What’s wrong with Hillary’s wardrobe?

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Who cares what she’s saying? Her charcoal gray pantsuit is lovely. / ABC

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that the only female candidate for president is subjected to scrutiny that wouldn’t befall her male competitors—that is, of her appearance. Sure, Huckabee lost half his weight. Yep, Giuliani ditched the comb-over. Do we harp on that? Nooo.

But Hillary’s pantsuit? Why, that merits a whole exegesis in the Washington Post. The article, by fashion writer Robin Givhan, begins:

The mind, so easily distracted by things mauve and lemon yellow, strays from more pressing concerns to ponder the sartorial: How many pantsuits does Hillary Clinton have in her closet? And does she ever wear them in the same combination more than once?

Really? Someone sits around and thinks about this? She continues:

The pantsuit is Clinton’s uniform. Hers is a mix-and-match world, a grown-up land of Garanimals: black pants with gray jacket, tan jacket with black pants, tan jacket with tan pants. There are a host of reasons to explain Clinton’s attachment to pantsuits. They are comfortable. They can be flattering, although not when the jacket hem aligns with the widest part of the hips (hypothetically speaking, of course). Does she even have hips?

Givhan’s piece itself has been blasted by Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report:

Now, I try not to be a purist when it comes to articles about political trivia. Presidential campaigns are bound to include some coverage of the candidate’s personalities, families, interests, etc. Voters care about some of these details when evaluating presidential hopefuls, so it’s probably not realistic to expect major media outlets to be all-policy, all-the-time.

Having said that, this piece about Clinton’s pantsuits is more than just silly; it’s demeaning.

To be fair, though, it’s no different than what executive women go through all the time. Articles about women CEOs, studio heads or editors frequently make mention of the subject’s hair, wardrobe, lipstick color. It’s true a woman’s appearance, even in the upper reaches of corporate America, vary more than a man’s, and is thus I suppose more interesting to discuss. What would you say about a guy: “The CEO wore a navy-blue suit and a gray tie, and his hair was neatly combed”?

But the thing that makes me feel for Hillary is that she’s really trying, and I’d even go so far as to say she’s hit her fashion stride. Remember those awful headbands and dull dresses? Her hair these days is, in my opinion, pretty damn chic. Her pantsuits look comfortable, no-nonsense, and neat. She’s no Nancy Pelosi, but who is?

Seems like women leaders not only have to be smarter, cooler and more competent than the men; they have to look better, too. Or is that true of women in any line of work, at any rank?

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