Nancy Pelosi and the Persistent White Pantsuit

Nancy Pelosi and the Persistent White Pantsuit

This could all be a coincidence, of course. Anything is possible. But given the intensely public nature of almost all these events — given that they were all filmed and streamed and photographed for front pages the world over — it’s hard to imagine Ms. Pelosi just reached into her closet this morning, knowing what she was about to do, knowing the image of her speech would be captured forever, and thought, “Oh, I’ll just wear whatever comes to hand.”

Certainly, Ms. Pelosi has long understood the power of color, and the way it can be a part of the politician’s playbook, even as she is focused on more important issues. Indeed, she has experienced its effects twice in the last year alone.

The first time was last December when she wore a burnt orange MaxMara coat to sit down with the President, and declared, “Don’t characterize the strength that I bring.” The viewing public latched on to the garment as a symbol of her firepower.

The second time was the next month, after her election as speaker for a second time, when she raised the gavel on the opening ceremony of Congress in a bright fuchsia dress, one that stood out in a sea of dark suits like a beacon announcing her unapologetic femininity, and renouncing the idea that any woman would have to dress like a man to be a leader, ever again.

Her choice to eschew such colors, or even the Armani taupe she wore when she and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, delivered their televised rebuttal to Mr. Trump’s border wall address the same month, for a shade that — even beyond the obvious (and admittedly trite) associations like peace, purity and new beginnings — has become so entwined with the optics of current competing political narratives is worth considering.

Not as much as her words, obviously — not as much as the idea that “our democracy is what is at stake,” as she put it, and not as much as what could happen next.

But in a world where the president has made his own clothing, be it a red MAGA cap or a dark suit and glowing red tie, a proprietary form of shorthand — and weaponized his campaign merch — the white suit is its own unspoken retort. It may never be something you wear only between Memorial and Labor Days again.

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