Stella Cretek

Do Rags Make the Woman?

By - Sep 11th, 2008 02:52 pm
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My first dance demanded a special dress…long, lavish, and designed to fit a movie star like Rita Hayworth. It was nowhere near Cindy McCain’s controversial pumped up pumpkin-colored princess ensemble she wore at the Republican convention. Ah no, the dress of my dreams cost nowhere near the estimated $300,000 Cindy frock, but in all fairness, her outfit included a Chanel watch, diamond earrings and real pearls. The result made her look like Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. What was she thinking?

As I write, I’m thinking about fashionistas of the political persuasion. I’ve lived long enough to view quite a few, including Bess Truman who looked like a frump, no matter what her spouse, Harry S. said she could spend. My favorite era was Ike’s reign when Mamie-of-the-short bangs was on his arm instead of his mistress. Mamie favored tiny snippets of tiny hats.

It’s odd isn’t it how specific items of clothing define life’s route? Now that Mad Men is on the tube, I can identify fully with the nipped-in waist and crinoline thing, though when I was in my late twenties, living in a suburban tri-level, I was given to aping Jackie-O, whose spending must have driven Jack mad. She of the dark eyes and languid limbs made fashion exciting enough that I rushed out and bought two sheath dresses (with matching pumps). Hidden in my bathroom drawer was a “fall,” i.e. fake hair meant to be worn with a wide headband. Jackie did it, so I did too. Dressing to kill extended to nights at the Milwaukee Symphony, where I sat regally in a box seat, gowned in a black and white ball gown with matching elbow-length white gloves. If she could do it, so could I.

Pat Nixon (usually out of sight), Betty Ford (a former dancer given to drink), and Ladybird Johnson weren’t exactly runway material, but they weren’t exactly frumps either. Nancy Reagan preferred chic Republican Red, and compared to Nancy, Laura Bush is positively saintly in sensible suits with cropped jackets and slim skirts. Rosalind Carter’s clothes never ever called attention to Rosalind per se, and compared to Cindy, Jimmy shelled out a fairly modest amount of peanuts for R’s rags.

Hillary’s traveling pants suits were (and are) reliably hilarious in their diverse hues, and certainly their dull styling sends a message that Hil isn’t given to letting her clothes wear her. Sarah Palin passes muster (barely), even in her moose-hunting ensemble and 70s rock ‘n roll hair. Michele Obama? I recently read that one of her outfits tallied in at over a grand. That said, a simple frock she wore during the run-up was designed by a graduate of Mount Mary College here in Beer Town.

Perhaps all female candidates (wives or otherwise), should appear gowned in sackcloth, a crown of thorns on their heads, for who knows when a cub reporter wearing a Target special will leap from the bushes and report each and every fashion detail? It’s hard to feel anything for Cindy McCain, but yes, I admit, I do feel a tad sorry for any woman whose bones are picked over and thrown to the masses.

Bling or no bling, it must be hell being in the political spotlight. By way of comparison, I’ve included an image of my Grandparents. Standing outside of their home somewhere in South Dakota, they’re not entirely oblivious to fashion. Check out grandma’s beaver coat and her shoes embellished with buttons. Those shoes and that hat are in style in 2008.

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Categories: Dem Bones

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