Why Hillary Wore White
'Did she look presidential?
As silly as that sounds, that was part of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s job on Thursday in Philadelphia when she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination as its presidential candidate. It was not just showing people who do not understand her and who do not trust her who she is as a person, or laying out her policy proposals, but also demonstrating that when she represents them on the world stage, she would do so with that hard-to-pin-down aura of leadership and power.
And she did. In her white suit, with her white crew neck underneath, Mrs. Clinton looked supremely unflappable: perfectly tailored and in control. Not a hair out of place (but some hair nicely waved). The kind of person who could carry the nuclear codes with aplomb.
But since she is someone who famously does her homework, she also used her clothes to do a little more.
That she chose to wear white at the convention did not at first seem particularly surprising. Mrs. Clinton has worn white jackets multiple times during the primaries, and when she joined Instagram she posted a shot of a clothing rack filled with red, white and blue jackets. On Thursday night, the pantsuit stood out against the blue background, and in the sea of people.
But it was also layered with meaning, demonstrating that she understands the way fashion can be useful in contemporary politics and is willing to leverage that.
That suit, quietly yet clearly, made reference to history, specifically the history of the women’s movement.
White, along with purple and gold, were the official colors of the National Woman’s Party and the suffragist movement. In England, it was white, purple and green, the official colors of the Women’s Social and Political Union started by Emmeline Pankhurst, among others.
According to a history of the National Woman’s Party from the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, an early mission statement for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage noted: “The colors adopted by the union are purple, white and gold, selected for the significance they bear in the work the union has undertaken. Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose.”
See the connection?
Geraldine Ferraro, the first female candidate for vice president, certainly did when she wore white to the 1984 Democratic convention to accept her nomination.
Thirty-two years later, Mrs. Clinton’s suit placed her, very firmly, in that continuum.
That no designer has claimed ownership of the outfit, a typical morning-after event, the better to monetize the attention of the world, is notable and appropriate. Thursday night was Mrs. Clinton’s moment, and one for all women. Her clothes simply gave her the means to amplify her message.'