Robin Givhan, who's been keeping tabs on the fashion of America's top politicos, loves the attire Condi Rice chose for her appearance at Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany on Wednesday. Givhan's verdict: powerful -- and hot. Rice wore a long black coat, reminiscent of "a Marine's dress uniform," and high-heeled black boots that were "in short, sexy."
"Rice boldly eschewed the typical fare chosen by powerful American women on the world stage," Givhan says. "She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps. She did not cloak her power in photogenic hues, a feminine brooch and a non-threatening aesthetic. Rice looked as though she was prepared to talk tough, knock heads and do a freeze-frame 'Matrix' jump kick if necessary. Who wouldn't give her ensemble a double take -- all the while hoping not to rub her the wrong way?"
With her own double take, Givhan admires Rice's not shying away from the risqui.
"Rice's coat and boots speak of sex and power -- such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual.
"Rice's appearance at Wiesbaden -- a military base with all of its attendant images of machismo, strength and power -- was striking because she walked out draped in a banner of authority, power and toughness. She was not hiding behind matronliness, androgyny or the stereotype of the steel magnolia. Rice brought her full self to the world stage -- and that included her sexuality. It was not overt or inappropriate. If it was distracting, it is only because it is so rare."
But speaking of inappropriate, distracting -- and appalling -- Givhan had a slightly different take on Vice President Dick Cheney's idea of a fashion statement when Cheney, during his own recent European tour, decided it was perfectly fine to dress down for Auschwitz.