When Hillary Clinton described herself as a ‘pant suit aficionado’ it was a wry acknowledgement that – even at 69 – what women wear is scrutinised just as much as what they say.
As a media trainer, advising women on what to wear (and more often what not to wear) for TV interviews is a fraught and dangerous area. I remember the (very senior) executive who turned up for training in an eye popping combination of head to toe leopard print and sky-high heels. And much as I admired the sheer chutzpah of someone who had eschewed the navy suit for an ensemble best described as 70s era Bet Lynch, it was a look unlikely to support the very serious messages she needed to get across.
Whilst feminist-me wants to shriek ‘ladies, wear what the hell you like – we fought for the right for you to wear animal print on Newsnight’, the practical me knows that it’s a shortcut to the outfit becoming the story. Witness the Washington Post’s verdict on Mrs Clinton having the audacity to wear a v-neck:
“There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.”
So after we’ve given a heavy sigh, let’s button up, because at the end of the day you want the audience to listen to what you’re saying, not be distracted by what you’re wearing. I remember once being mesmerised by an interview in which the woman’s dangly earrings swung to and fro like a turbo-charged executive desk toy every time she moved her head.
I remember the earrings but I can’t recall a word she said.