The Significance of Hillary’s Red Suit

There’s a lot to unpack here.

09.27.16
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I was recently explaining to my roommate why I found it hilarious that, on the Emmys red carpet earlier this month, Amy Schumer told Giuliana Rancic she was wearing Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford and a tampon. “It’s annoying that these press interviews are always focused on what celebrity women are wearing,” I said. “Whereas men get asked much more nuanced questions around their emotional space and the work they are there to promote.”

He countered that these women are engaging with it just as much as the media. That they’re partnering with designers and feeding into it. I countered that they didn’t have a choice. He countered that tuxes are boring. I countered that women should be asked about their work, too. Ultimately we were both right. SURPRISE! This shit is complex.

Which might explain why I got in a fight inside my own head last night when, over the course of a presidential debate rife with compelling and disturbing political debate, my lizard brain kept screaming: RED SUIT. RED SUIT. RED SUIT!!!

Like I was a dog attempting to follow orders and Hillary’s outfit was a squirrel I couldn’t resist.

To make it worse, I watched last night’s event unfold from the Ed Sullivan Theater in Midtown. I was there to watch a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and, in anticipation of the live show which promised to riff on the debate, they played it on over a dozen screens so we wouldn’t miss a word. Or, as it happened, so we couldn’t possibly miss Hillary’s bright red suit, which was hypnotically cloned across my field of vision like I was in Costco’s TV section. It was impossible to ignore. She knew it would be.

I was fighting with myself because I didn’t want to be part of the problem. The way the media chooses to engage with how female politicians look is nothing short of disgusting and unfair. In fact, this entire election has been an unsettling peek through the lens of how society still judges women, but that’s another story (or library). But at Man Repeller we also believe in fashion as a medium and we’ve talked about how this might play out in politics. This story Leandra wrote for Time, for instance, in 2014, dug into why what politicians wear matters. In 2015, we said “Let’s talk about talking about Hillary,” and explored why, actually, avoiding the topic of presentation is just as problematic as overemphasizing it.

The upshot is: What we choose to wear says something and, instead of trying to ignore the undeniable impact of presentation, Hillary took that and made it work for her. She chose red. The primary color with the longest wavelength. A color that symbolizes love and war and passion and fire and power and stop. A color that says pay attention.

A color can’t be interrupted.

Feature photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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