With record-breaking viewership expected for Monday night’s presidential debate, the candidates’ camera readiness will be a given. In the meantime, more homegrown political styles can be found at the New York Historical Society.
Pop Art-inspired paper dresses from the Sixties, a “Goldwater Girl” sash and Spiro Agnew-inspired earrings are part of “Campaigning for the Presidency, 1960-1972: Selections From the Museum of Democracy.” Visitors will also find a photograph of five women wearing sleeveless trapeze dresses imprinted with images of Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. The patriotic attire looks pretty unpolished compared to the designer-laden appearances that are now the norm among the candidates and their respective families.
Monday’s 90-minute showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to shatter the most-viewed one to date — 80.6 million tuned in to see Jimmy Carter square off against Reagan. While Clinton is unabashed about her support of scores of designers — Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne among them — she has been less public about her personal wardrobe choices. (Burch penned an op-ed piece in Friday’s Wall Street Journal urging chief executive officers to give employees #TimeOffToVote.)
Burch is one of the designers who has created union-made campaign T-shirts for Clinton. Clinton has publicly taken her Republican opponent, Trump, to task numerous times for manufacturing his signature collection outside of the U.S. Regardless, Trump favors his own label (a business practice that his daughter, Ivanka, who has her own clothing and accessories company, also believes in). Trump’s wife and former model, Melania, is more fond of other designers, having chosen dresses from Fendi and Roksanda to wear at this summer’s Republican National Committee.
Voters checking out the New York Historical Society will see traces of a more unusual photographic moment from this year’s presidential campaign. A dress with a customized print made from images of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama that White House photographer Peter Souza shot is also on display. Four-time Mississippi delegate Kelly Jacobs donated the conversation-starter look after the Historical Society’s director Margaret Hofer connected with her after seeing a New York Times photo of Jacobs’ wearing the dress at the DNC. Her resourcefulness was more rooted in creativity than the cost-effectiveness associated with the candidate supporting paper dresses of the Sixties and Seventies. The latter came into fashion as an affordable way to “present the candidate in a bold, colorful Pop Art light,” according to the Historical Society. Even more unexpected is a 1962 throwback — a red, white and blue striped vest with a faux pocket watch chain and button that reads “Kennedy is the Remedy.”