Conservative Fashion for Women in Politics

Political convention choices of Sarah Palin, Ann Romney, Michelle Obama and Janna Ryan

A 2010 article in the New York Times about female political candidate fashion still applies to the upcoming November 2012 election campaigns. Titled "The Fashion Conservatives," the article dissects fashion trends among female candidates during recent elections in the United States. Politics aside, the clothing that women in public office choose to wear is of interest to the modestly-dressed crowd because it is in the political arena that the effect of immodesty has a documented and dramatic effect upon a woman's credibility. Read more about the psychology behind this phenomenon in our review of the book The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Author of "The Fashion Conservatives" article Ruth La Ferla states, ". . . Women seeking office continue to attract the kind of physical scrutiny that is rarely directed at a man. In a 2008 article, 'Cutting Women Out: The Media’s Bias Against Female Candidates,' Erika Falk, who studied eight races in the 2008 elections, concluded that 'coverage of how women candidates look — while ignoring such observations about men candidates — has been an ongoing problem.' Ms. Falk, who runs the master’s degree program in communication at Johns Hopkins University, found that each of eight female candidates that year received about 'four physical descriptions for every one that described a man.'"

As emphasized by this article, whether we like it or not, in the business world of our society women are held more critically accountable for their appearance than are men. For women who must wear suits on the job, finding suits with skirts that reach below the knee is ever a challenge. Some women have given up on finding suits with skirts that are long enough and stay with pantsuits. A skirt is such a feminine touch, though, and with some effort with combining separates, an elegant, skirted suit ensemble is possible. Confidence in the workplace seems easier to attain when skirts cover the knee not only when standing, but also when seated, a rare find in suits. When seated in a skirt that comes just to the knee, the skirt pulls up to a height that requires special sitting posture with legs together to keep the view decent. A longer skirt makes a professional appearance easier to attain all times, especially when seated. A longer patterned skirt may be paired with most jackets. A few suppliers of skirted suits may be found among our suits with long skirts reviews. However, most of these suits are inexpensive, and we have yet to find a consistent supplier of high quality skirted suits with longer skirt lengths. Contact us if you know about one.

And, if you really want to know, we loved Sarah Palin's Valentino jacket mentioned in La Perla's article and pictured above. It was criticized in 2008 for its estimated cost of around $2,500, yet the clothing worn in the photos above by Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are in that same price range. Couture garments are known to run into the thousands, and couture houses like Valentino often offer deep discounts to public figures in exchange for the publicity gained from media attention. The Fashion Belle editor has worked as a patternmaker for a high-end designer house, where dresses that involved less work than the Valentino jacket retailed for $6,000 to $10,000.

We also feel La Perla in her article may have come across with an over-generalization of the trends of candidate fashion between parties. Many female candidates from both parties could be identified as dressing quite conservatively. Trends have continued to shift since LaPerla's article, as you can see from photos above in which Democrat Michelle Obama is the least conservative dresser compared to the three Republicans pictured at their respective national conventions in August and September 2012. What you think about the trends in political candidate fashion?

(Photo credits, clockwise from top left: Sarah Palin's Valentino jacket at the 2008 Republican National Convention from Huffington Post, Ann Romney's Oscar de la Renta dress at the 2012 RNC from Examiner via Getty Images, Janna Ryan's Talbot's dress at the 2012 RNC from Women's Wear Daily and Michelle Obama's Tracy Reese dress at the 2012 Democratic National Convention from Fabsugar)