A look at what the color of your dress or tie can say in politics.
During the president’s second State of the Union address, television cameras panned to Michelle Obama who was clad in a brilliant dark purple dress with a full skirt by Isaac Mizrahi. And to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who wore a lavender suit. And to Vice President Joseph Biden, who wore a purple tie.
Then again, there are few coincidences in politics.
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“Color sends a message,”‘ says Kate Smith, a color expert who works as a corporate color consultant. “There’s some message on our mind, whether it’s conscious or unconscious.”
So, what does purple mean when it comes to politics?
Because it is a combination of red and blue, it carries some meanings from both colors. “You’re communicating the trustworthiness from blue as well as some red, the power, the in-charge side of red,” says Smith, who owns Sensational Color, a company based in Washington, D.C. “They’re unifying.”
And unification was one of the points of Obama’s speech.
He urged the Republicans and Democrats to be trustworthy in their power, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.”
So in essence, Obama is telling the nation not to act as red states or blue states, but to come together as, well, purple states.
The fact that he wore a tie that leans more toward burgundy than a true red is significant, too, says Smith. “It still has the message of the red tie, but when you go to a deeper tone, it’s not in your face, it’s not quite as bold.”
In other words, he’s in charge but he’s willing to cooperate with others.
“Purple is the color of creativity. When people wear it, it’s often because they are looking for creative answers, creative solutions,” says Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute, which is based in Carlstadt, N.J., and forecasts color trends.
Of course, here’s what we all want to know: Did they call or text each other to coordinate their wardrobes?