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Commentary: No one's obsessed with what Kamala Harris wears — and that's a good thing

By Sara Bauknecht, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Fashion Daily News

PITTSBURGH — There's been a lot of controversies and questions swirling around this year's presidential election. The fashion choices of the candidates haven't been among them.

Historically, pundits pontificate about who's wearing what, when and where. If the candidate happens to be a woman, that scrutiny is usually tenfold.

But that hasn't been the case for Kamala Harris, the Democrats' vice presidential pick. Sure, she's been picked apart about other things, but not as much for her personal style in comparison to past elections.

In 2012, sartorial experts scratched their heads about GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's baggy suits. President Donald Trump caught flack in the 2016 election (and still does) for his extra-long red ties. And Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has become so synonymous with aviator-style sunglasses that he mentions them in his Twitter bio.

Pop culture had a love-hate relationship with 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her monochrome pantsuits. Some fashion magazines labeled them as "iconic," and a private Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation cheered her on. Others turned them into social media memes.

In the 2008 presidential race, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin boosted sales of eyeglasses. She often sported square frames, which prompted a lot of other Americans to want them, too.


This time around, I've heard and read a lot less about what Harris wears. A Google search for "Kamala Harris fashion" brings up a couple pages of stories on the subject, but they don't dominate daily headlines.

The bulk of the stories offer a substantive dive into Harris' wardrobe rather than smearing or shaming her for her appearance. For Harper's Bazaar, Leah Faye Cooper penned a piece titled "How Kamala Harris uses style to tell her story." She quotes fashion experts and academics who say that Harris' go-to outfits — tailored pantsuits, jeans, simple shirts and sometimes sneakers — suggest that she's comfortable in her own skin, ready for anything and down-to-earth.

The website traced her love of pearl necklaces back 30-plus years through a series of photos, including one from her graduation from Howard University in 1986.

Town & Country described her style as "remarkably unremarkable," noting that Harris' outfits "present little to read into, rejecting the obligation placed on women politicians to speak with their clothing." (I don't think Palin or Clinton — or even Ryan — were trying to say anything profound with their eyewear or suiting. But that didn't stop the public from trying to put words into their mouths.)


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