glasses are a bold look, and she wears them often. Here's another angle, from January in anticipation of the State of the Union address:
The question, of course, is whether she wears the glasses or perhaps they wear her. There are some image consultants who will suggest that dark, bold frames like this obscure the face, no matter who you are. I'm not one of them (full disclosure: my own Michael Kors frames are rather similar to Senator McCaskill's). I do think, though, that for her this color is perhaps in too strong a contrast with her coloring overall. Similar frames in a warm brown might have softened her look in a way that would work better with her hair color especially.

But frankly, I applaud her for regularly wearing her glasses at all. It's amazing to me how frequently we as women still succumb to the idea that glasses are somehow "unbecoming."