- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Laura Bush, Tipper Gore, Hadassah Lieberman and Lynne Cheney have a lot to learn about dressing for success and projecting the consummate image, consultants say.
So does Hillary Rodham Clinton, they add although Mrs. Clinton's eight years in the public eye has smoothed a lot of rough edges.
"When you look at the women, you think either they give off a polished, professional image or you wonder: Who dressed them?" says McLean, Va., image consultant Rita Gworek.
Mrs. Gworek maintains that dress is a form of communication. "You're talking about yourself before you open your mouth," she says. And speaking about the contenders' wives, she declares, "If the women aren't pulled together, I'll start judging the couple's credibility."
Until the advent of Gore campaign adviser Naomi Wolfe and her famous advice that the vice president wear earth-tone clothing, the only color most male politicians might think to worry about was the red in their power ties.
But women's color choices are expected at least by some to send signals.
Who can forget Nancy Reagan's red suits, or Corazon Aquino's I'm-more-than-just-a-wife yellow, or Barbara Bush's I'm-not-dead-yet bright colors topped by her signature white pearls?
Or the ultra-feminine pink blouse and sweater Mrs. Clinton wore during the 1994 press conference at which she proclaimed her innocence in the Whitewater affair?
Nonpolitical women also have used color to send messages.
Consider the shocking pink dress that Frances Swaggart wore as TV cameras in 1988 recorded her sobbing husband, the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, telling the world about his sexual misdeeds.
And the bright orange suit that talk-show host "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger wore on CNN's "Larry King" six weeks ago when she was asked to explain her views on homosexuality.
Sometimes loud colors send unwitting signals. The bright-green suit Mrs. Cheney wore on the day her husband, Richard B. Cheney, was announced as the Republican vice-presidential running mate overshadowed Mrs. Bush's light-gray outfit and the dark colors worn by George W. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
As Mrs. Cheney's customary outspokenness has been toned down in the course of the campaign, her clothes have gone to more muted shades. Her real love, she admitted in a recent interview, is dark pantsuits.
"They're very handy, you know," she said. "They don't show dirt."
Like all the campaign spouses, she avoids red.
"On brunettes, you can go a whole range of reds and it looks OK, but if you're blond, and if it's off a little bit, you look kind of sick," Mrs. Cheney observed. "It's hard to find red clothes that look good."
Blue, image consultants say, is considered ultra-safe with unimpeachable connections to motherhood. Mrs. Gore appeared in ice blue when Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman was announced as the Democratic vice-presidential pick while Mrs. Lieberman showed up in purple. Mrs. Clinton wore light blue the first night of the Democratic convention.
"Blue is a television color," says Fox TV fashion consultant Inga Guen. "It softens and brings a tremendous glow to the face."
"Blue is a cool color," says McLean image consultant Jane Pennewell. "It's calming. Red is power. Purple is royal. Green is geared toward nature."
All the political wives could be more polished, she adds.
"They could be sending very powerful messages if they knew the right colors to wear," she says. "I think they send very mixed messages."
The Republican wives are especially remiss because they tend to fade into the background.
"I look at Laura Bush," Mrs. Pennewell says, "and I think: That poor thing. She needs a new hairstyle."
The dull pine-green outfit Mrs. Bush wore Monday night when her husband appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was one of the worst shades she could have worn, Mrs. Pennewell said.
"Olive green will drain color out of most people," she says. She suggests muted colors. "If she wore a brown suit, to go with her hair, and a brick-red blouse, she would look fabulous."
Ms. Guen, who also owns the Washington boutique Once is Not Enough, says Mrs. Bush needs to avoid the librarian look.
"If you put Laura in a cashmere sweater with a beautiful silk scarf, that would make her less severe," Ms. Guen says. "Al Gore looked severe, too, until they loosened him up and put him in jeans and an open-necked shirt.
"If there was one woman who knew how to dress, it was Nancy Reagan. She always dressed her age and she never looked matronly. Once you're over 40, you have to be careful not to look that way."
Mrs. Reagan got raves from all the image consultants. Cindy McCain, wife of former Republican presidential contender John McCain, also was praised for her stylish tastes. "She's a classic, but has an edge to her clothes that's her own," one said.
Mrs. Clinton also received plaudits.
"Whoever advises her advises her well," said Isabella Regis, a fashion consultant for Nordstrom. "She knows how to dress professionally, how to present herself and what clothes to wear for traveling.
"I've seen Mrs. Gore, on the other hand, in outfits that aren't very professional, that don't travel well and look too relaxed for the image she's trying to create."
With the fall season in full swing, one can't go wrong with subdued shades, consultants said.
Their other suggestions: Try charcoal grays, not heavy blacks; wear lightweight cashmere with a scarf; avoid power red but try dark crimson; go for royal blue instead of dark blue. No patterned clothing; it confuses people. Stick with solids and stay on the message.
"Pastel colors automatically say femininity," Mrs. Gworek said. "Gray is neutral but it doesn't say anything. Dark purple is good if you want to look like a woman but still carry credibility."
When asked which women package themselves the best, image consultants picked the Democrats. Ms. Guen named Mrs. Lieberman.
"Hadassah is the most stunning," she says. "She packages herself perfectly. She could give all these other women advice. She has an innate style. It comes with a certain amount of knowledge over the years. She has an innate savoir-faire and she comes across as extremely feminine."
Mrs. Gworek chose Tipper Gore.
"Her body is easier to work with and blue is a very positive color," she says. "It shows confidence."
Mrs. Clinton still needs to pay better attention to how she dresses, Ms. Guen says.
"Hillary is not a romantic person, so I'd not put her in taffeta skirts and ball gowns. I'd put her in something slinky, tight body fitting, a bias-cut chiffon dress flowing all the way to the floor with long sleeves," she says. "She's an elegant person and she does best in straight lines."
But not in black.
"Ninety percent of the women in New York wear black, so I'd advise Hillary to stand out a bit," she says. "You need to win people over by the way you dress. She needs to package herself in ways complimentary to her, and in softer lines."

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