Campaign Catwalk

Published On:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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It started with a look. Well, glasses actually. Sarah Palin’s “look” caused a great fashion uproar across the country when she burst on the national stage. Her glasses designed by Kazuo Kawasaki, a Japanese designer, have been in high demand since John McCain announced her as his running mate. Just like that, a woman who wears glasses and an up-do is suddenly an American fashion icon.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was often harshly critiqued for her colorful array of pantsuits on the campaign trail. Psychology Junior Sarai Doepp says Clinton is portraying an image of a strong female and shouldn’t be judged for her appearance. This choice of political uniform can be traced back to the creator, Yves St. Laurent, who created the suit in the ’60s as a symbol of female empowerment. As for Palin’s $150,000 makeover as reported by the RNC, Doepp says, “It’s kind of stupid.”

Potential first ladies, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama both dress for the part of first lady. Obama favors ’60s style shift dresses with bold accessories like chunky necklaces and belts. McCain prefers to wear designers like Escada and Carolina Herrera and has received a lot of attention for her Oscar de la Renta with diamonds convention ensemble allegedly costing around $300,000.

Senator Barack Obama often turns to the tie-less suit look. Men’s style magazines Men’s Vogue, GQ and Vibe have featured the senator on their covers. Esquire even put him on their best-dressed list. “I definitely think [style] has a role,” says graphic design freshman Lindsay Cowan. She says she doesn’t do a lot of political reading so the candidates images play a large part of how she perceives them. “Obama always appears more relaxed,” she says. David Letterman commented on Obama’s black suit and light blue tie combination as, “tremendous, very elect-able.”

Senator John McCain often sports sweaters over collared shirts and ties. “I think that McCain carries himself better,” says child psychology freshman Jessalyn Brown. There has been debate over McCain’s style swings from these paternal combinations to power suits, and it was reported by Radaronline.com that he has been unhappy with some of his staff’s wardrobe selections for him.

Sure, Lincoln had his hat and beard, but modern politicians should model themselves after the most fashionable political figures of all time – the Kennedys. The Kennedy brothers were famous for their expensive suits and preppy casual wear. Often sporting dark two-button suits, these men remain style icons for men’s fashion.

Biochemistry junior C.J. Penaloza says he sees a parallel between the Obamas and the Kennedys. “I figure age was part of it,” he says. “The Kennedys were younger, so I believe they had an advantage in having greater reach to the younger voting group during that time. They are the most fashionable due to the fact that they are more in-touch with today’s media-pop-culture.”

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, or “Jackie O,” is known for her sharp suits, pearls and pillbox hats by designer Oleg Cassini. Not to mention the ’60s hair flip.

A close friend with Valentino, Jackie has other designer clout including a Gucci bag named after her. After the assassination of her husband, her style evolved into new trends of wide-leg pantsuits and Hermes scarves. She was a leading style icon of the ’60s with her White House fashions and remains a modern fashion icon with loyal fans.

Reach the reporter jvanzale@asu.edu.