In the past fifty years the ordinary woman’s every day relationship with the political landscape has changed dramatically. With iconic figures such Jackie Kennedy-Onassis and Grace Kelly setting the scene in the 50’s and 60’s as prominent women in the political sphere, they have opened a gateway for discussing and viewing women in politics in a way that hadn’t been seen before. So one would be forgiven for wondering, how exactly did they do it? The answer could lie in fashion. Today the fashion choices of Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Kate Middleton are documented by fashion magazines all over the world.
Jackie Kennedy achieved acclaim in the world of fashion when she became the first lady of the White House in the 1960’s, modelling a wide array of stylish clothing. Jackie preferred bright colours, pinks, ivories and reds, colours that made her stand out as she was photographed beside her husband. She greatly admired the styling’s of Audrey Hepburn, particularly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Givenchy was one of her “go to” designers for events and occasions. Jackie and her husband were one of the youngest couples to ever live in the White House, and many young women all over American found that they could relate to Jackie and the clothes that she wore.
Her deep interest in fashion and her flair for colour and Parisian styles meant that Jackie represented herself as a woman who would not just stand idly behind her husband wearing clothing he and his team approved of; she was her own entity and an important style figure.
This idea of women in politics standing out more than they ever had before was continued by the legendary Grace Kelly, who to this day is still inspiring women and designers all over the world. The fashions of Grace Kelly have been described as timeless and elegant, and she was truly a representative figure of the royal family of Monaco. Nipped in waists, furs, circle skirts and pearls are all staples of a classic wardrobe and, like Jackie Kennedy’s styles, are still revered today by the masses. Her styles have been replicated many times on catwalks by designers such as Prada and Channel.
These two figures opened up the flood gates in terms of fashion for women in the political sphere. Current first lady Michelle Obama’s style and grace have earned her the title “Shelly-O.” In last Tuesday’s debate she wore a timeless corset-detailed shift dress and cropped jacket by the designer Michael Kors, while her opponent in the fashion stakes, Ann Romney, wore a cap sleeve shift dress with a chunky bracelet that accentuated her blonde hair and “Barbie” like charm. Both women sported hot pink colours in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
For these two women the fashion choices they make can indicate the type of personalities they have, the causes they support, and the values they share with their husbands. It is not so hard to see why both candidates in the current American Presidential election are valuing the appearances and support of their spouses so much. During their time in politics Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Kate Middleton have all used fashion as an outlet to represent and express their femininity and power, as well as to promote design in their homelands.
With the world’s most powerful women embracing the political tool that is fashion, voters and fashion lovers world over can expect to see a whole new dimension to the way women in politics influence commerce, and perhaps even the way government is perceived. Today, the idea that that fashion is intertwined with politics, and politics with fashion is more important than ever.