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Elena Kagan's Fashion Choices

Professional Dress: A Sign That You're Dull, Yet Wise?

The clothes we wear provide a shorthand for the type of person we are. So says the Washington Post's Robin Givhan, who argued this weekend that the "dull" and "dowdy" fashion choices of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan send the message that she is wise — because "bland equals responsible" and "matronly equals trustworthy."

The article, which also points out that "most women, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, cross their legs when sitting, but not Kagan," explains that Kagan sends a messages about who she is with her sartorial (and sitting) preferences:

People make choices about their appearance for all sorts of complicated reasons. And often, they glom on to a cliche because they find it reassuring and easy. They wear the dress of a particular social tribe because they want people to make assumptions about who they are.

Kagan's court-approved suits definitely send a message of who she is: a serious and accomplished attorney. But if a suit's an obvious professional look for men, for a woman the choice is "dowdy and dull." Still if you ask me the blue blazer Kagan's wearing in this pic doesn't look so dull! And what about Nancy Pelosi and her impeccable power outfits?

What do you make of the style sported by female leaders?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
kimmieb124 kimmieb124 7 years
WTF? This woman is a Supreme Court justice. Why do I care how she dresses?
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 7 years
I agree, runningesq. Blah.
runnereater runnereater 7 years
There's nothing wrong with suits, but perhaps Kagan's blazer could be a little more fitted to give a more feminine but still strong look. Props for the skirt and hose though! As for the whole crossed legs controversy, I don't see anything wrong with just keeping the legs closed as opposed to crossing the legs. We all have our own style.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Gah, can we stop talking about our female leaders and what they wear/ hair/ make-up?
Yesi-Jukebox Yesi-Jukebox 7 years
People are always going to try to make assumptions about a person's character because of how they dress and look. A lot more can be derived from her body language but I haven't observed her enough to make any judgements. Also, if a woman is wearing a skirt, she's gonna cross her legs in some way isn't she?
ShaynaLeah ShaynaLeah 7 years
A few points --- 1. Crossing your legs increases varicose veins since you're cutting off the circulation to veins when you do this 2. No. 2 is correct - it is appropriate to sit with legs together or crossed at the ankle (Even the Princess Diaries movie pointed that out... and that was from Disney!) 3. The blue blazer is ugly ... you can call it frumpy or out there or whatever, but it is not fashionable or flattering, however --- 4. It does not matter how fashionable Kagen is or is not, particularly since her moments of greatest influence will occur under a black robe! More on women, the wage gender gap, and body image at Life: Forward (
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
^^It's actually, according to traditional etiquette, improper for a woman to sit with her leg's crossed. Women were traditionally supposed to sit with their knees together with their feet slightly to the side, or crossed at the ankle. Sitting with one's legs crossed is more risque, so I think the point of the post is that Kagan's failure to cross her legs is in line with her "dull" appearance. Regardless, I hate the fact that "professional dress" for women is often equated with frumpy, matronly clothing. I'm a female attorney, and I refuse to wear clothing that's not cute and stylish. It's sexist to think that women should have to intentionally make themselves less attractive in order to be taken seriously.
chequettex chequettex 7 years
About the crossed legs vs. non-crossed: Maybe it's just uncomfortable for Elena Kagan to sit with her legs crossed! Plenty of women find that sitting position painful, but we do it anyway to appear feminine, modest, whatever. Apparently she's just not concerned enough about what people will think of her if she doesn't do it to do it. And maybe, just maybe, she's got more important things on her mind than how her legs are positioned while she sits.
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