Breaking Free From the Power Suit

My, my, the Bush administration sure does seem to make fashion waves on its trips to Europe. First there was the shameful Cheney in his “Staff 2001″ knit hat and green, fur-trimmed parka at the Auschwitz ceremony. And now Condoleezza Rice is raising brows among cultural critics with her fashion pick for the Wiesbadan Army Airfield.

Washington Post style writer, Robin Givhan critiques:
“Rice’s coat and boots speak of sex and power — such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual.”
“Rice challenges expectations and assumptions. There is undeniable authority in her long black jacket with its severe details and menacing silhouette…If there is any symbolism to be gleaned from Rice’s stark garments, it is that she is tough and focused enough for whatever task is at hand.”

While I’m still wrestling with Givhan’s critique, I’m struck by the fashion conundrum that powerful women are left to wrestle with. By breaking with her usual uniform — “a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps” — Rice got cast a dominatrix. While I personally think that the “power-suit” is an extremely unflattering look, why does breaking free of a two-piece suit imply sexual deviance? It seems that even in wardrobe choices, critics are eager to impose the virgin/whore dichotomy on women.
Any thoughts?

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14 Comments

  1. Posted February 26, 2005 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I think that Givhan is making entirely too big of a deal out of this. I think that Rice looks attractive, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, or a ploy for power, or anything. Maybe she just got tired of her normal attire?

  2. Abigail
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s really annoying how women have to wardrobe issues. I’m not a fan of Rice, but I’m not going to pick on her because of what she’s wearing. It all comes back to appearance.

  3. zuzu
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    It’s a very martial outfit with the buttons and the black. Had it been a different color, I don’t think that would have been the conclusion. Of course, we’d probably still have to sit through deconstruction of the sexiness of the outfit.
    Personally, I had first seen a picture of her sitting down, and my first thought was, “Nice boots.” And then I thought that it was a much different, more modern look for her. It’s an outfit I’d see on a coworker, but I don’t think I love it for the Secretary of State (and you don’t know how painful it is for me to type those words in reference to Kinda Sleazy Rice).

  4. tfreridge
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone remember Madeline Not-so-Bright and those brooches and pins she wore?

  5. C-Bird
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a big Rice fan myself but I actually like her outfit. Men can’t get away with much more than a sport jacket and tie, but women have more variation on what is considered professional. It is a shame that one would even bother to write about what she is wearing…

  6. Posted February 28, 2005 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. I pretty much don’t give a shit what anyone wears in any postion as long as it is appropriate to the situation. I.e. business casual for business casual, business formal for business formal.
    She wasn’t showing too much skin, she was dressed stylishly.
    I don’t really get it.

  7. crella
    Posted March 2, 2005 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Had Ann Coulter said this the board would be on fire…

  8. luhuien
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  9. luhuien
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  10. Sonya Klarson
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Mary is determined to enjoy her freedom to the fullest; she thinks: “What was the good, after all, of being a woman if one didn’t keep fresh, and cram one’s life with all sorts of views and experiments?”.
    For Mary, the spheres of home and work are symbiotic: “to have sat there [in her room] all day long, in the enjoyment of leisure would have been intolerable”. She leaves her flat in the morning, rides the tube, looks in shop windows, and mingles with the army of workers on the streets of London. The office of the suffrage society where she works is in Bloomsbury, “at the top of one of the large Russell Square houses, which had once been lived in by a great city merchant and his family, and was now let out in slices to a number of societies… disseminating their views upon the protection of native races, or the value of cereals as foodstuffs”.
    In the late nineteenth century, Bloomsbury was a favored location for many organizations dedicated to women’s rights, a choice that, as Lynne Walker has argued, had the effect of undermining the traditional role of women in the domestic sphere: “feminists… adapted their family homes for meetings and other events associated with women’s rights, while the offices of related projects for women’s organisations, night clubs and restaurants were located within walking distance of their homes in Marylebone and Bloomsbury… This juxtaposition of home and work made the home a political space in which social initiatives germinated and developed.”

  11. GamesOnline
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

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  12. GamesOnline
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

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  13. GamesOnline
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

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  14. Life
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    10,000 Metres.—This was the first final to be decided and 25 contestants faced the starter. Kouts, the only man in the race to have bettered twenty-nine minutes, was expected to win. Withdrawal of Zátopek, champion in 1948 and 1952, was a disappointment but Mimoun, second to Zátopek on both occasions, was in the field. Kouts was in the lead on reaching the first turn and by the second lap he and Pirie, a yard or two behind him, were on their own.
    It was obvious that Kouts was the only one to beat, and although for sixteen laps Pirie looked a danger, it was Kouts who dictated the pace. After the half distance Kouts alternately sprinted and slowed up and in the twentieth lap forced the reluctant Pirie to take the lead, only to turn on a blistering sprint, and Pirie showing the first sign of weakening, fell back and almost stopped running, finishing eighth whilst Kouts forged ahead. Kovács (Hungary) and Lawrence (Australia), in finishing second and third became the fourth and fifth ever to beat twenty-nine minutes. Lawrence’s time bettered his previous best by nearly half a minute. The first three were all ahead of Zátopek’s 1952 record of 29 mins. 17.0 secs.
    Marathon.—An innovation which greatly assisted competitors in the road events, both in training and competition, was the painting on the road of a bright green broken line over the whole of the route. This ensured that they never got “off course”. It overcame language difficulties when training, for competitors did not need to ask directions as to the route. It also permitted accurate measurement. The day of the marathon was hot and sunny with a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade). There was a medium breeze on the return journey.
    For the first time in Olympic history the runners were re-called at the first attempt to start, but at the second try the 46 runners were away. Two and a half laps and they left the Main Stadium led by a group running very fast. Nineteen hundred and fifty-two winner Zátopek was given a special cheer but few noticed the only Frenchman, Mimoun, who although two years older than Zátopek was like him in 1952, an experienced long-distance athlete but a marathon novice. At the age of 36 he was perhaps considered too old.
    At 5 kilometres the field had spread out and in the lead after 16 mins. 25 secs. were Kanuti (Kenya), Lee (Korea) and Davies (South Africa). On their heels was a second group consisting of the two Russians, Filine and Ivanov, with Kotila and Oksanen of Finland, and Mimoun and F. Norris of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    By the 10-kilometre post Kotila was in the lead ahead of Filine, Ivanov, Mimoun, Karvonen (Finland), Norris and Kanuti; behind this group came Oksanen, Perry (Australia), Mihalic (Yugoslavia), Zátopek, Lee, Nilsson and Nyberg of Sweden.

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