There’s a Public Service Announcement playing here in the States that features the First and Second Ladies talking about supporting the military and military families. While I’m all for the message, the commercial irritates me every time it’s on because of how they’re dressed.
Mrs. Obama is in a brow, white, and blue cotton dress that looks like she’s getting ready to have lunch with some girlfriends. Mrs. Biden is in a light blue satin dress that looks like she’s on her way to an afternoon wedding or evening cocktails. While both dresses are pretty enough, they don’t work with each other OR the message.
Coordinating day dresses in dark or patriotic colors would have been more appropriate, in my opinion. Military blue or green or the old red, white, and blue would reinforce their message and show their support. What they chose does neither of those things. It just looks like they popped in to film the PSA on their way to go do other things.
Jacqueline Kennedy would never have made that mistake. From her inaugural day ensemble to her funeral clothes, she thought about EVERY outfit she wore as First Lady. It’s actually kind of cerebral.
Inaugural day outfit (by Oleg Cassini).
She knew every other woman there would be in a fur coat, and many were. So she chose a wool coat with a pillbox hat to stand out from the crowd and present a new, vibrant image.
Inaugural gala ball gown by Oleg Cassini. (Photo courtesy of JFKLibrary.org)
The cockade on the waist was a nod to her French heritage and to her love of history. Washington’s soldiers wore black cockades during the Revolutionary War. When the Marquis de Lafayette joined them, he wore a black and white cockade to show his loyalty to both Washington and the French king, Louis XVI.
Visiting Canada, May 1961 (ensemble by Oleg Cassini). She wore the colors of the Canadian Mounted Police, and they were delighted.
Dinner at Versailles with French President de Gualle, June, 1961. Her Givenchy gown was a hit.
TV tour of the White House, February, 1962. She wore red, because it was Valentine’s Day. (Suit by Oleg Cassini.)
State dinner with the Mexican President, May, 1962. Light blue gown is reminiscent of the tropics. (Dress by Oleg Cassini.)
November, 1963: Funeral ensemble by Givenchy. The long veil was a nod to the French and Italian way of mourning.
She though through everything. The only one who’s come close since is the Duchess of Cambridge.
November, 2010: Her dark blue engagement announcement dress was reminiscent of Diana’s engagement announcement ensemble. Both highlighted the sapphire and diamond engagement ring.
April, 2011: Her wedding dress is reminiscent of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress, of another commoner who married a prince.
July, 2011: In Canada, wearing Canadian colors with a Canadian Maple leaf on her hat and lapel pin.
July, 2013: The steps of St. Mary’s after Prince George’s birth. Her blue and white polka dot dress is reminiscent of Diana’s after Prince Williams’ birth.
See the thought that went into these? It’s just that little extra effort that makes them so memorable.
Prince William has said repeatedly that he wished his mother could be here for all these milestones. Well, Kate is channeling Diana in her own way, in a loving gesture to her husband. It’s incredibly touching.
That’s what I want you to think about.
If you’re dressing for something really special or that will be captured forever on film, what can you do to bring more to the table and pay homage to someone else?
There’s a viral video making the rounds of the girl who wore her grandmother’s prom dress to her own prom this year. When she shows her grandmother before the big event, her grandmother breaks down in tears. It’s so very sweet – and thoughtful. It’s a bond they’ll forever share.
So getting back to ways you can make your clothing match your words:
- If you’re saying something serious, dark colors convey that.
- If you’re being light and cheerful, light colors convey that.
- If you’re paying homage to a particular group, wearing something they deeply relate to will instantly engender you to them.
But you need to be subtle about it. Whisper, don’t shout.
Mrs. Kennedy in Canada
The Duchess of Cambridge in Canada
Each is wearing her distinct style, with a nod to her audience. It’s clever. People like clever. So be clever when it comes to your clothes.
So what’s the bottom line?
Think before you dress.
Who’s your audience? What’s their history? What are their favorite colors? Symbols? Traditions? If you think in those terms, not only will your clothing match your content, you’ll also be able to win friends and influence people.
Try it yourself and see!
Diana Pemberton Sikes is an image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic. Want to find the best clothes for your body, budget, and lifestyle? Wardrobe Magic can help.