Having been a woman in the public and political spotlight for much of her adult life, Hillary Clinton is not naive enough to think her sartorial choices go unnoticed. As the New York Times’ analysis of Hillary Clinton’s choice of a Ralph Lauren suit for her first campaign rally notes, she understands that women’s clothes are under scrutiny in a way men’s clothes may never be, and she has developed a sense of humor about her style (look to her first Instagram post for proof ).
However, the smart piece misses an important point: A Ralph Lauren suit does not send an “inaccessible” message to the American public. As far as the average voter is concerned, Ralph Lauren is Theory is Armani is Diane von Furstenberg. The suit is streamlined and absent of logos and overt labels. Without news coverage about the suit’s designer, most voters wouldn’t know the difference or the cost.
What’s more important than the designer of the suit is its authenticity to the candidate. Dressing an almost-70-year-old former Secretary of State in the same Theory suit her 30-something staffer wears would be a complete miss – and disingenuous (And let’s remember that a $700 Theory suit is not accessible to most voters, either). For women candidates in particular, clothing must be authentic and appropriate. Hillary’s choice of perfectly tailored, bold blue separates hits both marks. And besides, politics is theater. We can’t expect a candidate running in a billion-dollar election to do so in Payless shoes.
Let’s be honest: She’d get flack for wearing a suit from Ann Taylor (too pandering) or Ralph Lauren (too privileged). It’s really not about the suit at all.