The Washington Post's Robin Givhan is rather disappointed in Judge Sonia Sotomayor's latest sartorial decisions, deeming her choice of professional attire at last week's historic confirmation hearings not nearly feminine enough. What?
Givhan's analysis stems from the fact that the fashion industry has deemed sheath dresses (which are oh-so-flattering on every shape) equally authoritative as business suits and suggested that all women eschew stockings in the summer. And instead of complying with the fashion industry's advice — or, at a minimum, wearing a wrap dress — Sotomayor did what any sensible judicial nominee ought: she dressed both for her audience and the event, i.e. the Senate and a confirmation hearing. And thus she earns Givhan's opprobrium for not being feminine enough.
Her wardrobe, as she sat for her daily grilling by the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not reflect the fashion industry's constant refrain. In fact, it did not even appear to have been influenced by the 21st century. Instead, Sotomayor's clothes evoked authority in the manner of a 1980s lady power broker.
And while a wing of the fashion industry has been enraptured by the styles of the 1980s, its focus has been more on embellished military jackets, harem pants and jersey dresses that look as though they might spontaneously combust on a particularly hot day. That is not the part of 1980s fashion history Sotomayor was channeling. She embraced that period in fashion when femininity had no place in the executive suite.
Um, what? Either Robin Givhan and I experienced two different decades, or two different hearings. Sotomayor's suits, above, had hardly the big shoulderpads nor the boxy jackets of that (thankfully) bygone era, and I'm certain her skirts were either A-lines or flared, unlike the 80s ubiquitous pencil skirts. They weren't paired with high-necked silk shells, floppy bows of any kind or even button-down shirts. In short, they looked nothing like this.
In fact, by my count, Sotomayor wore a pink suit as well as a pink shell under her black suit; cuts that were flattering for her figure; exposed her collar bones and — for the first day — even wore a suit with a styled color and an asymmetrical line. But despite the skirts, the deliberately feminine color choices (pink, red, bright blue and a wide black pinstripe paired with a pink shell), the three-quarter sleeves and the stockings Givhan derides as being unfashionable (though a smart choice in what I guarantee was a frigid hearing room), Givhan says Sotomayor wasn't feminine.
Her single notable accessory was a slim bangle on her right wrist. Her neck, so exposed by her jewel collars, was bare.
Aside from her decision to emphasize skirts instead of trousers and the shoulder-length dark curls framing her face, there was nothing in Sotomayor's style that acknowledged her femininity in a significant way.
She, in Givhan's words, left her gender at the door.
Opening a Conventional Closet In Quest for a Supreme Robe [Washington Post]