Customer Watch: Dressing Hillary Clinton – Proportions and Paper Dolls

Pasting a photo of one person’s head on the photo of another person’s body can produce some amusing results, particularly when the body type is all wrong. For instance, putting the photograph of a face of an average-sized person on the photo of a body of a professional weightlifter, such as that of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his pumped-up days as Mr. Universe, can be hilarious. Or visit my town Hermosa Beach, California’s Fiesta Hermosa in May or September, where you can be photographed for a personalized postcard, putting your face through the cutout figure of a surfer in the mouth of a gigantic shark.


No less laughter- or horror-producing, to my mind, are some of the wardrobe choices concocted by fashion designers when asked by Harper’s Bazaar to update the wardrobe of Senator Hillary Clinton, who is a regular feature on the evening news these days. Her fashion uniform is, of course, the pantsuit. It is practical and comfortable, and allows her to wear low-heel shoes for long days of appointments and appearances. She accessorizes her suits with gold earrings and, with most ensembles, a short necklace, bringing attention to her face.


Some fashion authorities and wanna-be’s have been highly critical of Senator Clinton’s predisposition to wear pantsuits, but these detractors appear not to understand the wardrobe challenges faced by powerful women dressing to project authority. For an excellent discussion of these challenges, read the August 2007 article “The Pantsuit Paradox: How do women signal power at the boys’ club?” by Kerry Howley, Senior Editor of Reason Magazine.


Astoundingly, the designers’ choices are shown in the May 2008 issue of Bazaar on a paper doll cutout of Senator Clinton that bears little relation to her shape and proportions.


Below are a photograph of the Senator in a yellow pantsuit she wore to her daughter’s graduation in 2006, and a photo of the Senator in a mock-up of how she might look in an ensemble by Calvin Klein. You can plainly see that the body types of the two figures are completely different. Hillary Clinton’s proportions, like those of the vast majority of women, are not perfect, classic eight-head-length proportions, as you might find on a designer’s fit model. She is relatively short in her proportions between her waist and her knees, and has visually short legs. Moreover, she is more shapely than the Calvin Klein model, who has slender, boyish hips. 


Correcting for body type and swapping the sneaker-tie footwear for more professional-looking shoes, the Calvin Klein outfit features a jacket and is of understated colors that work well for business. Take a look at how some of the other designers would dress her. The designers of Rodarte couldn’t resist putting her in their ripped white spider web hosiery and shiny shirtwaist dress. Could there be a less powerful look? At least most of the more established designers showed some understanding of how a professional woman needs to dress. Only Ralph Lauren thought to add any jewelry, a saucy brooch, to her ensemble. 


Although Senator Clinton is often seen wearing a single strand of beads or simple gold necklace, I personally like the look of filling in the neckline of a suit with a necklace of multiple strands, as she is shown wearing in the photo below. Going from one to multiple strands is a jewelry upgrade that powers up a professional look and works well for all but the most petite woman. 


Just about every ensemble seen in Bazaar could have benefited with the addition of some tasteful jewelry. Well-chosen jewelry is a powerful accessory that can help a woman project authority and competence, style and class. I’d love to see a selection of interesting jewelry on those magazine paper dolls.

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine