Tim Gunn’s description of Hillary Clinton as someone who dresses like “she’s confused about her gender!” is disappointing not just because Tim Gunn is someone who has been able to achieve great fame and wealth because society’s become more accepting of men who are more interested in things that are traditionally feminine than masculine, but because Tim Gunn has achieved that great fame and wealth by purporting to know something about fashion. And I’ve always thought one of the most important things about fashion is that it’s situational. Gunn doesn’t appear to have considered that playing up her femininity and sex appeal might not always be strategic for Hillary as one of the first women to serve as Secretary of State. It’s not like Clinton doesn’t know how to dress in accordance with normative conceptions of American femininity, as she did when her daughter Chelsea got married last year. I particularly liked this number she wore to the rehearsal dinner, which was a terrific color and cut for her:
But if you’re meeting with, say, the Saudi foreign minister, it wouldn’t necessarily be respectful to wear something so low-cut. And if you’re sitting down at the table with Hu Jintao, it might actually be strategic to dress as if you’re dowdy or less formidable so people will underestimate you. Fashion choices that are diplomatically appropriate and strategic may have nothing to do with current conventions of style. Gunn said, after insulting Clinton’s clothing choices, that “I have great respect for her intellect, and her tenacity, and for what she does for our country, and for our governmental role, I just wish she could send a stronger message about American fashion.” It’s disappointing that a man who thinks so much time thinking about what will make women’s bodies look good apparently hasn’t considered very carefully how style can accentuate or detract from the other parts of themselves that women might care about presenting, too.