By: Paige Greely
With a new presidency approaching, citizens’ minds are fixated on who they believe should be their next leader, and who is one of their first to announce their bid for presidency? Hillary Clinton.
This stern but friendly face has been a part of governmental activity for most of the Millennials’ lifetimes and she has not had the most perfect reputation. Along with a highly political persona, the Clintons have made their way to fame amongst the rap scene with mentions of their scandal by Eminem, Das Racist, and Lil Wayne.
Although her past incidents have stuck with her to this day, she has found herself a new platform within the political sector, as a women’s rights activist and potential presidential candidate.
When in the public eye as much as Clinton, one must think of how to dress appropriately for the situation at hand. Throughout the years, dress for men and women have shifted from short to long and wide to slim. However, within the workplace since the 1940s, businesswomen have been told to dress like a man if they want to do business like a man.
In fashion professor Tim Gunn’s book, “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible” he talks about a time when he was visiting the Senate and ran into a group of private school girls participating in a out of school activity. When he approached one of the girls, he asked what they thought of their uniforms and he could not help but let out, “You young ladies are wearing men’s clothes!” Their uniforms consisted of what seemed to be straight from their brothers’ closets: baggy polo shirts, khaki pants and men’s loafers.
Women are finally beginning to be seen as equals in the professional world. The use of uniforms over the course of the past few years have depleted because of the more individualist culture that America has come to be. However, expectation of women’s appearance in the work place has not.
There is an understanding of modesty throughout the Western professional culture, so dressing feminine is still seen as sloppy or too playful: “As if to show a little cleavage, to highlight a curvaceous figure, or to in any way appear feminine would discount, discredit, and disqualify them.” Clinton herself dresses more colorful than most within the political sector, but without these expectations and cultural restraints, would she further her personal style?
Along with the many women’s rights movements, seeing Clinton on billboards and campaign ads has brought the true beginning of gender equality. Although her name may not carry a perfect reputation and she may not agree with every citizen like every politician, this is still a moment to acknowledge a new era. With this new era upon us, more changes are destined to follow: less stigma burdened on feminists, women having equal pay, and women being allowed to be feminine and always taken seriously.
As a future career woman myself, this issue has a lot of meaning to me. When interviewing for a job, I do not want to wear the same suit and have the same haircut as my male interviewer, but rather present myself more truthfully to the person I am.
Every person has thoughts, dreams and ideas that support and create their own personal style; this is the semiotics of clothing. Politicians in particular are all out to make a difference in society, but they all seem to look exactly like their peers, as if they have the same mentality.
Someone who looks professional but unique will make their surrounding people trust them even more because this shows the reality of whom they are and not a persona they put forth to look “trustworthy.” This concept is not only for women in the politician sector, but also men.
When watching a debate in legal cases or councils one could not differentiate any man in the room from the next without their face. Someone who does not have the courage to dress differently or present him or her as they feel does not seem like someone brave enough to speak up for what they believe in.
This behavior is not to blame on the politicians themselves, but rather a culture they feel restricted by that has been focused on being collectivist for many years and has not shifted with the rest of society.
Some genuine reasoning for having uniforms was to make the mind the most important and pull away from aesthetics meaning more than thoughts. At a young age where judgment is harsh and children are learning to understand other people, this makes a lot of sense. However as we grow up the semiotics of apparel is how one chooses presents themselves to the public.
Apparel is only an extension of what people think and how they choose to live their life. A great example of this in politics today is Rand Paul, a potential Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election as well. He has been seen on professional platforms wearing a fitted blazer and a cotton turtleneck with jeans. This casual and more relatable image not only represents who he is as a person truthfully but in the end will make voters feel more connected to him as a candidate to be their country’s leader prior to having knowledge on any of his political views.
There is so much change that surrounds Western culture these days with social movements, technological advancements, environmental issues and economic shifts, we cannot expect simple expressions such as how we dress, to not change with them. For women and men in the political world uniformity may be in their comfort zone, but to make changes in the world that they believe in may start with believing in being themselves.