The Fashion Whip: What Should Ann Romney Wear Next?


Fashion Whip is a political style column in the Huffington Post by Lauren A. Rothman, inspired by Lauren’s experience as the founder of Style Auteur, a style and fashion consulting firm.

The marriage of politics and fashion is stronger than ever. Election season is in full swing and the candidates and their wives have six weeks left to become America’s sweethearts or to reclaim that top spot.

We live in a virtual age where we often see before we hear. Wearing what has now become one of the most talked about dresses of the year by designer Tracy Reese, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a dynamic speech at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention, but Twitter was abuzz with comments like “who is she wearing” and “what color are her nails?” We click, we “like,” we follow, and we scroll mostly based on visual cues. The explosion of social media sharing sites like Instagram, Tumbler, and Pinterest are popular because people enjoy perusing pictures. The upcoming fall season encourages us to become voyeurs of both fashion and political superstars.

The speed of a campaign moves quickly – and like fashion, the public quickly forgets one fabulous frock for another. The image of a well-dressed Ann Romney in Oscar de la Renta’s vibrant red was still fresh until upstaged by her appearance on “Live! with Kelly and Michael” in a dress that blinded television viewers with bright pink and orange flowers. While Mrs. Romney commits a fashion faux pas, FLOTUS shops her closet re-wearing ensembles from the past on the campaign trail. We just saw Michelle Obama re-style her own Michael Kors gown at the Congressional Black Caucus Gala in Washington, DC (she changed the belt from her last wear in June for the Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremonyhonoring Israeli President Shimon Peres) and she shows off her savvy understanding of trends when wearing a familiar bright green and black dress in North Carolina, seen previously in Hawaii at the end of last year.

The intersection of fashion and politics came down the runway at Fashion Week with Alice and Olivia, Barbara Tfank, and Naeem Khann. It was easy to picture Michelle Obama in a full-skirted hostess dress or Ann Romney standing next to Mitt in a tailored jacket. Historically a first lady favorite, Oscar de la Renta showed at Fashion Week as if basics are created with the political woman (or political spouse) in mind. Escada, a Cindy McCain favorite while on the campaign trail in ’08, also debuted clothes fit for the White House while Jason Wu wowed us with another gown that would be stunning on Michelle Obama should another inauguration be in her future.

When dressing for a job in politics, clothing is part of the conversation. Picking economically desirable clothing can help or hurt a candidate or spouse. Over the last four years Michelle Obama has created many fashion moments endearing her to the public. While Ann Romney looked beautiful in her couture dress at the RNC it is hard to forget her highly criticized choice of a $990 Reed Krakoff top on “The Early Show.” While it is not often revealed who Ann Romney is wearing, she looks best when dressed in solids, effortlessly casual in colored pants paired with a crisp white shirt, and politically correct in sheaths with matching cardigans or edgier long fitted jackets. Being aware of the scrutiny on her clothing and style, Mrs. Romney may choose to consider donning a more affordable dress from Kay Unger for the upcoming debate and refreshing her campaign wardrobe with staples from Talbots that work for her body type.

The future of fashion and politics continues to hang in the balance until November – some first ladies make a stylish imprint that long outlives their time in the White House, while others pass through never having made a style statement at all. Although we don’t yet know who will be in office in January, we certainly know which designers have a better chance of making it into the walk-in closets at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Power dressing emerges as the top trend from the convention stage to the runways at fashion week.

The only question left is, what flights of fashion await us at the debates?

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