Women politicians and their fashions — the messages they send

STYLE MATTERS: HBO’s Veep starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Many citizens of this country admit to being embarrassed that the United States, the leader of the free world, has yet to elect a female vice president or president. Veep, an HBO vehicle for Seinfeld alumna Julia Louis-Dreyfus, will do nothing to allay their concerns. Even the name of the show evokes a wince or two. Veep? Sounds like a pet the Flintstones might have owned. JLD plays Vice President Selina Meyers, the same character type she played on Seinfeld and New Adventures of the Old Christine — Elaine, always Elaine.

One would think the most important issue of this show would be to create some decent content. A challenge not yet met if you have caught an episode. But no. What is the biggest challenge? How to dress Louis-Dreyfus. Ernesto Martinez, the lead costume designer, was in a quandary. Who would be her fashion role model for vice president? According to an article in the New York Times, he immediately dismissed Hillary Rodham Clinton (her pant suits are too boring) and Nancy Pelosi (too old). Instead, he defaulted to the obvious — Michelle Obama. “Michelle Obama is the best thing that Washington, D.C., has seen in a long time,” Martinez said, speaking of her well-documented love of fashion and the wide range of designers she has favored over the last three years. Thus, you will see JLD wearing dresses that mimic Mrs. Obama’s signature look: Sleeveless, bare-arm dresses. This look is fine for a first lady, not so appropriate for a woman vice president who is one Jimmy Choo shoe away from the presidency.

Inadvertently, Veep has some key messages to communicate on the importance of dress and image in the workplace.

Here are a few of her fashion faux pas.

1. Cleavage on the job

As for the occasional va-va-voom piece Louis-Dreyfus wears, Martinez said, “They were not supposed to be sexy, just tailored, but it turns out Julia has quite the body. She’s naturally sexy, so it came off that way.” Naturally sexy or not, research shows that women who wear low-cut tops to work are passed over for promotions more often than their more modestly dresses female colleagues, according to an article on Forbes.com. Furthermore, the article goes on to quote a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly indicating “that women in high-level positions who dress in what is seen as sexy attire are viewed as less competent — regardless of their skill sets.” Hey Veep, button up. 

As for the occasional va-va-voom piece Louis-Dreyfus wears, such as in the above photo, Martinez said, “They were not supposed to be sexy, just tailored, but it turns out Julia has quite the body. She’s naturally sexy, so it came off that way.”

2. Designer dressing

Apparently, Selina Meyers is very wealthy and not ashamed to flaunt her balance sheet. She wears millions of dollars worth of pearls, a Cartier watch, sky-high heels by Prada and Christian Louboutin, dresses from expensive French design house Christian Dior and suits by Italy’s Prada. My guess is no one else in the Veep’s office has that kind of budget nor is their wardrobe so upscale. Meyer’s wardrobe sets her apart from her staff and peers and not in a good way. Dressing to fit your profession sends the message that you are part of the office team, share the same values and respect the corporate culture. In JLD’s case, this should mean stashing the Pradas in the back of her closet and moving the Talbots and Ann Taylors up to the front.

3. Missing the most important item in a professional woman’s wardrobe — a jacket

It takes only a few minutes to Google image tips for job interviews and promotions to realize that a blazer or jacket confers authority and expertise on women in the workplace. Research data goes all the way back to John T. Molloy’s definitive text, Dress for Success, published in 1976. And not just any blazer. Molloy’s research discovered that a solid navy blazer is the most effective in conveying the message: “I’m the boss.” So far, in the first two episodes, Veep Meyers has mostly been seen in a sexy little black dress.

So far, in the first two episodes, Veep Meyers has mostly been seen in a sexy little black dress instead of a blazer or jacket, which would convey a more professional image.

Poor Meyers makes gaffe after gaffe turning to her poor staff to help her out of one awkward situation after another. At one point, she begs them: “I need you all to make me have not said that. I need you to make me un-said it.”

Maybe the staff should un-dress her and redress her more appropriately. Then at least the Veep would look the part.

Judie Schwartz, whose Style Matters columns appear in The Colorado Statesman, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents seminars on the importance of a professional image, shopping tips and fashion trends. She can be reached at:
• stylematters1@gmail.com
• www.stylematters.us
• Facebook: StyleMatters1
• Twitter: StyleMatters123

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