Getting into Hillary's pants

I have this Hillary Clinton fantasy. It's something I've been, until now, reticent to share. Go figure.

No, it's not just about her being elected president, especially since that seems less and less a fantasy as Obama continues to plateau while Hillary's air of inevitability continues to gain altitude, but about her inauguration.

OK, OK, it's really about the outfit she'd be wearing at her inauguration. My daydream ensemble looks nothing like that ill-advised number she sported at Bill's first swearing-in — you remember, the one that made her look like Tinky-Winky? And my fantasy President H.R. Clinton I-do-solemnly-swear-outfit looks even less like the priestly pantsuits she put on when she ran for the Senate.

No, in my dream, Hillary stands on the steps of the Capitol to take the oath decked out not only in a skirted suit, but one with matching hat, gloves and bag. Opaque hose, a bit of a heel. Something chic yet understated, feminine but not girlish, not a lot of embellishment on the hat but maybe on the gloves — some fancy top-stitching, maybe some embroidery? Well, a girl can dream.

Anyway, I'm thinking all this as I stare at Hillary's pants — a black silk-linen blend, the bottom half of a suit with a five-button, longish jacket — encased in glass at the National Constitution Center's First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image exhibition. It's in the section about the First Ladies' life after the White House, and the explainer tag includes her election night acceptance speech joke about how "Sixty-two counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents and six black pantsuits later, because of you, here we are." I'm not sure, but I think she may have loaned another of those spare suits toAngelaMerkel, who also favors the power-frau look. There's no mention of the designer's name on the tag for Hillary's suit, which at first strikes me as strange. Most of the latter-day wardrobe pieces in the exhibition (Jackie's Oleg Cassini dress, Pat Nixon's handmade African gown) include details like that. For all we know, Hillary's suit came off the rack at Talbot's.

Of course, that's probably the point. Not being terribly fashionable is one of the ways Hillary has turned herself into a female politician who'll never be asked questions like, "Areyou too well-behaved to get us out of Iraq?" I still find it hard to believe she was the first First Lady to be photographed for an official photo in pants. Yet, when her name comes up 44 times in the course of the most recent GOP debate, it's not because they're lobbing wardrobe critiques. Even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives can't tell you what Margaret Thatcher wore, other than that the Iron Lady's suits were aboutpower, not pretty.

I'm at the museum in the middle of a weekday, and young field-trippers swirl around me, a school of fish in matching blue T-shirts. Behind me, a woman is sputtering sarcastically, indignantly: Oh, here we get to look at Hillary's stuff, give me a break.

The girl with her, a lanky middle-schooler with waist-length hair, hisses back: You people are always telling us how important forgiveness is, how we should forgive forgive forgive. Why don't you people try it yourselves?

I assume the older woman is her mother, as a girl that age usually saves her best derision for Mom. The girl is several years from voting age.


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