Powerful Women Should Dress "Feminine But Not Girly, Strong But Not Severe"

Illustration for article titled Powerful Women Should Dress "Feminine But Not Girly, Strong But Not Severe"

Now that images of Hillary Clinton are cropping up on the news every day, many media types are discussing the fashion of women in power. And unfortunately, for these striving females, it appears that they can't win. Wall Street Journal style writer Christina Binkley says of the power-suited women in the ultra-corporate, conservative worlds of finance and politics: "According to unwritten rules, their appearance at work should be attractive but not alluring, feminine but not girly, strong but not severe." And you know, girlyness is far, far from godliness in the boardroom! Kathryn Marinello, C.E.O. of a human-resources company called Ceridian Corp., says that though she knows she's being judged by her clothing, she hates "even talking about it because it's such a woman thing."


All this comes at a time when Vogue editor Anna Wintour is railing on Senator Clinton for being mannish (Hillary also gets accused of imitating men in order to get ahead instead of embracing her natural femininity.) But would Hillary have come so far had she been clad in flippy Nanette Lepore skirts instead of St. John trousers?

Huff Po blogger Lesley Blume thinks no. She relays an anecdote about her time in a Washington D.C. newsroom in late 2006 when a Vogue profile of Condi Rice came out, describing the Secretary of State as a "cabinet member with style." "God Almighty - the ridicule that many of my colleagues throughout the city heaped on that woman," Blume writes. "They called the feature vain, preposterous, credibility-killing, ill-advised; they hooted for weeks."

Perhaps if there were an "Old Girl Network" of women in power, as Time blogger Lisa Takeuchi Cullen fantasizes, the scrutiny of women's sartorial choices would be less stringent and damning. But maybe with all the girl-on-girl aggression out there, corporate wardrobe catch-22s would be even more of a problem. (By the way, what do you think of Hillary's kicky yellow suit jacket? Fug? Or fab?!?)

Women in Power: Finding Balance In the Wardrobe[Wall Street Journal]
Why Hillary Won't Vogue for Vogue [Huffington Post]
Where's My Old Girl's Network? [Time]


Earlier: Anna Wintour Calls Hillary Clinton A "Mannish" Coward
Sexpert Shere Hite Tackles Girl-On-Girl Aggresion



Sigh, I get where y'all are coming from, but can't we have a dialogue about what professional, powerful women can and should wear? Yes, it's all spelled out for guys, something I'm alternately jealous of and thrilled not to be a part of. Having options when we dress is part of being a woman. Making correct choices is also part of being a woman. Is it fair? Maybe, maybe not. But at this particular moment in time it is a reality. We can all sit here and say, "Oh, it only matters what she's going to do" but we all know that is not true, for men and for women. Clothes make the (wo)man, dress for the job you want and all that jazz.

So I care what she wears. And I think she could have chosen a better jacket.