Free Speech: Hadley Freeman Examines Cindy McCain’s Wifely Chic
Yeah, yeah, Michelle Obama. Purple sheath, good pearls, Alaïa belt, simple lines. Even those of us who adore Michelle, her husband, and their totally hot relationship are, it must be confessed, getting a little bit tired of the bandwagon-jumpers banging on about how nicely the lady dresses. Yeah, whatevs, folks, some of us were all over that months ago. Anyway, with all this fuss from the latecomers over Michelle, I think that someone has been neglected here. You can no doubt see this one coming a mile off, but here we go: an ode to the fashion of Cindy McCain.
My Cindy fixation is not born out of sheer contrariness. It’s just that I think all the hoo-ha over Michelle’s “modernity” has blinded us to the joys of Cindy’s undisguised, full-on retro style. Which is odd, considering how much fashion loves to recycle past decades, and here we have, on international TV and countless Web sites, the living embodiment of 1950′s chic. Even leaving aside for the moment the clothes, check out that immobile hair, those adoring looks she gives her husband, the past scandal involving drug addiction—who needs Mad Men when we have Cindy? As someone who deems it a personal triumph if she remembers to put on moisturizer in the morning, I overbrim with admiration for any lady who puts on her face every day (and feel even more awe if she refers to it as “putting on one’s face,” as I strongly suspect Cindy does). This is a lady who would rather eat a lava lamp than go out in something uncoordinated. I think possibly my favorite of her outfits was the red suit she wore in New Hampshire back in January: head-to-toe red; the inevitable pearls clasped round the neck (and not in some ironic Jackie O way, à la Michelle, but in a proper “I like pearls, they are always suitable” way); faithfully peroxided hair swept up into what can only be described as a pompadour, all finished off with loyal wifely badge on her lapel proclaiming (in rhinestones, of course) McCain 2008. There have been plenty of other good looks (the head-to-toe blue suit, the head-to-toe green suit, the head-to-toe pink suit—I really could go on and on here), but the red is clearly Cindy’s favorite, as she wore it again in Arizona on Super Tuesday. And she’s right—that scarlet shows up her perfectly powdered face a treat.
But what’s most interesting about Cindy’s style is that it belies what it suggests. Such conservatism would seem to insinuate a mentality that goes with it, all subservient wifeliness and eager-to-please obsequiousness. Actually, there is nothing of the sort going on here. Infamously, several years ago Cindy dared to crack a joke to her husband in front of reporters about his thinning (nonexistent, some of us might say, but Cindy is a polite sort) hair, only for the sensitive soul to turn around and snap, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you unprintable and incredibly offensive expletive.” Isn’t that just charming? Gosh, I hope this man becomes the leader of the free world, etc. and so forth. Anyway, if Cindy really was as retro as her clothes suggest, she’d have swiftly made herself over to look like Andrea Dworkin in a desperate attempt to Please Her Man. Instead, she got up the next morning and plastered the makeup right back on—and has been doing so ever since, whatever her chastened husband might think. That is dedication to a look, people. And a true fashion champion.