Fashion Fit Formula and Presidential Candidates

Hillary Clinton - Being the first woman to run for US president, Hillary’s clothes are always a topic of conversation. It appears as if she has developed a uniform of pants suits. They are certainly easier to wear when traveling and campaigning than skirts. The dichotomy is that Hillary would look thinner, taller and both more powerful and more feminine if she would only wear monochromatic colors and jackets that end at her best proportionate point, not at the widest part of her hips. By splitting the colors on her figure, the eye moves to that line and away from her face. It is why men wear suits—they are designed to produce height and tailored to keep the attention on the man’s face. Hillary has the advantage of being able to wear wonderful bright colors, and when she chooses a feminine yellow, rose or blue shade. For an alternative look from monochromatic, a contrasting jacket one or two shades lighter than the pants would be very attractive. Her necklaces frequently fall at a very unflattering length. Again, the eye realizes that something is wrong but doesn’t identify what it is. Therefore, the brain of the observer is left with a feeling of uncertainty. Clothes make the candidate and as always a woman has to work twice as hard to achieve the look.

Barack Obama - The last man in politics that espoused the renewed hope, energy and dedication to change was Robert Kennedy. In many ways Obama patterns the very studied, yet casual dress style of RFK with the open shirt collars, long sleeves rolled up and khakis. When wearing a suit he sets himself apart from the other presidential contenders by a less formal, but still polished look. His dark suits are not tailored close to the body and produce movement when he walks. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and Obama’s style works both for and against him. While his look conjures youth, energy and excitement, it also lacks authority, which gives credence to his opponent’s criticism of inexperience Obama does well to stay with the pale blue ties he seems to prefer for formal occasions, they are just understated enough not to draw attention away from his face. When he is going to keep his tie on, he looks best in a full spread collar with a Windsor tie knot. But if it is an occasion where he intends to take his tie off, his best look would be the straight point collar. It appears much more natural without a tie. He chooses great suit fabrics, ties and shirts but would attain a more experienced and finished look, if his suit jackets were proportionately shorter for his body, and if his collars were a bit longer. This is extremely important when he appears on a stage, as a slightly shorter jacket would make his legs appear more in proportion to the body.

John Edwards - John Edwards’s suits are impeccable and he is by far the best dressed man in the campaign. Perhaps because he is a multi-millionaire lawyer, Mr. Edwards seems to make a concerted effort to appear more like the common man. He is frequently seen in stone washed jeans, plaid shirt or denim shirts with the sleeves rolled up as if he is ready to start working. When he combines the outfit with a sports jacket, it is a wonderful look. It’s an interesting situation. In observing pictures that were taken during non-election years he can frequently be seen wearing casual clothing that he likes and feels comfortable. However, the look doesn’t look natural because it is so precisely pressed. There is never a smudge of grease on the jeans, wrinkled shirts or shoes that have long ago seen better days. John looks far more comfortable in suits, the fabrics are exquisite and the only improvement noted would be a slightly shorter jacket, and a shorter collar.

Mike Huckabee- Mike Huckabee’s loss of 100 pounds has certainly been a factor in his recent jump in the poles. Losing weight is such a difficult goal to achieve that everyone can relate to the fortitude and dedication it took for him to achieve his goal. Unfortunately, his choice in clothing does not adequately reflect his new figure and he dresses as if he were much heavier. He still chooses suits that have lapels that are too wide for a thinner man, his collars are full spread while a medium spread and half Windsor tie would be more flattering. If his jackets were shorter and pants tailored closer to his legs, he would have the appearance of more authority. Combined with this natural sense of humor it would be a winning combination. Unlike other candidates Mike Huckabee has the common touch and is frequently seen in a variety of clothing. These outfits seem to be better fitting than the suits he wears on the campaign trail.

John McCain - John McCain’s insistence on crew-neck sweaters with a shirt and tie seem to be stating “Here I am, what you see is what you get!” The tendency to wear the casual, comfortable sweater also works to soften his image. However, the shirts he is wearing under the sweaters are not attractive as the collars are frequently button down and far too short for his face shape. John would look better in a half spread collar or straight point collar with a four-in-hand tie knot under the comfortable sweaters. When a candidate veers away from the “uniform—dark suit, shirt and tie” it is always a double sided coin. The comfortable, softening look of the McCain sweaters, also gives him the look of the aging professor. While this look suggests wisdom, it doesn’t reflect the authority and energy of youth needed to get the work done.

Mitt Romney - Although much attention has been given to John Edwards $400 hair cut, Mitt Romney’s hair is an equal distraction. His hair is thick, salt and pepper and very attractive, but there is never a hair out of place. The main problem stems that his suits are mediocre and cut far too boxy to match the hair. Many times the eye sees a discrepancy without realizing what is wrong. The image created is that something isn’t quite right. When this happens, a doubt is placed in the mind of the viewer. People believe 80% of what they see over what they hear. The fabrics and hues that Mitt Romney chooses for his suits are perfect for his coloring. However, he should immediately change tailors, and produce an image that matches his hair. The suits should be tailored with the notches hitting higher, the collars of his shirts should be shorter and he should definitely stick to the medium spread. He is frequently seen in the straight point collar, which is not flattering to his face.

Rudy Giuliani - In the past Rudy Giuliani has been able to indulge his love of uniforms. As mayor of NYC he was frequently seen in police department jackets, baseball caps, fireman hats, hard hats etc depending upon the situation, they provided immediate recognition of authority. In his presidential bid Rudy has adapted the dark suit, half spread shirt collar, half Windsor knot and ties using the colors of authority as his uniform. Always presenting the same image can produce positive results. The fabrics chosen for his suits and shirts are impeccable, the break of the pants leg, and polished shoes go a long way to instilling confidence as a man who is in charge. Unfortunately, details are off, his jacket sleeves are too long, not leaving room for a half an inch of the shirt cuff to show below the jacket and, his lapels are not indirect proportion to his chest. A small fact indeed but that detail adds the appearance of years to his body.

I was asked to critique the clothing of the Presidential Candidates for the radio show America in the Morning with Jim Bohannon heard on KABC – AM, Los Angeles ** WTKK – FM, Boston ** WJFK-FM, Washington, DC ** KTPAR-AM, Phoenix. You can hear the show by going to the westwoodone.com and clicking on the January 2, 2008 show. The radio show is informal and off the cuff, however here are the notes that I prepared for the show by studying each candidate. The Fashion Fit Formula for both men and women is based on mathematics and I had only photographs to draw conclusions. The research included magazines, newspapers, Internet and news clips from previous campaigns, years without campaigns, and the current presidential race. It was an interesting study. On the right are the notes.