The August Harper's Bazaar has a four-page piece by Maureen Dowd with the title "Democrats vs. Republicans: Who Dresses Best?" The text is full of quotes from both sides of the aisle, but this being Bazaar, what matters is the pictorial, and here it's six pairs of photos, Democrats invariably to the left, Republicans to the right. All the photos were previously published; there were no new pictures taken for this piece. How I see them:

Teresa Heinz Kerry vs. Laura Bush

Page 121, top: Teresa Heinz Kerry vs. Laura Bush. Slightly skewed by context: the Heinz Kerry shot is from some sort of public forum, while the Bush photo appears to come from one of the First Lady's reading-promotion events, for which she would likely be dressed in a somewhat subdued manner. And so she is: white pantsuit over a thin but modest top, one string of pearls. Heinz Kerry is sideways on a chair in a blue suit cut to just above the knee; her head is turned about 90 degrees, as though she were distracted by something. Decent pair of legs, though. Draw.

Alexandra Kerry vs. Barbara and Jenna Bush

Page 121, bottom: Alexandra Kerry vs. Barbara and Jenna Bush. The Kerry shot is from her infamous Cannes appearance, though this is a three-quarter profile, emphasizing the slit in her gown rather than its transparency. The shot of the Bush girls is from the 2001 inaugural ball, and to me, it looks like they were instructed to look as young as possible; there's a definite prom-dress quality to both of their outfits. They look like they're at least staying awake, though; Alexandra Kerry, tall and stately, seems bored out of her mind. Draw.

Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Nancy Reagan Page 122, top: Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Nancy Reagan. Both these women are Known Quantities: you can pretty much predict their outfits before they appear. Neither of these photos is particularly flattering: Nancy looks like she's been frozen in time, and Hillary is giving out with one of her patented forced smiles. Both docked a point for excessive helmet-headedness. Nancy, however, has legendarily-nice stems. Advantage: R.

Vanessa Kerry vs. Lauren Bush Page 122, bottom: Vanessa Kerry vs. Lauren Bush. The President's niece may be the best-looking of the Bush clan, and she is particularly fine here in a spaghetti-strapped metallic-looking dress of prodigious tightness. Kerry's daughter is more subdued, but her slightly-disorganized hairdo is more appealing than Lauren's slightly-disorganized hairdo, and so far she's the only one of the Kerry family whose smile seems believable. Draw.

Nancy Pelosi vs. Condoleezza Rice Page 123, top: Nancy Pelosi vs. Condoleezza Rice. Two cases of, if not wardrobe malfunction, certainly misjudgment. Condi's white blouse, black jacket and belted trousers qualify as conservative, perhaps even self-effacing. Nancy's in a summery red California two-piece suit that pushes her waistline higher than it should and ends far enough below the knee to make her look more bottom-heavy than she might like. Draw.

Chelsea Clinton vs. Ann Coulter Page 123, bottom: Chelsea Clinton vs. Ann Coulter. Bill's daughter is wrapped in an oddly- patterned black dress, sort of like an astronomical chart with fringe, which is actually fairly flattering, and it's cut to the right length for her about three inches below the knee. Coulter is renowned for her short skirts, and this is one of them; this two-piece outfit makes the most of her otherwise-modest assets, though she looks unhappy and she could probably benefit from a visit to Krispy Kreme. Meanwhile, Chelsea is smiling up a storm. Advantage: D.

Based on this, I'm not at all prepared to make any assertions one way or another. The last paragraph of the piece quotes Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway:

Washington sets policies; it doesn't set trends. Even when a woman gets the outfit right and is wearing a beautiful suit, her accessories never seem to match.

And maybe that's just as well.

The Vent

  22 July 2004

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 Copyright © 2004 by Charles G. Hill