An Image A Little Too Carefully CoordinatedWell, nobody in his right mind would accuse Ms. Givhan of looking "freshly scrubbed and adorable" or, for that, like a fashion icon with the right of being condescending on the strength of her own self-consciously crafted perfection, and frankly, it is beyond me why the Washington Post (or ANY newspaper, for that) would make such a frump fashion editor. Or why this sort of fashion drivel is allowed to take up a lot of perfectly good space in a "serious" newspaper in the first place, even if it were NOT as politically prejudiced, sneering and vile as it is, but that is not the point.
By Robin Givhan
Friday, July 22, 2005
It has been a long time since so much syrupy nostalgia has been in evidence at the White House. But Tuesday night, when President Bush announced his choice for the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, it was hard not to marvel at the 1950s-style tableau vivant that was John Roberts and his family.
There they were -- John, Jane, Josie and Jack -- standing with the president and before the entire country. The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues -- like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers. There was tow-headed Jack -- having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother -- enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother's skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes.
Even the clothes are conservative: Judge John G. Roberts, left, and his wife Jane, right, with their children Jack and Josie listen to President Bush's announcement.
(Pool Photo By Shawn Thew)
The wife wore a strawberry-pink tweed suit with taupe pumps and pearls, which alone would not have been particularly remarkable, but alongside the nostalgic costuming of the children, the overall effect was of self-consciously crafted perfection. The children, of course, are innocents. They are dressed by their parents. And through their clothes choices, the parents have created the kind of honeyed faultlessness that jams mailboxes every December when personalized Christmas cards arrive bringing greetings "to you and yours" from the Blake family or the Joneses. Everyone looks freshly scrubbed and adorable, just like they have stepped from a Currier & Ives landscape.
In a time when most children are dressed in Gap Kids and retailers of similar price-point and modernity, the parents put young master Jack in an ensemble that calls to mind John F. "John-John" Kennedy Jr.
Separate the child from the clothes, which do not acknowledge trends, popular culture or the passing of time. They are not classic; they are old-fashioned. These clothes are Old World, old money and a cut above the light-up/shoe-buying hoi polloi.
Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It's not about catering to personal comfort. One can't give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?
But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual -- and his family -- to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.
Neither is the point that this piece of jealous media flotsam has obviously not the slightest compunction about abusing children to vent her well-calculated, class-ridden rants. Yeah, GAP has got ist SO right! X billion flies and hordes of idiot parents can't be wrong, eat more shit and buy more GAP. Who wouldn't just LOVE to see one's little girl clad like an underage prickteaser? Everything (but EVERYTHING!) not to appear "classy".
The real point is, that, had a white journalist written about the appointment of a black man to a major public position and referred to his family's hairdo as "too self-consciouly ethnic" with "their nappy heads standing out too much" we would have had a major earthquake in the media, whereas a not-so-sly dig at a blond pageboy's is quite okay for the self-hating whites in the media.
So now the bellyaching is over and done with, what would be the right choice of dress for children at such an occasion? I personally, think that they ought to be left at home anyway, but then, I am not American and the entire "human touch"-aspect in politics bores me, to put it politely. As it is, I think the Roberts made an excellent choice.