Dressing to Stump: Ann Romney’s Campaign Style

NEW YORK - MAY 1: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, appear on CBS THIS MORNING, Tuesday, May 1 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeff Neira/CBS via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mitt Romney;Ann Romney Photo: Jeff Neira/CBS via Getty Images

If Ann Romney accomplished one thing this week, it was to draw the world’s attention to her clothes. And what better way to do so than go on national television in a $990 Reed Krakoff silk shirt emblazoned with a large golden bird swooping toward her right armpit? It was a bold move on her part, particularly since she has spent most of her time on the campaign trail in modest blouses, nondescript jackets, and the occasional bland dress — all the better to convince America of her humble, steadfast Everywoman-ness. 

So what exactly is Ann’s style? Upon closer inspection, she’s sneaked in some sassy items here and there: a blush-pink, corset-style waist belt, worn over a white blouse on World News With Diane Sawyer; a form-fitting scarlet dress at an Illinois primary night party in Chicago; and what looks to be a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her palette is dominated by warm reds and the occasional pink or maroon, and she’s not afraid to wear prints. She accentuates her waist with belts and nipped jackets, she almost never shows her arms, and she prefers kitten heels and wedge sandals. In short, she dresses like many normal, attractive 63-year-old American women.

From a fashion industry perspective, she hasn’t even come close to the kind of cachet that Michelle Obama or Carla Bruni have (not to mention Kate Middleton, if she can be counted in the “wives of political figures” circle). Designers don’t send out press alerts when she appears in their clothes, and her garment choices don’t go flying off the racks as soon as she wears them out of the house. A spokesperson for Reed Krakoff was quick to point out that they hadn’t sent her the bird shirt, adding that she probably bought it herself at Saks or Barneys.

Does Ann wear expensive clothing? Yes, but not obviously so (her $1K bird shirt being a rare exception). Most of her clothes probably aren’t affordable, but they’re not so distinctively “designer” that people would be able to tell how much they cost. The Romney camp insists that she doesn’t use a stylist, and she regularly repeats outfits on the campaign trail (particularly a favorite red blazer). So far, she has pointedly chosen comfort and simplicity over glamour; perhaps that’s in the best interest of her husband’s campaign, which struggles to make the Romneys’ wealthy lifestyle more relatable.

Everyone knows that Ann’s clothes will be discussed and examined by voters — particularly when she wears distinctive ones, like she did this week — and it’ll be interesting to see if her style evolves with her husband’s campaign. As she attempts to soften her husband’s image and win female votes, we may continue to see bolder fashion choices.  To see how her style has progressed, see our slideshow of the outfits she’s worn since her husband announced his candidacy last June.