Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Optics of Relatable Style

Take the distraction of Mr. Scaramucci out of the picture and Ms. Sanders still presents a very different image from her predecessor, who was ridiculed for his ill-fitting suits, frumpy ties and American flag pin discombobulation. Not that she put it that way exactly. “When speaking for the president you always try to look your best — some days you do better than others,” is what she emailed. With a smiley face.

Of course, there are more important things to talk about than how the White House communications team looks: gay rights, health care, Russia …

But in a West Wing vocally obsessed by image and appearance, the mien is the message. Or something like that. Recall President Trump’s lauding of his generals as straight out of “central casting”; his reported early scolding of Mr. Spicer for his rumpled appearance; the rumor that he had declared that the women on his staff should “dress like women”; the fact that one of the first things he said to Brigitte Macron during his Bastille Day visit was: “You’re in such good shape. She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.”


“I try to be relatable and convey the president’s message directly to the people across the country,” Ms. Sanders said in an email.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

This is true especially in a visual age, and for an administration schooled in the crucible of reality television, where what you wear and how you look play a leading role. Especially when Ms. Sanders is only the third woman to ever hold the post of press secretary and, as she often mentions in her briefings, the first mother. Especially when she is charged with representing an administration in which the attitude toward gender has been, let us say, a somewhat contentious and much discussed issue.

Deny it all you want, cry sexism (though the equal opportunity coverage of Mr. Spicer’s sartorial choices would mitigate against that), but as Dana Perino, President George W. Bush’s last press secretary and now a Fox host, once told Elle magazine: “When I got the job as the press secretary, one of my first thoughts was, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to wear?’ People really focus on that.” Externally and, apparently, internally.

And not because the wrong choices make you easy to lampoon on “Saturday Night Live.” Mr. Scaramucci admitted as much…

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