In the Ballot Box Style Plays a Hand With Voters

Forget the New Hampshire primary today - if the presidential vote were to be held now, the winner in the political style stakes would be Hillary Clinton.

with contributions from Robert Murphy
Forget the New Hampshire primary today — if the presidential vote were to be held now, the winner in the political style stakes would be Hillary Clinton.

Of course, that excludes former model Carla Bruni, French President Nicholas Sarkozy's reported new paramour. But who would come in second? Most likely Argentina's former first lady and new president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a leader who is not about to give up her designer clothes and daily 45-minute salon visits in favor of prim suits.

"My favorite is Ms. Clinton," Karl Lagerfeld said, "because you have no real idea what she is wearing. She is so clever and so brilliant that you see only her face — but also what she wears is right, you never really look at it because one is fascinated by her intelligence. But there is never a gimmick or bad detail either."

Even though 12 women are heads of state, more than at any time in history, these days female politicians clearly need more than a solid platform to stand on — they also need just the right shoe, skirt length, cleavage-free top and perfectly styled hair. Superficial as the appearance issue is, in light of the war in Iraq, Pakistan's unrest, Kenya's ethnic strike, world hunger, global warming and nuclear armament, it will no doubt be a factor in the American presidential race, just as it was in the Argentine contest.

With cameras always at the ready in this YouTube society, politicians now know any dressing down will be well-documented, as Clinton learned after dancing in her bathing suit with her husband on the beach years back. Perhaps that's why she now tends to stick to her ever safe and tasteful pantsuits. After all, the one time she didn't, wearing a cleavage-revealing top last summer on the Senate floor, she was beaten up for it.

But Oscar de la Renta, who as fashion's ambassador to the White House makes a habit of dressing all political parties, still wishes the presidential candidate would loosen up a bit more. He said he jokes with Clinton about wanting to live to see her in a strapless dress.

Kidding aside, he said, "I think there is a great deal of male chauvinism in this country. It's time for all of us to assess the individual more intelligently and not think, 'This is a woman, this is a man,' to think of the abilities and preparedness a person has."
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