Ann Romney is writing her own dress code

“I don’t think we’re ever exactly on the same page 100 percent,” Romney said.

Written by New York Times | Published: June 17, 2012 2:55 am

In an interview on Fox News last month,Ann Romney confided that on policy issues she and her husband don’t always share the same views.

“I don’t think we’re ever exactly on the same page 100 percent,” Romney said.

To judge by appearances,that statement covered her wardrobe as well. Compared with Mitt Romney,who was buttoned up in a politely striped shirt,Ann Romney,in an exuberantly colorful hibiscus-patterned blouse,seemed positively unzipped,her garb an assertion that in matters of style,as in matters of state,she keeps her own counsel. Wearing breezy wrap dresses,form-fitting sheaths or mismatched prints that cautiously flirt with runway trends,Ann Romney turns her back now and then on the nondescript cardigans and milk-carton suits that are the standard camouflage of women on the stump.

“She has successfully avoided the Stepford-wife look of red suits and helmet hair adopted by some presidential candidates’ spouses,” said Christine K. Jahnke,a media trainer who advised Hillary Rodham Clinton during her presidential campaign. “She is quite contemporary.”

On CBS This Morning last month,Romney wore a $990 Reed Krakoff blouse emblazoned with an exotic bird that winged its way toward her right breast. That turnout provoked criticism,with viewers chiding Romney as insensitive to the economic struggles of ordinary Americans.

“It was a real step out for her,” said Taylor Marsh,the author of The Hillary Effect: Politics,Sexism and the Destiny of Loss. “I really think she was saying: ‘This is who I am. I like this shirt. So take your best shot.’”

To some observers,such a brash departure from convention has positioned Romney as a woman determined to use fashion to counter her husband’s image. “Her relaxed look is probably deliberate,” said Sandy Dumont,an image consultant. “She balances him out because he’s such a stiff thing.” Romney may be using her wardrobe as a humanising agent. “It’s a definite political tool,” said Siobhan Bennett,the president of the Women’s Campaign Fund,a bipartisan group that seeks to have women elected.

Romney,has come a long way from the pampered princess described in the Boston Globe (1994),a portrait of perfect domestic complacency who said she never argued with her husband and fretted that at 117 pounds,“I’m not as thin as I should be.”

At 63,she is not the same woman who posed with Mitt Romney in 1960,in a prim sleeveless dress with a Peter Pan collar. In recent months,and during more than 200 public appearances for her husband’s campaign,she has demonstrated a more than peripheral awareness of fashion. Unlike Michelle Obama,whose fashion choices have been guided by specialists,Ann Romney is not known to work with a stylist. Nor has a wardrobe consultant stepped up to take credit for her look. Whether out of practical concerns or political astuteness,Romney has yet to acknowledge a fondness for designer labels.

She eschews sprays of diamonds like those that Callista Gingrich wears at her throat,though in recent appearances she has rarely been seen without a double strand of berry-size pearls reminiscent of Barbara Bush.

Romney has been trying to change her husband’s clothes sense and she’s been quick to take credit for dressing her husband in Gap jeans and Levi’s.

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