“It is better to look good than to feel good”

We’ve all laughed at Billy Crystal’s savage caricature of Fernando Lamas, a sketch character reportedly born when Crystal heard Lamas, on The Tonight Show, announce that “it is better to look good than to feel good.” That quotation popped into my mind when I read a New York Times style article fawning over Madame Speaker’s exquisite fashion sense:

But with the ascent of Nancy Pelosi, 66, widely recognized and admired for her Armani and easy fashion savvy, the days of the dowdy Washington dress code may be numbered. At least that is the hope of a number of women on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats, who see Mrs. Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, as a fashion leader, too.


During her first week on the job, Mrs. Pelosi clinched votes in the House on the minimum wage, financing for stem cell research and Medicare drug prices, drawing two veto threats (for research and drugs) from a notoriously veto-averse president.

And she did it looking preternaturally fresh, with a wardrobe that, while still subdued and overreliant on suits, has seldom spruced the halls of Congress. On Jan. 9, a Tuesday, she wore an impeccable black and white tweed skirt suit, with strong shoulders and the jacket nipped at the waist; on Wednesday, she draped a red shawl insouciantly around a red suit outside the White House; and on Thursday, she appeared in a mod, deep-blue velvet, slimming pantsuit.

Fashion authorities say Mrs. Pelosi should be applauded for her color choice (burgundy on Jan. 4, the day she was sworn in), her playfulness with jewelry (chunky, but tasteful, including signature Tahitian pearls) and her suit selection (from velvet to tweed), all of which can be imitated at a more affordable price by women who are not wealthy. Women are already taking note of her style; orders of Tahitian pearls have skyrocketed.

“She wears the clothes and the clothes don’t wear her, and that is the way it should be,” said Pamela Fiori, the editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine, who emphasized that Mrs. Pelosi’s words are nonetheless more important than her clothes. “If she can have a little bit of influence in the Senate and House or in the home, that is not such a bad thing.”

Doesn’t this read like some terrible ad copy from the 1920s, when you could read breathless copy about the little black dress that would take our heroine from afternoon cocktail party, to a quick meeting with her husband’s boss, to an evening on the town dancing the Charleston? Blech. After this saccarhine start, the article then morphs into a generalized complaint about how hard it is for women on the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, to be taken seriously when faced with their daily clothing choices, a topic I find boring.

What the article’s laudatory, drooling tone does call to mind is Robin Givhan’s surpisingly viscious attack on Chief Justice Roberts’ wife for dressing herself and her children nicely when he was sworn in:

The wife wore a strawberry-pink tweed suit with taupe pumps and pearls, which alone would not have been particularly remarkable, but alongside the nostalgic costuming of the children, the overall effect was of self-consciously crafted perfection. The children, of course, are innocents. They are dressed by their parents. And through their clothes choices, the parents have created the kind of honeyed faultlessness that jams mailboxes every December when personalized Christmas cards arrive bringing greetings “to you and yours” from the Blake family or the Joneses. Everyone looks freshly scrubbed and adorable, just like they have stepped from a Currier & Ives landscape.

Apparently style is appropriate when you’re a power Democrat and less so when you’re a Republican.

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15 Responses

  1. Givhan uses her perch as an excuse to impart her political “wisdom” to her readership.
    Do you recall how she blasted Dick Cheney for wearing a parka to Auschwitz? (Tom Lantos who was in the party didn’t see fit to comment on the VP’s attire; why should Givhan get all exercise?)

  2. This show us that two writers have two different points of view.

  3. Political fluff and nonsense. For the rest of US outside the blue coasts, just more Democratic absurdity. When looks are leadership, then you have a (Democratic) disaster.

  4. And you’re surprised by this slanted view?

    Try this:

    Associated Press, headline and lead, January 11, this year: “BUSH CHEERED AT FORT BENNING. Fort Benning, Ga – President Bush, surrounded on Thursday by cheering soldiers in camouflage, defended his decision to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq and cautioned that the build-up will not produce quick results. ‘It’s going to take a while,’ he said.

    NY Times, headline and lead, January 12, this year: “BUSH SPEAKS AND BASE IS SUBDUED. Fort Benning, Ga – President Bush came to thgis Georgia military base looking for a friendly audience to sell his new Iraq strategy. But his lunchtime talk received a restrained response from soldiers whgo clapped politely but showed little of the wild enthusiasm they ordinarily shower on the commander-in-chief.”

    Damn – I didn’t know there were two Forts Benning in Georgia! How could I have missed that?

  5. I’d be happy if she devoted less time to her wardrobe and more to her committee appointments or on producing crib sheets on the difference between Sunni and Shia. Do we really have to listen tothis garbage for two years?

  6. *snickers* The most honest Congress in history has now turned into a Paris fashion show. As to be expected.

    Yes expat you do. And yes, it will get worse.

  7. Bookworm, I don’t normally consider myself clairvoyant, but I was pretty sure where you were headed with this by the time I reached the end of the first quoted NYT paragraph. As to RG’s remarks, I ended my reading of them with the thought/question, “And the problem with Mrs. Robert’s selections is…?” then “The selections not ‘progressive’-enough, Robin?” Sheesh.

  8. Apparently style is appropriate when you’re a power Democrat and less so when you’re a Republican.

    I think they were probably insinuating that she was a stepford wife and was obeying the “man”, instead of being a “power player”. Makes sense, right?

  9. http://www.ahiida.com/index.php?a=results&subcat=65

    If it’s fashion week, take a look at this site. Wonder how Mrs. Pelosi would look wearing the same!

  10. On the one hand, this is exceedingly trivial stuff. On the other hand, I really like how you handled it. Yeesh, but the mainstream press seems averse to learning. The only note you did not hit that I would have is those Tahitian pearls. Fashion illiterate that I am, they conjure up visions of animatronic parrots in the old Disneyland Tiki Room, or beach blanket movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

  11. I am reminded of an article I read many years ago in Omni magazine. A number of prominent people were asked how they would define Utopia, and what they thought were the most important things they could do to improve lives around the world.

    A number of interviewees spoke about typical things, like improved nutrition, medical care and education. But the one that stuck in my mind was Tammy Faye Baker. She opined that the world would be a better place if all women knew how to make themselves up and dress nice, so they would feel better about themselves. She was willing to help anyway she could.

    Utopia approaches.

  12. As an aside but regarding the post title, I know women who smoke because they don’t want the weight gain associated with quitting.

  13. Nice blog I will recommend you to all my friends. Thank you.

  14. some great info here
    i am adding this to my bookmarks…

  15. is this really important enough to use the electricity?

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