- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2016


It’s the year of the pantsuit.

Throughout recent history, American fashions have reflected the styles of the first ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy’s elegant suits and pillbox hats to Nancy Reagan’s signature red to Michelle Obama’s sleeveless dresses that have inspired ladies to embrace their feminine side (and work on toning their muscles).

With the Obamas leaving the White House, who is the latest American political fashion inspiration? Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, would seem an obvious choice, with beautiful haute couture dresses perfectly fitting her petite figure. But Mrs. Trump is not your average American woman who needs workable styles that don’t break middle-class budgets.

Enter Hillary Clinton, pursuing the most powerful position on earth. She is determined not to be a fashion plate any more than she is willing to stay home baking cookies. What she does want is to be the one wearing the pants in the White House. Occasional housecoats aside, her wardrobe shows she means business.

Fashion houses have taken note and are offering their own versions of Mrs. Clinton’s style. Take Ann Taylor, which this season is introducing pieces such as the Modern Suit and the Romantic Blouse as part of its ICONS collection. Women can pair the straight-leg pants with a matching black jacket, the gray Classic Blazer or any other color that suits them. The Vintage Petal color of the Single-Button Blazer is Ann Taylor’s version of Rose Quartz, Pantone’s color of the year, which flatters just about any woman’s complexion, including Mrs. Clinton’s.

Ann Taylor’s Romantic Blouse shows influences of Mrs. Clinton’s face-framing neckline, though the presidential candidate may find the ICONS collection’s Block Heel beautiful but impractical for long days of travel, wading through crowds and standing through speeches.

The night Mrs. Clinton made history by becoming the first woman to accept a presidential nomination from a major U.S. political party, she wore white in what was perhaps a symbolic tribute to the original breakers of the political glass ceiling, the women’s suffragists. No designer has come forth to take credit for her choice.

In addition to being powerful and practical, pantsuits can be glamorous. Amal Clooney, who as an international and human rights lawyer holds one of the most powerful positions on the planet, stopped fashion photographers in their tracks on Sept. 22 with her work outfit of the day: a bright pink Max Mara pantsuit and heels.

Other fashion houses offering power suits for women include Calvin Klein, which takes a more subdued approach to color, and Banana Republic, whose soft wool suits for the season emphasize patterns more than solids. It encourages women to break up the suits by pairing jackets with jeans and pants with cozy sweaters.

Punctuating the power statement, Glamour magazine recently advised women about the “fall 2016 fashion trend you’re going to want to get behind,” saying, “Hey, it looks like self-proclaimed ‘pantsuit aficionado’ Hillary Clinton was onto something all these years.”

• Cheryl Danehart can be reached at cdanehart@washingtontimes.com.

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