Since opening the impeachment inquiry in September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has consistently stated that the process brings her no joy.
The solemn task crescendoed on Wednesday morning, when Pelosi walked onto the House floor in a black, long sleeve sheath dress, which could double as a funeral outfit, on a day expected to conclude with Congress voting on two articles of impeachment.
CNN’s Dana Bash reported that “several of the female Democrats” decided to wear the same color for the occasion, “to signal it is a somber day.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed up to work in a black coat. Underneath, she wore what appeared to be a knee-length, dark-hued dress with a burgundy pussybow necktie.
Representative Barbara Lee, from California, donned a black blazer with a checkered beaded necklace and earrings. “I’m not shocked that we are here today,” Lee said, in an outfit which communicated just how underwhelmed she is.
The Daily Beast reached out to representatives for both Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez but received no response. (Obviously, they both have very busy days.) However, the funereal fashion optics seem thought-out and co-ordinated.
The pin Pelosi is wearing is a miniaturized version of the House of Representatives’ mace, which, the US Capitol Visitor Center says, “symbolizes order and authority”—precisely the look Pelosi would want to project today.
If the all-black uniforms are part of a collectively deliberate dressing, this would not be the first time female politicians dressed in unity to punctuate a historic moment. At this year’s State of the Union, Representative Lois Frankel corralled House members to wear “suffragette white to oppose Republican attempts to roll back women’s progress.”
Though born out of a resistance, many at home saw the sea of ivory pantsuits dotting the US Capitol Building as a cause for celebration, considering the banner amount of women elected in 2018.
Months later, after the inquiry has bitterly divided a nation already suffering a major partisan identity crisis, the coordinated display du jour is devoid of cheer, despite the holiday timing of so-called “Impeachmas.”
As countless up-in-arms tweeters love to point out, women bear the brunt of any close outfit analysis. Unfair, perhaps, but anyone, regardless of gender, dresses to match their mood, especially during tough times. For their part, Democratic men on Wednesday do not seem to have received the all-black memo—although, in all fairness, they don’t need a special occasion to be drab dressers.
Some of them made their partisan alliances clear through the color of their ties—blue for Steny Hoyer, Joseph Kennedy, and Eric Swalwell, who also had a thick red stripe on his. Representative Jerry Nadler announced he intended to “vindicate the Constitution” in a sepulchral purple toned tie.
Republicans seemed to follow suit, wearing red ties of their own. Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference Chair, wore a nearly neon pink top underneath her black blazer as she requested that “Members should be required to stand and identify themselves openly and on camera” as they voted on articles of impeachment.
Representative Cheney has called the inquiry “disgraceful,” but for all of its significance, her clothes appeared plucked for any other day.
But, then again, Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), also dubbed the scene “sad,” though she did so in a fuchsia top—not exactly funeral attire. Of course, this doesn't suggest a break in ranks with her colleagues. One can feel disappointment while dressing vibrantly.
Yes, clothes are a footnote on this historic day. But, as Pelosi and others showed on Wednesday, in an increasingly performative political stage one cannot ignore the power of a good costume.