There are 23 Democratic candidates running for the 2020 presidency, and all of them get dressed every morning. What they decide to wear is by no means the most pressing issue in this monumental election. Then again, neither is their preferred comfort food—and we already know what those are, courtesy of The New York Times.
What to wear for a job interview is a near-universal stressor, and everyone who takes the debate stage Wednesday and Thursday has willingly subjected themselves to a 16-month hiring process.
Sure, you could say the bar for a presidential wardrobe is low, considering the Donald Trump regularly tapes his ties together. But when nearly every candidate promises to restore “dignity,” “honor,” or another synonym plucked from Thesaurus.com to the White House, a small part of that promise includes dressing well.
As the hopefuls prepare to take the stage in Miami, let’s examine their sartorial prowess (or—no offense, Bill de Blasio—lack thereof). While we’re at it, let’s dream of a future where Elizabeth Warren wears her rainbow Pride feather boa again. Here’s what you need to know to dress like a 2020 Democratic candidate.
Long Shot? Buy a Loud Tie
In the old days, male candidates would match a blue tie to a white shirt to show how their love for America courses through their bloodstream and out onto their chest. But when you’re an unfamiliar name in a corral of contenders, you’ve got to get creative.
Take Rep. Eric Swalwell. The California congressman is running with the choppy slogan “Go Big. Be Bold. Do Good.” He could add another two-word sentence: “Wear Pink.” Swalwell is partial to one millennial pink tie (youth culture!), which he has worn multiple times on the trail.
Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, usually goes with a fiery orange or emerald option, the latter perhaps an extremely literal nod to his stance on defeating climate change.
Andrew Yang, an upstart candidate best known for his proposed “Freedom Dividend,” or $1,000 monthly check to all Americans, began his campaign wearing a rather fratty flag-printed scarf.
Not a tie, yes, but still designed to demand attention—and sort of working, as the arriviste landed himself a space on stage Thursday.
Join the Sisterhood of the Traveling Seafoam Green Jacket
As The Daily Beast’s Hannah Trudo noted, the Miami debates will be the first to feature multiple women on stage together.
In 2016, self-proclaimed “pantsuit aficionado” Hillary Clinton made good use of the color white, which was interpreted, perhaps heavy-handedly, as a nod to the suffrage movement. It might make sense for Clinton’s female successors to continue that tradition, but they are going their own way in seafoam green.
Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar own nearly identical turquoise jackets, both collared and three-quarter-length. (There are small differences; Klobuchar’s has buttons and Warren’s has pockets.) Earlier this month, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke at an Iowa event in a similarly hued sheath dress.
Pantsuit Nation alums might want to find symbolism in this trend, but, to the naked eye, seafoam might be more of a sartorial nod to Disney’s The Little Mermaid than popular feminism. Rest assured, #StillWithHer set, you can force meaning into anything courtesy of a quick Google search.
In 1908, British suffragette Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence gave the burgeoning movement official colors. Along with the aforementioned white and purple (which Clinton wore for her post-election concession speech), green is the third color listed. According to Pethick-Lawrence, “Green is the color of hope and the emblem of spring.”
And, more plausibly in this case, just a nice color for the candidates to wear.
Go Business Casual, Like Beto
At least Beto O’Rourke, aka the type of guy who gives you a mixtape full of “deep cuts” you’ve already heard before, is having fun this election cycle.
Since announcing his candidacy in March, the former congressman has been On The Road (have you read it?) wearing a carousel of blue button-ups and chinos. For less formal events, O’Rourke turns to a pretty square staple: the business casual half-zip.
The humble pull-over sweater—visual shorthand for casual Fridays in corporate America—has hit the campaign trail. O’Rourke wore one while running two miles during a New York City Pride run. He’s not alone, as Sen. Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden are also fans of this very Dad look.
See Mayor Pete’s Standard Suit, and Raise Him Kamala Harris’ Plaid One
Approximately 75 years ago, in 2014, Barack Obama wore a tan suit to a press conference regarding threats by ISIS in Syria. Cue mass hysteria, with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) going so far as to dub the offensive ensemble “a metaphor for his lack of seriousness.”
Fast forward to 2019, and times have changed. If Timothée Chalamet can wear his glitter harness, candidates can get a little unconventional, too.
Sure, most of the candidates are white men, and as such their fashion choices remain fairly vanilla. It is nearly impossible to spot South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg out in the wild wearing anything other than his standard navy pants, blue tie, and white button-up. (Apparently feeling the New England spirit, Buttigieg busted out a daring gray sweater for a pit stop in New Hampshire.)
Mayor Pete aside, a score of candidates are testing the waters when it comes to brighter, and sometimes bolder suiting. Ohio’s Tim Ryan conjured images of “unserious” Obama in a taupe suit while in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper looked very collegiate at a Las Vegas forum wearing a tweed chestnut blazer and checkered shirt. Those looks are no glitter harnesses, for sure, but a departure from the norm.
Things get a little more interesting with the gray plaid pant suit and banana-yellow top Sen. Kamala Harris wore for a Planned Parenthood event in South Carolina. (Don’t get used to it—the former state attorney general usually sticks to lawyerly black suits.)
Fittingly, the most out-there suit comes from one of 2020’s most unorthodox candidates, spiritual author Marianne Williamson. A notorious quack, Williamson believes in the power of manifestation—and, apparently, a gold satin suit. While talking abortion rights this weekend, she took to a stage in South Carolina with a very Elvis get-up. (Hey, as the saying goes: 1 percent of polled voters who support Marianne Williamson can’t be wrong!)
When It Comes to Dressing for Pride Parades, Let Elizabeth Warren Have This One
Elizabeth Warren, the saying goes, has a plan for everything. That includes absolutely winning when it comes to LGBT Pride celebrations.
To be fair: Bill de Blasio’s many appearances at New York’s parade have been respectable. The mayor smartly wears sneakers and untucks his shirt, so he can better run around during the event, which falls on hot June days. And in 2014, he gamely wore a rainbow tie.
Kirsten Gillibrand, too, went for it this year while celebrating in Des Moines. The New York senator paired her rainbow-bead necklace with a bright T-shirt, and topped things off with a (very trendy!) tie-dye baseball cap. It was, by any account, a good effort.
But none of the candidates come close to the absolute vision that is Elizabeth Warren running down the 2018 Boston Pride Parade. For the march, Warren dressed in all black—save for one voluminous, Muppet-esque rainbow feather boa.
While watching the senator wave, gesticulate, and distribute ample hugs while holding the ends of her accessory, it is hard to tell where the boa ends and Warren begins.
Let’s hope this week’s discussions advance our national discourse, etcetera, etcetera, but Warren’s pride fashion dominion is not up for debate.