Saturday, February 26, 2005

Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes - Robin Givhan, WP

Rice boldly eschewed the typical fare chosen by powerful American women on the world stage. She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps. She did not cloak her power in photogenic hues, a feminine brooch and a non-threatening aesthetic. Rice looked as though she was prepared to talk tough, knock heads and do a freeze-frame "Matrix" jump kick if necessary. Who wouldn't give her ensemble a double take -- all the while hoping not to rub her the wrong way?
Fashion blogging. My recollection is that as National Security advisor her dress did not stand out. It is a job where you may be powerful, but you don't want to stand out from the President or the Secretary of State in persona or dress.

So I don't think the press is just paying more attention. She is dressing differently. To me it's not so much the design of the clothes as the tailoring and the evident quality. If it were a man, I expect he'd begin wearing higher quality suits, but the difference between a $500 suit and a $2000 suit doesn't stand out so much except in person -- or if you're wearing the suit.

Is there some economics here? Are women able to transform their image more easily than men? What implications would that have?

There is some economic examination of these questions. Daniel Hamermesh and co-authors, for example, ask the question, Dress for Success - Does Primping Pay? Their answer: yes, but more so for women.

At any rate, Rice never dressed in a loose skirt, shirt and boxy jacket that I remember.

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