Fashioning the Convention

There's more to the politics of clothes than T-shirts—though we're the first to admit we're counting the days until those warring "Shove it" and "Fuck off" tees hit the streets.

In the meantime, an ongoing glance at some of the fashion choices showing up behind the DNC podium:

Hillary Clinton: Why should a woman contort herself in unflattering, achingly respectable knee-length skirts and dowdy dresses to please some imaginary electorate? In her transformation from first lady to junior senator, Hill has at last found herself sartorially. We do not believe she has ever put on a skirt since being elected, and we love her for that: A black pantsuit is now her uniform, though for her speech Monday night she opted for buttercup yellow (at least it looked like buttercup yellow on our TV screen), which she may have chosen for its telegenic qualities, or maybe just because she just likes yellow—after all, she is from the Midwest, despite her hasty residence in New York. In any case, she looks so happy in her trousers we could almost—almost, but of course not really—forgive her for supporting the war.

Musical entertainers: Patti LaBelle's moving "A Change Is Gonna Come" followed immediately on the heels of Bill Clinton's keynote address (didn't catch her? That's because you weren't watching the unadulterated C-Span, where no annoying anchorpeople disrupt the pure flow of oratory.) LaBelle's performance was only enhanced by her dress, which was embellished with what looked like sequined replicas of 45 rpm records—a tromp l'oeil triumph of vinyl sure to evoke fond memories for many in the audience who lived through the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements and still have not soured on the Democratic Party. These delegates also relished a poignant Peter, Paul, and Mary (C-Span again, in the afternoon, when no one else carries the convention), with Mary Travers wearing a red jacket streaked with a black tie-dye pattern, an example of the bohemian batik that has been a staple of left-wing dressing for 100 years.

Elizabeth Edwards: Though perfectly nice-looking in her sky-blue pantsuit (for the blue states?), we fear that Mrs. Edwards will be tortured relentlessly in the media for her size, which in fact mirrors closely the physiques of the majority of American women. We beg in advance and no doubt in vain for a moratorium on the subject.

The Kerry family: Word is that Alexandra and Vanessa will be swathed in Tuleh chiffon for Dad's big speech Thursday night. We just hope they'll think twice before donning the "We is Family" T-shirts that Bryan Bradley, Tuleh's designer, who specializes in a clothes for young society matrons, showed on the runways last spring.

As for Teresa, her Tuesday-night red skirt-suit was devoid of jewelry; she was unadorned but for the pearls in her ears. (It has certainly been a season for pearls: They decorated the necks of Hillary, Carol Moseley Braun, and even Mary Travers.) Teresa also eschewed the jeweled custom-made "Kerry 2004" pin she's been known to sport, perhaps avoiding the criticism that dogged Martha Stewart and that Hermès bag. On the other hand, the White House is hardly jail.

In any case, the real question is, if Kerry wins, what will Teresa wear in the big house? First ladies are compelled to patronize American designers, which can be a problem when Armani and Chanel fill up most of your closet. Well, Teresa can always do what another high-fashion first lady did: When Jackie Kennedy had to give up her Givenchys, she had Oleg Cassini design exact replicas of them.

 
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