What Not to Wear — Elena Kagan Edition?

Wed, May 26, 2010

Feminism

I’m a little sad that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and her White House handlers appear to have given in to the running media ‘Kagan is a fashion frump/is she a lesbian’ fascination.

This is what Kagan looked like when President Obama announced her nomination — boxy suit jacket in an odd shade of green with a wash-and-wear kind of look with make-up and hair — a no-nonsense look from a woman who’s got more important things to think about than mascara and eye liner.

And that should be okay.   We need Supreme Court justices to be smart, not fashion forward.

But after countless days of stories about her perceived frumpitude or whether her choices in her appearance suggest anything about life preferences, this picture appeared on the front page of the New York Times –

Here Kagan is sporting a much more tailored jacket with a slim belt at the waist and a saucy kick pleat in the skirt.  And it sure looks like she’s had a professional blow out on her hair, added a few sparkly baubles and a tad more make-up.  Were Stacy and Clinton in Washington, D.C. this week?  Because if they were and they didn’t stop by my house, I’d be a annoyed!

Seriously, though, is this what we have to do to get people to move on to the next discussion item and not obsess over the sexual preferences of a woman who doesn’t sport a full make-up counter face every day?

Kagan isn’t the only woman of note I’ve watched this happen to.  When Rachel Maddow came on the news scene, she was much less made up for on-air appearances than she is today.  Neither Bobbi Brown nor Clinique are going to get rich off the amount of make-up that Maddow uses, but it struck me then and it strikes me again now — to be accepted, or be acceptable, do women have to conform to a single idea of beauty to be successful, regardless of their professional accomplishments or personal lives?

Don’t get me wrong — I love me some What Not to Wear or a nice rerun of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style so I can get some tips about broadening my wardrobe horizons beyond my work-at-home uniform of jeans or yoga pants.  But I just wish we could get past the idea that if a woman is in a position of power, she has to get all gussied up to be taken seriously.

Somehow I don’t think anyone was questioning Chief Justice Roberts’ fashion sense and what his suits or grooming regimen said about his personal life.  I’d bet money that few were wondering about Justice Alito’s skin care regimen as he met with Senators during his confirmation process (though applying a little Lubriderm with sun block before heading out for oral arguments never hurts!) Yet, no matter the woman, it seems acceptability comes back to walking that fine balance between how we look on the softball field and how dress for a night out on the town.

I do hope someone on her SCOTUS nomination team has warned her that if she goes too far in the other direction on the fashion spectrum, Kagan risks the treatment that Hillary and her cleavage got not so long ago.

And don’t even get me started on the waste of column inches about whether Kagan sits “like a lady” or not.  Next thing you know, someone’s going ask if she’d like some hair extensions and send her a subscription to Vogue.

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7 Responses to “What Not to Wear — Elena Kagan Edition?”

  1. Emily Says:

    What Prof. J said

  2. PunditMom Says:

    It is hard to come up with more words on this one, isn’t it?

  3. Whymommy Says:

    Must we? Can’t we just focus on her qualifications?

    Sigh.

  4. Kelly Glover Says:

    So a sensible woman doing a sensible job is wrong to wear sensible clothes?

  5. Another Suburban Mom Says:

    Why don’t we leave fashion critique’s to the wardrobe of Sharon Stone and her ilk. All I care about is if she can do the job.

  6. Shayna Says:

    What makes me sad is not only that we spend so much time analyzing every is-it-natural-or-synthetic-fiber of her suit, its that even today, in the year 2010, women still have so many more costume-related potholes that they can fall into on the road to success than men (and that’s just talking about clothes… we haven’t even gotten started on hair cuts, vacation choices, and what kind of handbag she owns… because that almost matters!)


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