“I hope Hillary will wear something nice like a dress. But she will probably wear a pantsuit," one anonymous New York designer told Women's Wear Daily when asked to predict what Hillary Clinton might wear when accepting the Democratic Party's presidential nomination
Of course, Clinton, a self-proclaimed pantsuit aficionado, did just that on Thursday night. From the moment she clapped back 24 years ago with her comment about not staying home and baking cookies, it was clear that Clinton was not here to play nice or adhere to anyone's idea of what a woman should do. She came to shatter glass ceilings.
Clinton has defied stereotypes throughout her political career, from First Lady to Senator to Secretary of State to running a presidential campaign (twice). But like the first woman to run for president, Shirley Chisholm, Clinton has also used her wardrobe as an act of defiance. While Chisholm used her clothing full of bold prints, cat-eye glasses, and power suits to highlight her femininity in a world of white men, Clinton employs brightly-colored pantsuits to show those same men not only can she dress like them, but that she can make hard decisions, give iconic speeches, and run for president too.
It might seem frivolous to talk about what a woman was wearing on one of the biggest nights in history. But when women are still constantly told how they should or shouldn't dress, it's more than appropriate. Last night, Clinton chose a crisp ivory two-piece pantsuit with a matching high-neck blouse. It was sleek. It was modern. It made a statement for women everywhere, whether intentional or not.
There was a time when women were forbidden to wear pants on the House floor. In 1969, Republican congresswoman Charlotte Reid became the first woman to wear pants in the chamber. This caused an uproar and offended the men in attendance, according to The Washington Post. It wasn't until 1993 when Democratic senator Barbara Mikulski and Republican senator Nancy Kassebaum wore trousers as a form of protest and told all the other women who worked at the Senate to join them that the rule was finally overturned, paving the way for women like Hillary Clinton to wear whatever she pleases.
She is the first and only First Lady to wear pants in her official portrait. And in 1999, she even wore a pantsuit to a fancy White House gala. Still, Clinton has been constantly ridiculed for her go-to fashion choice. During her 2008 presidential campaign, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said that she only wore pantsuits to "conceal her bad legs."
In fighting for the right to vote over 100 years ago, women suffragists often wore the color white during their marches and protests. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate for a major party, wore white to accept her nomination in 1984. Hillary Clinton's all-white suit seemed to be subtle nod to the women who paved the way for her to be on that stage. For Clinton, the color white also symbolizes new beginnings and a blank clean slate that she plans to build upon.
The idea that Scandal protagonist (and fictional character Olivia Pope) styled Hillary Clinton seemed like an outlandish theory until we found out that Shonda Rhimes, the owner of Thursday nights and our emotions, secretly produced Clinton's biographical film Hillary. Pope, before she did some dark things last season, had a wardrobe full of whites and creams to represent her gladiator white hat. In a world of men, she gets it done. We're guessing this was Hillary Clinton's way of telling the world…it's handled.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.