A Huffington Post writer interviewed me for a professional opinion about Senator Kamala Harris’ personal style. Her story’s headline – What Kamala Harris’ Style Choices Say About Her Politics – misleads. This is just the beginning of the problem with a profile in style piece like this. Since I scored two quotes in the story, I will use my platform to set forth a complete profile in style of Senator Kamala Harris.
An invisible but noticeable chasm exists by the media’s unequal coverage of how high-profile women and men dress. This type of coverage almost always focuses on women, leading to cries of misogyny and debates over relevance. However, only covering the way people dress undercuts the deeper issue at hand: the image people portray. That a woman wrote this article about another woman in this era has some of the HuffPost’s readers – well – in a huff.
People Profile Style and Substance Alike
The HuffPost’s writer says that voters aren’t exclusively interested in policy, that they’re invested in a candidate’s personality, too. I do think that the author is correct here, and also think that voters behave with a whole range of human interests. In politics, I believe that a candidate’s positions and policies are first and foremost of importance. Competence is equally important. And yet, another human-interest that voters have has to do with relatability. Can a voter relate with the candidate, and does the candidate appear relatable to her constituency?
Working as an image consultant, I could see how my interest in this topic is not necessarily music to everyone’s ears. But, trust me in knowing that this stuff matters and factors into voters’ decision-making. As a professional who studies people’s presence and reputations, my ability to profile people avoids sexism. I am in favor of empowering individuals to be their best selves from the inside out.
That’s what substance is: the insides of a person. So, as it applies to personality and policy, style can reveal a lot about a person, including Senator Harris. So, let’s examine it.
The Substance of Senator Kamala Harris’ Personal Style
For starters, I reiterate the aspects of Senator Harris’ use of clothing and accessories that the author quoted. It is true that her look typically consists of dark, neutral pantsuits paired with items featuring softer and rounded shapes, such as round-neck blouses, earrings, and necklaces. I see this as a wonderful strategy for her because she conveys a complete message about her temperament.
This profile in style for Senator Harris reveals that soft and round motifs signify her friendly, approachable and supportive demeanor. She is a listener. When you look at her, she appears to have an openness about her. But, that’s not all. Her suitings are all business. They show a certain toughness about her. She does not waste time, and focuses on getting things done.
People make clothing choices by considering so many unspoken visual codes. I have been studying and decoding these unspoken queues for decades now. Time-honored pearls and softer materials naturally complement the rounded motifs I point out that highlight Senator Harris’ softer side. Also, it is worth mentioning that she wears these items to frame her face, and beneath the tougher suiting exterior.
This is a winning ensemble for many women in leadership roles. It’s a pretty straightforward approach. However, it does not reveal a risk-taking personality, nor does she intend to look glamorous. This is not accusatory on my part to point this out. Her clothing properly conveys exactly who she is, and this is particularly why this consistent look works well for her.
I’m happy to not instantly know the labels, brands, or designers Senator Harris tends to wear. As a public servant, it’s better to show a sense of humility through style. The story writer asked me that question, and I gave her that as my answer.
Dispelling Common Myths About Color and Style Choices
A costume designer interviewed and quoted for the HuffPost article draws some odd parallels about color. I wonder how she formulated her theories by contrasting the clothing color choices of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Harris. She suggests that Warren is “a little bit more radical and liberal in her policies, rhetoric, and thinking” because she wears bright colors that pop. She also suggests that Senator Harris is “a lot more conservative” by comparison because of the colors she wears.
Each senator uses her own approach to color, but both are time-honored in American politics and corporate leadership alike. Plus, both women are lawyers and know how to show up in a courtroom, including the court of public opinion.
Senator Warren is a more progressive politician, but color offers no expressive advantage. More revealing is the way in which Senator Warren created her own code of on-the-go style. She almost never wears the kind of tailored pantsuits that Senator Harris favors. She looks softer, but you had better keep up with her because she is on the run. And this is how her use of bright pure hue colors supports her active and activist spirit.
By contrast, Senator Harris prefers dark neutrals for a more time-honored approach. She often wears navy, black, or a deep eggplant – a color that especially compliments her natural coloring. The look conveys trustworthiness, steadfastness, and executive ability.
A psychiatrist interviewed for the article does not believe that wardrobe itself is an effective tool to connect with voters. I agree. Wardrobe alone is meaningless.
Executive presence is the confluence of a leader’s competence, incisiveness, composure, verbal communication, confidence, relatability, and credibility. Unfortunately, that was not the scope of the HuffPost article. If a person’s style is out of alignment with her executive presence, she loses credibility. Fortunately, when we look at Senator Harris, her ensembles almost never distract. And that’s a good thing because she helps onlookers keep focused on her policies. The big secret is that dressing this way also helps her to keep focused on what matters.