Two recent clothing controversies have engulfed political media lately.
First. The First Lady of New York City was criticized and vilified for wearing jeans at the funeral of a policeman. Turns out, she wasn’t wearing jeans, but an elegant pantsuit that somehow looked like jeans in some photographs.
Second. First lady Michelle Obama was criticized (and also praised) for failing to cover her head when meeting with leaders in Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly, this was an offensive and feminist plot by the first lady to enflame religious sensibilities. However, it turns out that all she did was follow precedent. Laura Bush, Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton all appeared in Saudi Arabia without covering their heads in the last decade. Oops! No scandal.
And now Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times has weighed in with advice on the matter. She claims that political figures should think in advance of how they can be criticized and put out their defenses preemptively in the media and social media.
I agree that political figures should think in advance about how not to offend needlessly. But it strikes me as naive to think that any political figure has the time to think of every way he/she could possibly be attacked. Specifically, in the case of First Lady Michelle Obama, there is literally nothing she can do that doesn’t illicit extreme criticism. Nothing.
While many people have criticized Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe tastes, they tend to run the range from boring black pantsuit to boring black pantsuit, there is safety in her clothing choices. It might not be fair, but the safest thing for women in politics to do is what men learned a long time ago, wear the same boring dark sold suits day after day and you will give your enemies less ammunition.
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