I’m hardly the first to observe that postelection Hillary Clinton looks markedly different from Candidate Hillary. She’s been making public appearances with a face free of makeup, sporting shorter hair and bangs, and forgoing the primary-colored pantsuits she wore on the campaign trail for a well-worn Patagonia fleece. There’s been a subtle shift in her image over the past few months, but this week Clinton did something that got noticed more than all of the above: She put on a leather blazer.
For the resolutely buttoned-up Clinton, that constituted a fashion risk. Like seemingly everything she does, your reaction to that depended on how you feel about Clinton as a public figure. Her fashion has always been refracted through the various images she’s inhabited over the years, from young Wellesley idealist to globe-trotting secretary of State. Given that the leather was accompanied by guns-blazing rhetoric — including strong words for the Trump administration, what she called the “disastrous” attempt to repeal Obamacare, and Sean Spicer and Bill O’Reilly’s disrespectful comments about April Ryan and Maxine Waters, respectively — some saw it as the unveiling of a new, badass Hillary. (Kind of like how post-POTUS Obama is getting prematurely hailed as a menswear icon.) It wasn’t long before fans were dubbing her the queen of the resistance.
For others, it was an airball of a look. A Schott leather Perfecto might be cool, but a leather blazer feels like a very 1995 idea of what a “cool” person wears — less Furiosa, more Jimmy Fallon’s Leather Man on SNL. Outside of the Grease universe, simply donning leather does not catapult you into a new identity.
Given her track record of more formal looks, it’s unlikely that Clinton just shrugged this on because the conference room was chilly. Instead, it seemed like an uncharacteristically DGAF move on her part. These days, she no longer has to face the level of scrutiny she faced on the campaign trail — where even a shoulder shimmy was endlessly dissected — and can relax into a more casual public persona. She’s still a public figure, but now that we’re all watching the Trump Show 24/7, she has a license to loosen up a bit, and this feels like a tentative freak flag flying, in blazer form. “Oh, you don’t like me?” it says. “Well, great. I couldn’t care less.”