Sandy Dumont

Presidential style: Analysis and tips from a professional image consultant

Like it or not, fashion styling is an important part of any political campaign. If you're a Presidential candidate (or a Presidential candidate's wife), your fashion choices can make a statement in more ways than one. For example, when Michelle Obama wore a $148 dress from her local White House Black Market shop in Chicago during her June 18 appearance on The View, it was not only a very flattering choice for her but it also sent the message that Michelle is no snob--that she is very egalitarian and doesn't have to buy designer clothes. She came across as someone who wanted to be one of the girls. By contrast, Cindy McCain's look during the Republican National Convention on September 1st reportedly cost up to $313,000. That has the potential to turn off some voters. You don't want to seem too high-fashion. If everybody knows you're wearing an expensive suit, it can create resentment.

Here is my analysis of style choices made by the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and their wives. Remember: these do's and don'ts can help anyone project a more powerful, polished, and professional image--whether or not you have political aspirations!

Does John McCain's image say "Presidential"?

John McCain

John McCain very often wears ties that are too pale. The tie is the one element of a man's business attire where he can make a statement about who he is. Pastel ties do not make a statement, so they diminish power.

At a recent gathering, McCain wore a light blue shirt with a solid yellow tie. Without patterns, yellow ties can appear washed out, and particularly when worn with a pastel blue shirt, as McCain did. McCain wears a pale blue shirt and dark grey suit (one is striped and one is solid) in both photos, but he looks more presidential with the red striped tie. The pale blue shirt gives a more informal look than a white shirt.

Does Barack Obama's image say "Presidential"?

Barack Obama

Obama favors black suits with white shirts. This is an okay look, provided he wears a classy tie in a bold color (not grey, which he also favors). Unfortunately, the look on the left is not presidential, because the dark shirt and tie make him look forbidding, even shady, because of the shadows they reflect on his face.

He looks the most presidential in a dark navy blue suit worn with a white shirt and power tie in any shade of red, including raspberry. Although he looks good in black suits, navy is a better color for him. The black windbreaker and shirt he wore at the press conference in Hawaii was far from presidential and hurt his image.

Does Cindy McCain's image say "First Lady"?

Cindy McCain

Left picture:
Cindy McCain is an attractive woman, but brown is not a good color for her because it makes her look "blah". Brown is symbolic of Mother Earth and says, "I'd rather be baking cookies." Furthermore, a turtleneck looks collegiate and the tiny earring studs are very modest, so this look doesn't befit a powerful businesswoman nor a First Lady.

Right picture:
Cindy McCain has a winning look in her fuchsia suit, and it is a great color for her. Fuchsia is a feminine color, and its power can go up dramatically by wearing bolder accessories. As it is, the demure pearls diminish its power somewhat.

Both pictures:
Lastly, Cindy McCain has a slightly pointed chin, and jackets with a "V" closure at the neck emphasizes this.

Does Michelle Obama's image say "First Lady"?

Michelle Obama

Color is the cornerstone of image, and the colors you wear can make you look happy or sad, dynamic or dull and even younger or older.

Michelle Obama looks dynamic and happy in the violet dress. By comparison, she looks somewhat demure and passive in the pale lavender dress. A single strand of pearls can also suggest demurity, but the vibrant violet color overrides any suggestion of this. A US president's wife needs to look engaged and happy, and pale colors easily come across as too timid, especially when paired with pearls.

Dark colors will suggest either authority or severity. Michelle Obama needs brighter lipstick to offset the severity of the dark colors she wears, left. In order to suggest dynamic rather than conservative, bold power earrings such as chunky hoops or doorknockers would be more effective than the double strand of pearls.

Learn more about Sandy's work on her website, The Image Architect

Does fashion affect your impression of political candidates? Will the U.S. Presidential candidates' style choices affect your vote this November? Add your comments below!


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