Home News Kamala Harris, in Southeast Asia and in Uniform

Kamala Harris, in Southeast Asia and in Uniform


Any solo worldwide journey of the primary feminine vice chairman of the US and the nation’s first feminine vice chairman of coloration would, in regular circumstances, invite first-degree scrutiny. Not simply of her speeches and joint information conferences, however of her ceremonial appearances. Emphasis on the final phrase.

In any case, as a pioneer and one of many uncommon ladies serving to to guide a rustic on the world stage (at a time when some of the well-known, Angela Merkel of Germany, is about to step down), each assertion and selection she makes carries with it the symbolism of the trailblazer. Her selections impression not simply herself, however those that come after her and can be taught from her instance.

And but Kamala Harris’s recent trip to Southeast Asia, which got here to an finish on Aug. 26, was notable partially due to how a lot the main focus was on what she mentioned and the way little extraneous commentary it generated; how little response to the theater of the journey (the costumes! the curtain raisers!). Which is, when you consider the formal choreography of such journeys, that are a dance between public efficiency and personal coverage negotiations, fairly extraordinary.

The Daily Mail was so determined for content material that it tried to drum up angst due to … a smile.

Which will recommend that we’re so inured to the concept of a feminine chief that we’ve ceased to concentrate on it in any respect, a principle that falls into the too-good-to-be-true class. (Making snap judgments primarily based on look is a fundamental a part of human nature.) Or it means that Ms. Harris consciously and strategically crafted her picture to make sure that it couldn’t distract from the responsibility at hand.

Which isn’t to say she thought of it any much less.

Think about: From the night of Aug. 20, when she left Washington to fly to Singapore, by way of her time in Vietnam, she wore solely darkish pantsuits in navy, grey and black, with a small flag pin on the lapel, plain white or mild blue shells beneath and her signature easy strand of pearls.

She wore a darkish pantsuit to satisfy with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. A darkish pantsuit to the orchid naming ceremony. A darkish pantsuit to satisfy with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam to pay homage at John McCain’s memorial in Hanoi on the third anniversary of his demise.

Towards the backdrop of the messy evacuation from Afghanistan and the necessity to reaffirm America’s dedication to its allies, with the Delta variant and different types of the virus casting a cloud of concern over the world’s efforts to fight the pandemic, her somber wardrobe served to mirror the somber state of the world.

Her decisions additionally helped her mix in: not simply along with her male friends, who had been equally attired (at a information convention with Prime Minister Lee, she wore a light-weight blue shell that, coincidentally, matched his mild blue shirt), however with political custom because it exists within the shared creativeness. In any case, darkish fits are primarily a synonym for generic world chief uniform, which is why individuals freak out when a president makes the rare appearance in beige. (Beige! Oh my god! Oh my god!)

Ultimately, that was the most important takeaway from the vice chairman’s stagecraft. Greater than the truth that inside that framework, Ms. Harris additionally checked the containers of diplomatic costume, carrying American designers (Prabal Gurung, Altuzarra) and, in keeping with her mandate to concentrate on local weather change, solely garments she already owned.

On condition that Ms. Harris has pointedly veered away from the bled-into-the-background uniform at previous moments within the highlight — when she wore a suffragist white suit on the night Joe Biden declared victory within the presidential election; a bright purple coat and dress, melding blue and purple, at her swearing-in; a cream pantsuit on the State of the Union — it was clearly a tactical selection.

And it was efficient from the perspective of a quantity two who doesn’t wish to take the highlight away from her boss. Or distract from the grim problems with the second (to not point out reveal self-discipline and a capability to remain resolutely on message). Even when, watching the journey play out, it was exhausting to not want {that a} lady didn’t need to don generic male camouflage to enact her half.

Clothes can be utilized to speak quite a lot of messages — unity and hope and allyship and backbone — and that could be a instrument that’s most accessible to ladies, for apparent causes. They need to not need to sacrifice it to be taken critically. Nobody ought to.

Perhaps that may come, legitimizing the chance for everybody to make use of costume (and trend, let’s say it) to its best, most multidimensional extent. For now, Ms. Harris has to stroll a superb line between representing her administration and making historical past. It’s attainable she will’t serve each masters. However it could be one thing to see.