Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times put on her contrarian Louboutins Tuesday morning and decided to pen a defense of focusing on the fashion choices of female leaders.
When you think about it, who better, really, to use as role models than women like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Julia Gillard and Kirsten Gillibrand? And while their lessons are primarily professional, there is no reason they should not be extended to appearance, too — especially when it comes to appearance in the workplace, or the public space. After all, whether or not we like it or want to admit it, appearance matters.
Lest you find your eyebrow creeping up unattractively, Friedman assures you that male leaders are subject to all sorts of fashion interrogation. “Bill Clinton, as you may remember, famously answered the boxers-versus-briefs question on MTV without blinking,” she says, mentioning an incident that happened 20 years ago and, in fact, did fluster the president, as you can see here. “President Obama discussed his suit choices with Michael Lewis in a profile in Vanity Fair,” she adds, bringing the examples up to a sum total of two.
If female leaders’ clothing choices were covered in the same way men’s clothing choices are, which is to say, sparingly, I don’t think too many people would object. In the real world, however, women’s clothing is described more frequently and in more detail, and, to make it worse, women’s clothing choices are weighted with more meaning. The reason that Clinton jokes that she should have titled her book “The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All about My Hair” is not because someone mentioned her scrunchie once in passing. It’s because Googling “hillary clinton scrunchie” brings back 13,900 hits (yes, some of them for posts like this, so knock off a few hundred).
Friedman argues that more attention must be paid to female leaders’ clothes because we live in a world “where pictures are beamed round the Internet, and judgments made, long before position papers are read” and because these women specifically “have been widely photographed and have had almost every wardrobe choice recorded.” But isn’t that really an argument against dwelling on the subject at length? For anyone looking to learn a thing or two about fashion from Hillary Clinton, studying this volume of photographs of her would probably suffice. We don’t need another reminder that Clinton favors pantsuits in coverage ostensibly devoted to politics.