Monday, December 10, 2007

pant suits

Robin Givhan, the Washington Post's fashion maven, wrote her column today about Hillary Clinton and her pant suits. She questioned Hillary's motives for wearing pants. (Was she trying to subtly "get us used to a female commander in chief?") She questioned Hillary's penchant for mixing and matching, saying that Hillary lived in the "grown up land of Garanimals". She questioned the style of her pant suits ("does Hillary even have hips?). She questioned her color choices ("Hillary, the human color wheel").

Ah, it was all very east coast elite and cuttingly humorous. It made me try to remember the last time I wore a skirt or dress. In 2004, unemployed, I bought a "power suit" for going to interviews. I thought it would make me look more professional and hireable. Let's just say the suit didn't suit me and the day I got another job, it disappeared into the back of the closet, never to be seen again.

I can't even remember when I wore a skirt prior to that. I'm 61. I've been through all the fashions. When I was in high school, we wore "wrap-around" skirts. What a stupid style that was. It was hard to carry books when you were also trying to hold down a skirt that flew open in the slightest breeze. (Of course, back then we had no choice about skirts and dresses because we weren't allowed to wear pants to school).

In the late 60's and early 70's, I wore mini-skirts. Thankfully, I was slender then although, fools for fashion that we females always are, even those who weren't insisted on being part of the in-crowd. Heavy girls with large thighs just looked sad and foolish in skirts six inches above the knee. I worked as a waitress in a bar and a secretary in an office then. Lowering a drink tray to a table or filing a folder in a bottom drawer in a mini-skirt were equally perilous endeavors. Oh, how carefully you had to lower yourself straight down instead of bending over for fear of showing your underwear. When you sat in a chair, you were always conscious of the need to keep your legs clenched tightly together. All in all, a pretty uncomfortable time.

After mini-skirts came midi-skirts. Midi-skirts looked beautiful on tall, slender, long-legged women but they lost something in the translation when the wearer was 5 feet tall and um, more stocky than slender by now. I was lucky to survive the midi-skirt era. My hems got caught in my high heels (speaking of a fashion statement that should be banished forever) and, more than once, sent me tumbling to the ground. I almost caused a wreck when my skirt bottom wrapped itself in a death grip around my gas pedal. I was glad to see that particular era fade away.

By then, pant suits were acceptable in work places and everywhere else. Gratefully, I filled my closet with them and never looked back.

Hillary is about my age. I expect she went through the same fashion transitions that I did and emerged on the same side of comfort and convenience. Can you imagine how uncomfortable she would be sitting on a stage with seven men at a debate, more concerned with desperately trying to keep her skirt down and her thighs together than framing an answer to a foreign policy question? Or walking down the freezing streets of New Hampshire knocking on doors with bare legs. Or frantically holding on to her skirt in a stiff wind during a photo op in Des Moines? And I'm sure that when you are constantly on the campaign trail, "coordinated" outfits are simply a matter of practicality.

Sometimes, things are just a matter of commonsense and have no complex psychological undercurrents. I suspect Robin Givhan simply used her column as an excuse to make fun of Hillary by showing off her own form of snide sophistication.

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