Sarah Palin has style — real, personal style, which means she knows what looks good on her, sticks to it, and often, pushes it up a notch out of confidence. That’s different from fashion-magazine style, which is, after all, an ever-changing marketing scheme. This season Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire are pushing six-inch heels, see-through lace, and hounds-tooth jackets. Exactly who, besides the size-zero, seventeen-year-old models in their pages, really could wear or look good in any of those?
But Palin, unlike other female politicians, manages to look both attractive and appropriate all the time. It isn’t easy to do. Heavens knows Hillary tried and tried to get it right, but no matter how many stylists advised her, she always looked dowdy. Remember those blocky pantsuits, jackets made out of upholstery fabric, and contrasting beads?
Nancy Pelosi, who favors Armani suits and marble-sized South Sea pearls bought by her personal shopper (a.k.a. husband), tries hard, too. She wears rich-ladies’ fashions, which create a pricey look, but not a particularly flattering one for her. Often, her $2,000 suits wear her.
So what makes up Sarah’s style? Well, as they say in the fashion magazines, here are some secrets of how the former Miss Wasilla gets it together.
She wears Kazuo Kawasaki 704 rimless glasses. These are a very personal accessory. They cost more than $300, but she wears them all the time. She has managed to turn a liability — wearing glasses instead of contacts — into a fashion statement.
She looks the same all the time. Price really doesn’t matter when you have personal style. Sarah’s look doesn’t change, whether she’s in a big-ticket Valentino jacket, which she wore at the Republican convention, or an off-the-rack $250 suit, which she has been wearing on the campaign trail.
She picks clothes that fit her, not the season’s trends. She knows she looks good in curvy skirt suits, so she wears curvy skirt skirts. And yes, once in a while she does wear pants. Because she wants to, not because she has to. (Let’s be honest and admit, Hillary has to wear pants. I know that’s kind of mean, but, hey, try watching Project Runway.)
She wears tacky accessories with pride. You know those dangly earrings in the shape of her home state? Fashionistas mock such down-market jewelry choices, but Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw always wore a necklace that spelled out her name, and that was considered part of her great style. Not much different than an Alaska glitter pin.
She wears open-toed pumps with a business suit. She looks serious but feminine as well, a balance most career women struggle to strike. Part of real style also happens to be having fun, darn it, with fashion.
Sarah’s dress sense is so noticeable that Palin look-alike contestants and Tina Fey know exactly what to wear when they are making fun of her. And even women who dislike her politics admit they admire her look. I have a friend who thinks Obama’s The One and totally disagrees with the McCain-Palin ticket on everything, especially the war. Just the other day, she told me how much she liked Palin’s belted military jacket — and wondered where she could get one.
In truth, great style depends not on the clothes or accessories one buys but in knowing and liking oneself. The campaign has been very rough on Sarah Palin, but no matter what happens, I know she will keep the self-confidence she has. That, after all, is the real key to great personal style.
— Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.