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Fashion Faux Pas from an Actress Turned Political Fiancé

Growing up, I made all sorts of fashion faux pas - I wore this little scarf as a shirt to my sister's college graduation totally exposing my midriff. I also remember wearing a beret and boa to class at business school! I laugh when I think of those and many other instances where I was an artist deep down, stifled perhaps by the environments I was in, and expressing myself with fashion.

Now, I'm not only an artist but the fiancé of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and yes, there is more attention on my appearance than even I expected. That said, I have been encouraged to avoid "trendy", not to mention, "expensive" labels and to continue to dress conservatively. Pearls seem to be a mainstay, and skirt lengths tend to go below the knee. I've even had bloggers write about my clothing after political events! I ignore the reviews, but I am conscious not to make many political fashion faux pas.

What do you think? Is fashion really about expressing who you are, or presenting yourself in a specific way to the world given your associations? How should the wife-of a politician present herself given her unique personality, career, interests, and tastes?

Jacqueline Mraz
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You cannot change that your fashion is of more public interest now owing to your engagement. Not any more than Willie (sp?) Brown could change, back in the day, that people were interested in his bespoke attire and the attire, if memory serves, of at least one woman who was French to whom he was for a while attached in San Francisco.

Not any more than Linda Ronstadt could undo that she underwent more scrutiny about everything in her life when she was attached to then Governor Brown. Not any more than then Governor Brown could escape media attention when he explored Buddhism after having once attended the seminary.

Not any more than Deborah (sp?) Winger could escape heightened attention when she dated Governor Bob Kerry (sp?), who is now the head of the New School.

Get used to it. Don't fight it. Observe it. Chronicle it. In private. And move on.

Gloria Steinem asked something similar about Hillary Clinton and her treatment by the press some time ago. About women and fashion. Gloria Steinem also asked, however, in a more radical vein some time ago something that we should still ponder. Here is the context. A woman asked Steinem after many women had already asked Steinem how the woman could combine career and family. Gloria Steinem said something along the lines of, 'when a man comes to hear me speak and asks me that question, I will know the world is changing.'

Men have started to ask such questions. We need to listen when men--and sometimes some men whom we might least expect--start to ask as a commonplace, or more as a commonplace, questions that women like Gloria Steinem once found almost unfathomable. Are we listening?

Leila Radan
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Wow. Seriously? When you have a forum for change and an opportunity to speak of, or write about, something of worth, this is the question we are posed?

I care more about the actions people espouse than what they wear and this ridiculous question just makes me balk!

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
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Dear Jennifer,

the fact is, your fashion is now being noticed by more people than it was when you were simply representing the artist in you.

Not only are you engaged to a political figure, but your fiance is also very fashionforward and it would seem important that his partner match his style and not be overshadowed by him.

When you think about it, your attire will have to convey that you are a successful woman in your own right, that he has met his match in you, that you are not just a pretty face, that you are an artist... You have the huge task of having to convey all those messages and more in the way you carry yourself and what you wear on any given day.

To say that this is a trivial matter is to be naive. Women everywhere worry about these issues every day and since this is the International Museum Of Women, I believe that all issues pertaining to women are fair game.

Let us remember to be kind and support each other and when one of us is faced with a dilemma let's reach out and help. It does not always have to pertain to World Peace to be important.

What we wear is a political statement

I think Leila's questioning is sound. Does appearance matter in the larger scope of change that needs to be made? I used to think no. I used to scoff at conversations about fashion, appearance and wardrobe in a collective groan initiated by feminist movements.

But reading articles like Robin Givhan's Fashion is Political in the Women, Power and Politics exhibition definitely gave me a new perspective on fashion. I realize that what I wear can dramatically change the way people respond to my political opinions. And hey, if a shoulder padded pink suit will get me to the political bargaining table, I might consider it. What I wear can be a source of power.

At the same time, I definitely participate in fashion that makes a political statement. I want to be a professional and do important work, but I also love my tattoos and nose piercing! I choose not to hide these things for the sake of my professional career because I want to make a statement that to be taken seriously doesn't mean you have to fit a mold. I can relate to a lot of what Jen says about wearing a boa to business class!



you are an actress, i am a defender of women's rights and a medium and i am sure that we can influence this world - i want you to see my article about sexual rights,attached here

sexual rights ()


dressing and fashion can inflence opinion and thinking - undressing too...it can provoke

rahina adamu
rahina adamu

your cloths says who you are!

as a younger person i actually believe that you can wear anything and that you can express the artist in you on what you wear but asw i grow up i found out thet your outfits say who you are most of the time!people first impression of you sometimes stems up from what your outfit. its not about the label or name of the designer but what you are wearing at a particular event or who you are in a the society.

as a fiance of a mayor, you are a role model now and a lot of people will look up to you especially young people and women.i believe fashion is all about presenting yourself in aspecific way depending on where you find yoursel and the levekl of respect you wiould want from people around you.

Following the Unspoken Political Fashion Rules

No one has officially told me what to wear to a political event, but I get plenty of suggestions from my mom, a few fashion forward friends, and high society folks. I have "go to outfits" for certain events, which makes my life easier. But sometimes, I just want to be myself-to wear an outfit that reflects the mood I am in, show a little skin, or buy that gorgeous label dress. I am not a big shopper – I don't have the time, nor can I afford costly labels unless there is a sale – so it all sort of works itself out. And, when I decide to splurge on that label outfit, I will wear it, just not every day.

Though political fashion suggestions-from family, friends, or the media-are usually presented as helpful advice, they often seem to serve the purpose of creating and enforcing restrictions on how one expresses herself. Do you think unspoken fashion rules force women into a certain type of societally acceptable identity and gender role?

Moreover, do you think these rules are a reflection or extension of the many restrictions and barriers faced by women in the political sphere?

allison perkins

a matter of importance!

i agree with you leila...and here is the moment where the 'sayer' in this case jennifer has to make that decision for herself...either way it could be significant and/or meaningful....she could resist the ridiculous notion that 'others' need to decide what she wears or she could conform and challenge other issues once 'inside'...

we have to be allowed the right to work through these situations, and support for each other is important

recently i went for a job interview, my mode of dress was questioned...i promptly told the principal, how i dress is of no concern to me, what worries me is that students fight and harm each other daily....needless to say i was not called for the job, but at that time, i found it was more important to force their attention on how they could think about/re-think 'rules'

Tamera Jane
Tamera Jane
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It is a serious topic. Fashion, and the way one is expected to dress in order to play the game in today's society, is a class issue. In order to be taken seriously, one is expected to wear expensive, conservative, traditional (white, western) clothing. Similarly, women are expected to hide any traces of sexuality. I just had a conversation last night about class culture and the sense that being able to "dress down" is a luxury - in many cases, in order to survive, one has to dress in a "socially acceptable" way to fit in or to be treated with respect.

Karen Offen
Karen Offen
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Fashion is a powerful statement for women

Jen Siebel speaks to an issue that concerns both sexes, historically and now. Appearance and wardrobe is still a vital concern for women in political life, whether as candidates or as the spouses of candidates. Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman from San Francisco and speaker of the House of Representatives, provides an interesting case study -- always tasteful, bright colors, great tailoring -- and inevitably, those ¨power pearls¨. Ýes, Jen, when you are entering the public eye, fashion does speak the language of power.

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