Power dressing: the election-race wardrobes

With polling in the US about to get under way, Harriet Walker casts her vote on who has won in the fashion stakes
  • @harrywalker1

Hurricanes and healthcare aside, it wouldn't be a proper race to the polls without a little wardrobe coverage, would it?

Ever since Obama's election in 2008, American politics has been a much razzier place – upon his inauguration, designers queued up to sketch their dream outfit for the new Head of State to wear, and offered everything from white tuxedos to top hats and tails.

Not since the likes of Jackie and JFK have we seen so starry a first couple: they kiss, they dance and, boy, do they look good on camera. And while POTUS was a force for change, FLOTUS has been a market force in her own right, boosting brands by more than £1.7bn, according to one economist's estimate, after being spotted in their wares.

In the pink

At the second Presidential debate, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney surprised spectators by arriving in matching shades of Schiaparelli pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While the First Lady opted for a minimal Michael Kors shift dress and cropped jacket, her would-be successor was in silk Oscar de la Renta – upstanding and uptown American designers both, and part of the nation's fashionable fabric, but with very different outlooks: the former, all sporty grace and ease, the latter more traditionally elegant and formal. Reviews the following day suggested Mrs Romney wear sturdier underwear next time.

The grey lady

Michelle Obama confirmed her fashion credentials with this lilac-grey micro-gingham and lace dress by avant-garde New York designer Thom Browne. Browne, who began his career in menswear, is known for his more conceptual pieces, but this tailored A-line shift was just right for the occasion. Tastefully understated as ever, Obama has a knack for combining chic with cool, garnering votes from both sides of the fashion arena – full marks for both being in the know, as well as for simply looking great. She knows the importance of accessorising too, and blinged things up with a glittering bow-shaped brooch.

Shirt sleeves and sun-tans

Note the difference between Mitt and Barack's dressed down looks: the Republican candidate goes all-out yokel in checked shirt and open collar, while the President himself merely rolls up his sleeves and loosens his tie a little – you get the impression that this is how he looks in the Oval Office too, exuding a natural sort of can-do authority. Romney's top half is all summer barbecue, while beneath the podium lurked a pair of grey (potentially crimplene) slacks. You can take the Mormon out of Utah, but you can't take him out of his trousers. Who can blame Mitt for trying to update his look a little from Fifties to Seventies with a hint of spray tan?

A floridian faux pas

When Ann Romney wore a Diane von Furstenberg geometric print wrap dress to a rally in Florida, the designer's "people" were surprised. A spokesperson for DVF, who is an outspoken Obama supporter and suggested Republicans might want to leave her Manhattan store at an event last month, claimed the brand was "not quite sure how Ann obtained the dress". Presumably, she just bought it. Anyway, it was a bold move either way, seeing as a) it looks a bit like a tablecloth, and b) there's nothing worse than wearing clothes made by someone who doesn't like you or what you stand for.

Accessorise this

While many may think Obama has this election in the bag, Sharon Stone has been toting his face around on a bag. Other celeb endorsements include a latex ballot paper dress worn by Katy Perry, and Beyoncé's earrings, spelling out "Barack".