Skirting the Issues with Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain

Who'll be hotter for the next four years: Cindy or Michelle?

I want to see how women figure, if at all, in these earlier presidential races, whether as candidates' wives or, even rarer, candidates themselves—or just as avid female members of the electorate. Although there is one curious Andrew Jackson hairpin from 1832 (who would even see it? You'd have to get pretty close), it isn't until 1920, when women get the vote, that the floodgates of junky election stuff open to include, for example, a Warren Harding change purse. There are a number of depressing talismans from the dark days of the 1950s, like potholders inscribed "Adlai" and "Estes" and a pair of those disgustingly dainty white gloves, which women were forced to wear practically every waking moment 60 years ago, decorated with "I like Ike" in red and blue. So it comes as a delightful surprise to discover cat's-eye sunglasses whose frames read either "Don't be static, vote Democratic" (wonder why that never caught on) or "I like Ike, peace, and prosperity." Better still is a pair of Mad Men–worthy sheer nylon hose that shriek "Win With Adlai."

A few years later, things really begin to rock. A cheesy fake-gold charm bracelet dangles members of JFK's immediate family; a Goldwater girl could have sported a gold-fringed belt that looks like a sleazy sash. (Was she a stripper?) And how come I go to the flea market every weekend and have never found a pair of John Kerry flip-flops, printed with that senator's allegedly contradictory positions?

But perhaps the most exciting discovery, at least sartorially speaking, is the remarkable survival of a trio of paper dresses from 1968, variously extolling Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, and Bobby Kennedy.

Oh, would that we could go back in time and see the paper face of Bobby Kennedy slithering off the hollow frame of Leighton Meester.

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