By Joseph Wulfsohn
Published November 22, 2019
The New York Times's fashion critic blasted Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's choice to wear a white pantsuit at Wednesday's Democratic debate but praised a similar look worn by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.
In a piece called, "Tulsi Gabbard’s White Pantsuit Isn’t Winning," Vanessa Friedman claimed Gabbard's look "leaves a chill" and that "no one seems to care." She also noted how this was the "third" debate in which Gabbard wore the white pantsuit.
"That kind of repetition, especially during events geared toward the public eye, does not happen by accident. There’s a reason she is opting for the imagery; a calculation behind the choice," Friedman wrote. "Part of the muted reaction probably has to do with the fact that Ms. Gabbard has engaged in a pretty public battle with Mrs. Clinton, calling her 'queen of the warmongers' after Mrs. Clinton suggested Ms. Gabbard was the favorite Democratic candidate of the Russians.
Despite the similar outfits, Friedman claimed Clinton's white pantsuit, which she wore to accept the party's nomination at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, became "a cause célèbre" and led to the #WearWhiteToVote hashtag on social media.
Friedman fawned over Clinton's look and linked it to the women's suffrage movement.
"It was not just showing people who do not understand her and who do not trust her who she is as a person, or laying out her policy proposals, but also demonstrating that when she represents them on the world stage, she would do so with that hard-to-pin-down aura of leadership and power. And she did," Friedman wrote at the time. "In her white suit, with her white crew neck underneath, Mrs. Clinton looked supremely unflappable: perfectly tailored and in control. Not a hair out of place (but some hair nicely waved). The kind of person who could carry the nuclear codes with aplomb."
However, in this week's piece, Friedman drew contrasts between Clinton and 2020 hopeful Marianne Williamson's look, which she also wore at a prior debate, and the look of the Hawaii congresswoman.
"Her white suits are not the white suits of Ms. Clinton, nor even the white of Ms. Williamson, whose early appearances in the shade often seemed tied to her wellness gospel and ideas of renewal and rebirth. Rather, they are the white of avenging angels and flaming swords, of somewhat combative righteousness (also cult leaders)," Friedman continued. "And that kind of association, though it can be weirdly compelling, is also not really community building. It sets someone apart, rather than joining others together. It has connotations of the fringe, rather than the center."