The Historical Significance Of Hillary Clinton’s All-White Pantsuit At The DNC

This week, Hillary Rodham Clinton made history. Clinton became the first woman to be confirmed as a presidential candidate for any major party. Last night, she appeared on stage in one of her famous pantsuits. While she has recently, strategically, chosen to wear bright colored pantsuits, on the night of her nomination, she wore all white. This color choice was historically symbolic.


So, why is white symbolic? During the suffrage movement, women wore white during demonstrations and while participating in parades. Under the statement of purpose for the fledgling Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, in the National Woman’s Party at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the group explained the symbolic meaning of the color white. White is the color of their pure purpose.

“The colors adopted by the union are purple, white and gold, selected for the significance they bear in the work the union has undertaken. Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose.”

Could it also be that by wearing white, Hillary is also acknowledging former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro? In 1984, on the day that she accepted the vice presidential nomination, Geraldine Ferraro wore all white. Ferraro wore all white as a symbolic gesture to the suffrage movement. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she became the first female vice presidential nominee for a major party when she ran alongside Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale.


While publications and historians have been acknowledging the historical significance of wearing white, Clinton’s other fashion choices are not haphazard. The pantsuit aficionado Clinton, along with her team of style experts and consultants, has been very strategic in her choice of attire and color selections, as well as which designers she will wear.


The Business of Fashion has chronicled how American Vogue editor and Democrat Anna Wintour has been key in procuring a fashionable look for Hillary Clinton. As with all women in the public eye, Hillary’s fashion choices are constantly in the public eye and any fashion faux pas will be all over the internet faster than any other gaffe. So, there is no doubt that Wintour has been responsible for making Clinton look more professional and polished. Wintour has also been fundraising for Clinton, and the New York Times has mentioned some of the big fashion names that Wintour has rounded up in support of this historic candidate. Names such as Tom Ford, Alber Elbaz, and Christopher Bailey from Burberry have combined fashion with supporting Clinton. Designer Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg even designed a campaign T-shirt.

As Clinton is now front and center on television and print, she has a team of image stylists. The Democratic presidential candidate’s image team is led by deputy communications director Kristina Schake. Schake, a former aide to Michelle Obama, is in charge of shaping Clinton’s image. While Hillary is not going to suddenly wear neoprene or wear a pencil skirt and crop top, the style team works with her favorite pantsuits to give her a professional yet approachable look. In addition, Hillary always chooses to support and wear an American fashion designer. The Business of Fashion explains that Hillary’s campaign pays for her clothing, unlike many celebrities who are gifted designer apparel in exchange for publicity.

“On certain occasions, Wintour has approached designers to procure outfits for Clinton, who has settled into a uniform of brightly coloured pantsuits and jackets by US designers. Unlike many celebrities, who are often lent or gifted fashion items, Clinton’s campaign pays for her clothes.”

For those who question this expenditure, personal stylist Corey Roche, whose clients include Washington insiders, says that there is money allocated for personal branding. While Trump may wear Armani, Clinton will wear more affordable American brands.

“There is [campaign] money allocated to fashion and clothes, because that is a huge part of marketing and branding. Trump has a budget, Sanders has a budget, Hillary has a budget.”

There is yet to be a designer name attached to the white pantsuit, which may be on purpose. Instead of focusing on the talent of the designer, such as Project Runway‘s Christian Soriano’s blue dress that Michelle Obama wore on Monday evening at the DNC, Clinton’s intention may be to focus on the countless years that the suffrage movement worked to give women equal rights. This is indeed shattering the glass ceiling!

What did you think of the symbolic significance of the white pantsuit? Do you think that Hillary has a more polished look now that she is running for president?

[Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]