Saturday, October 29, 2005

I realize that being a fashion reporter might seem like a rather limiting profession for a reporter who has grander aspirations. But Robin Givhan really takes the cake for the way she publishes snarky columns about public figres and their looks. Apparently, she is capable of great psychological insights based on a photograph of what someone wore or the make up someone chose to use. Forget the psychoanalyst's couch - Givhan has access to news photos!

Yesterday, she chose to weigh in on Harriet Miers' cosmetics choices.
While her restrained suits steered clear of any flashy references to femininity, Miers wore makeup applied in the manner of a young woman who views eyeliner as something quite grown-up, tough and just a little bit sexy. This isn't a question of height, weight or age or any fixed trait. In turning to cosmetics, Miers made a conscious decision to alter her appearance. She made a choice to exaggerate her eyes and demand that they be noticed.

As a result, Miers executed a clumsy merger of Washington's particular brand of stodgy power-dressing with one of the iconic markers of gender: dark-rimmed, look-at-me eyes. (But as Bobbi Brown might say, "Blend, blend, blend!")

In some ways, part of what made Miers's eyeliner distracting was the fact that it was visible at all. Here was proof of someone trying to pretty herself up. In official Washington, where it can often be difficult to get folks to even admit that they own a mirror -- let alone that they spend any time in front of it -- here was a woman who admitted to vanity.
Yes, it's all about the eye-liner. What was a middle-aged woman appearing on camera day after day thinking about trying to "pretty herself up?" Real power women wouldn't be thinking about their appearance when they should have been boning up on Constitutional law?

You might remember Robin Givhan. She's the nasty reporter who commented quite snarkily on how Mrs. Roberts dressed her children just too perfectly in their pastel Sunday clothes to go to the White House when their father was nominated for the Supreme Court. And remember how critical she was of Dick Cheney's choice of jacket at the ceremony at Auschwitz? I guess his jacket distracted her from the heavy thoughts about the Holocaust she might have had otherwise. But one administration official she has approved of in a fashion sense is Condoleezza Rice. Givhan was just breathless on the Secretary of State's choice of black boots and the impression of sex and power. Apparently, Givhan approves if your clothes choice is reminiscent of The Matrix.

And, during the 2004 campaign, she felt compelled to agree with John Kerry that the Democratic ticket just had the better hair. She looked at the Republican hair do's and concluded: Yech!
President Bush has enough hair to fully cover his head, but it is a dull gray thatch that is unremarkable and never seems to glisten even when he is standing in direct sunlight. Even though the president keeps it clipped short, there always seems to be a thin spray of unruly strands that poke out in multiple directions.

Vice President Cheney has thinning white hair, and the few strands that are there are so lacking in body and bounce that in the presidential hair wars, they don't even register as wisps. For all intents and purposes, Cheney is bald. His is not the sexy Ed Harris version of bald but rather the curmudgeonly Wilford Brimley kind.
But that Democratic ticket? Be still her shallow heart.
In truth, the Democrats don't have the spectacular hair that might be found on a movie star, a musician or even one of the bike messengers dodging traffic on K Street. Big John and Little John don't have the kind of hair that can compete with Hugh Grant or Lenny Kravitz. They have typically conservative Washington haircuts. These are cuts intended to convey soberness, authority and honesty. That is why these styles also are favored by news anchors, bankers and others who strive to win the public's trust. These haircuts are not meant to dazzle. But for Washington, the candidates' hair is noticeably lush.

Edwards's hair has regularly been referred to as a mop, but that suggests that it is messy or unkempt. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has a precise haircut with artfully clipped layers. His hair is a beautiful shade of chocolate brown with honey-colored highlights. It is not particularly long, but it is smooth and shiny. It is boyish hair not because of the style but because it looks so healthy and buoyant and practically cries out to be tousled the same way a well-groomed golden retriever demands to be nuzzled.

Kerry's hair has gone from black to a salt-and-pepper blend -- a fact underscored every time a news program runs the ubiquitous footage of Kerry as an antiwar spokesman in 1971. Even before he brought Edwards aboard his campaign, stirring up images of the two in a greenroom sharing a pot of Aveda anti-humectant pomade, Kerry would make wistful comments about his hair's transformation from black to silver: Where did all that black hair go?

Not to worry. His hair may have turned silver, but he has arrived at age 60 seemingly without having lost a strand. What man wouldn't gloat, just a little?
Oh, blech! Fortunately, the American people don't vote based on such cosmetological criteria.

Perhaps there is just something wrong about assigning a fashion reporter to cover public figures. Maybe the Washington Post should assign Givhan some other beat since she seems to give "shallow" a new definition every time she takes up her keyboard to comment on politics.

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