Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
The Clothes Police
August 24, 2007
Clothes make the man, or so we have heard. In this century, however, clothes make the woman and she had better pay attention to the Clothes Police. Ask any female lawyer.
An attorney friend of mine says that the male lawyers have all the advantage in courtroom wardrobes. All they need is a couple black or grey suits, five white shirts and a couple pairs of shoes. Women, however, she continued, "need at least six suits that can be mixed or matched with other outfits, making them more or less formal. Add multiple blouses of various shapes and colors, shoes to go with each, scarves, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and we haven't even gotten to 'foundation equipment.'"
But we are not just talking about lawyers. The Clothes Police now inspect every item of clothing a woman in public life wears. And the media makes their rules known.
With tragedy all around us and a national Presidential election heating up, we are lucky to have a comic interlude.
Senator Clinton participated in a debate recently. She was tastefully dressed in a light blue tailored suit with a black silk blouse. The blouse had a v-neck,
showing a very slight cleavage.
The Clothes Police went crazy.
Washington Post's' Robin Givhan, among many others, wrote this major piece of news.
"There was cleavage Wednesday afternoon on CSpan 2. It belonged to Senator Hillary Clinton."
Cleavage! Horrors! On public television?
Her picture in the infamous blouse appeared all over the Web. The bloggers went wild and one of them wrote, '"Omigod, the Senator has breasts. Two of them."
Hmmmm. Who would ever have guessed!
But Givhan is not through. She went on to say that "to display cleavage in a setting that does not provide cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation. . . a small acknowledgement of sexuality and femininity."
At the moment, Senator Clinton is busy provoking Senator Obama, but it has to do with war and election, not sex.
My favorite columnist, Ellen Goodman says that, "we have scrutinized the black V-neck top on the Internet and can attest that it barely (in both senses of the word) fits (any dictionary) definition of the word." The bloggers are more specific. They say it is a one half inch cleavage. (Who measured)?
The clothes police love to criticize women in public life, but their current target is Hillary.
In the debates, Senator Clinton dresses in a soft color which shines in the sea of drab black and gray male suits. Who remembers or cares what the men were wearing? For that matter, who knows what the debate was about?
It was Education.
Givhan did sort of redeem herself when she said that to display a glimpse of cleavage "requires that a woman be really at ease in her skin."
There is nothing that any woman in politics could wear that would not set off the critics. But this episode is worse than most.
Comic interludes like this are fun now and then in the grim business of electing a president.
But this is not about cleavage. It is about trivializing women, all of them who are trying to achieve their goals.
Quoting Ellen again, "It is not whether a candidate can show a hint of breast, but whether you can have breasts and be president."