Hillary Clinton cracks the Presidential dress code

posted in: Style advice | 20

Nearly two years ago I wrote about how Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel were enamoured with the dumpy-frumpy pant suit. But while trousers are the ultimate practical outfit Hillary looks awful in a these dated trousers, matching suit jacket and a boring blouse/necklace look. To my mind the effect is even worse when a bright, or “feminine” colour is chosen in order to stand out in a sea of men. But even in charcoal there is something depressing about these outfits. The length on the jacket cuts across Hillary’s figure at the hip line, shortening her legs and making her look really wide. The kitten shoes somehow emphasise the thickness of her legs. By choosing these outfits Hillary was saying – I dress for comfort and style is superficial – I am a feminist and I don’t want to look pretty. It must be uncomfortable to have your outfits pilloried in the press – Hillary is not a naturally stylish woman, but sometimes you just have to take advice from experts.

Recently Hillary has changed. I suspect she finally listened to some sensible style advice. As she gets closer to becoming the first female president of the United States I have to say Hillary has, at least in the style stakes, finally cracked it.

She has toned the whole thing down, and has adopted what can only be described as a sleek look. She now looks classy, elegant and upmarket.

Starting with the hair Hillary has a nice, clean cut. Her round face is flattered by a soft face framing style. Her make up is good too – a clear red lipstick. In her brown Chanel style jacket (with matching trousers) the old masculine lapels are jettisoned and she wears a softer, simple round neck. It is a feminine shape, but also elegant and modern. The soft brown is flattering and looks great with the most understated jewellery. Although Hillary is choosing neutrals and “men’s suit” colours more often (navy, brown and black) she is sticking with elegant, classic shapes. However she hasn’t rejected colour entirely and I really like the red coat with black trousers in the second picture. It is a modern looking coat with an asymmetric neckline, interesting pockets and a split that elongates her figure. But look at the shape of the trousers. They are slim fitting, tapering to the feet and there is no horizontal at the ankle to cut her feet off. The same look could have been achieved with a red dress matched with dark tights and boots or plain shoes. Again the jewellery and hair are minimalist.

Here are three further examples. In the first picture the suit is absolutely plain, dark navy with a round neck – again she has dropped the harsh lapel look for a classic, restrained but feminine look. There is an absence of bulk, texture and pattern. This is a high authority outfit. The pearls lift the darkness and reflect a little light to the face. She looks professional and in charge here, rather than somewhat comical in a those odd pant suits.

The second outfit is interesting. It is a red jacket, worn with narrow black trousers and boot-shoes. The round necked jacket has a matching cravat that softens and feminises the look considerably, but is also neat and commanding. I also like the final look – a navy blouse with a simple white top underneath. The jacket is almost coat length, again over simple navy trousers and neat shoes. The outfit is so simple and elegant it almost doesn’t get noticed. And that is perhaps the point. These looks are not showcasing American designers in the way that First Ladies might do. These looks, while respectably modern, are not cutting edge. A version of these outfits would work well for virtually any business woman, political leader or even a job-seeker. Smart, with plenty of authority, but with enough approachability.


I love the new look Hillary. Do you agree?


20 Responses

  1. jay

    Versions of a man’s suit, with a high buttoned jacket stopping at or just above the hipline in a smooth textured bland colour look good on very few women. The yellow one is particularly disastrous, the grey (top left) probably looked better when the jacket wasn’t lifted by a waving arm, because of the lower cut of the collar, the princess line and the pocket detail. The Chanel style jacket neckline is giving a much more flattering line.

  2. Jane

    It is quite a transformation – for the considerably better. I can’t imagine what she was thinking when she agreed to wear the yellow/orange suit!

  3. mrsmole

    In a recent interview with Issac Mizrahi, he said he had made clothes for her and other first ladies. We have all followed her succession of hairstyles too since she first emerged in the 80’s and he said there should be a t-shirt with the phrase, “Hillary has found her hair”. No matter what you wear, your face and hair should be the feature and she is doing simple and classy in the best way. Again, all her opponents being men can wear the same suit day after day and no one says a word or gives a comment. Women have to work twice as hard to compete in all arenas.

  4. Amy

    I’m on team Hillary all the way. That round neckline with the pearls is pretty much the exact outfit every young female lawyer wears for the first few years….. There’s a reason it works for all ages! 🙂

  5. Lynn Mally

    What I love is all the bright colors she wears on top, while leaving the bottom dark. It is so much better than the “all one color” look of the pants suit era.

  6. Mary

    In addition to looking forward to having her as my country’s president I look forward to her being a style role model because she is looking great these days when so many women her age are invisible in America! Before the Iowa caucus she spoke at my daughter’s college and my daughter was very impressed and reported she is quite beautiful, warm and intelligent in person (she also said she smelled really good!). Part of me wants her to wear the same blue suit and red necktie every day like the male lawmakers so what she LOOKS like is not an issue but I know how unrealistic that is so am glad she is out there looking gorgeous and speaking intelligently and making us all proud.
    Another style element she is embracing that I love is the artful use of the crisp white shirt.

  7. Annieloveslinen

    She looks like a woman who’s decided she has to be comfortable if she’s going to be doing all that traipsing about. Amen to that, I know of what I speak.

    Love the red, it suits her very well, dislike the brown, grey and I’m not overly struck on the navy either nor the high round neck. Those black trousers and bright coat work very well, she could build her whole image around that look, neutral base with a pop of colour, but if you’re reading this, no pearls please Hil, ok?

  8. Hilary

    I have always admired Hillary Clinton and never really thought about what she wore. Reading your post was interesting as it made me stop and think about her in a fashion sense. I think she has always been into being comfortable – being an intelligent driven woman with a lot on her plate – its not surprising. I don’t actually like her hair now. My favorite Hillary hair was circa mid nineties swept up and away from her forehead – quite short and quasi masculine.

  9. Amanda

    Totally agree. Man or woman, it’s important to wear clothes that fit and flatter YOUR body. I think she looks twenty years younger in that fabulous red coat, and so much more confident and powerful now that she probably FEELS better about how she looks 🙂

  10. Elle

    Huge improvement! Especially love the long red jacket and black pants. All in all, the change is a great example of finding clothes that suit, rather than trying to fit into clothes that are unsuitable. The only fit issue left–that I still see from time to time–is needing more room in the bicep to be comfortable. Nothing a bit more attention to fit couldn’t resolve.

  11. jennifer miller

    Love this post, Kate, and I couldn’t agree more. Hillary projects a much more polished image now, and it fits her perfectly. It’s funny, isn’t it, that her previous focus on professional suits made her look anything but, and the solid top-to-bottom color (whether gray or neon yellow) was almost distracting.

  12. Jennifer

    What is she trying to hide by wearing longsleeve/quartersleeve pantsuit every day? You won’t find a single picture of her sleeveless or in a dress/skirt. Why are her outfit selections so limited to one pattern with varying colors and fabrics? Looks fishy….

  13. Susan Ledford

    Hillary looks great. But can she dump those tent tops. Maybe they are made of a bulletproof fabrics, that would be ok. But the open jacket with blouse & slacks look nice. Shows off her figure better. We all don’t look good in dresses. So Go Hillary. But the tent tops YIKES!

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