On the Runway: Hillary Clinton, Shoe Model?

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Vanessa Friedman

Vanessa Friedman

ON THE RUNWAY

Last week, Hillary Clinton made news for an appearance at the Women in the World Summit, where she discussed the recent presidential election, her personal evolution and the state of the union. This week, she is making news for a different kind of appearance: as a shoe model on Katy Perry’s Instagram feed.

Ms. Perry, a singer/designer who introduced her shoe collection this year, posted a picture on Instagram of Mrs. Clinton wearing “The Hillary,” a suede pump — available in pink or seafoam green with a stacked 3.5-inch Lucite heel with moons and stars floating inside — that sells for $139. The former secretary of state was wearing a pink pair, and seemed pretty happy about it.

Interactive Feature | Clinton Models for Katy Perry’s Collection

Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Perry have been mutual supporters for a while. The singer endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president, stumped for her during the latest campaign, and sang at the Democratic National Convention; Mrs. Clinton, after her election defeat, made a surprise appearance at the Unicef Snowflake Ball to present Ms. Perry with the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award.

This, however, is the first time the relationship has extended to the fashion sphere.

It’s actually a fairly daring move, even for someone who is not running for office or in a position of official authority. After all, Mrs. Clinton knows that her every move in public is being watched and parsed for meaning. And she has a long history with clothing issues, good and bad. Which means that she knows that wearing the shoes is going to be seen as an endorsement, and she is wearing them for a reason.

And that is?

The reaction tells part of the story.

As of Wednesday morning, Ms. Perry’s post had more than 309,000 likes, and there were only three pink pairs of The Hillary left in stock on katyperrycollections.com, and five green pairs, which is one way to test the waters of Mrs. Clinton’s continued appeal. Breitbart News, however, saw the moment as an expression of weakness, using the headline “Hillary Clinton Reduced to Modeling Shoes for Katy Perry.” (Breitbart has recently been going after the fashion world: A recent headline was “NY Fashion Industry Outsources Elite Jobs to H-1B Contract Workers,” and an article on Sunday attacked the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren for joining forces with the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us to promote changes in immigration policy.

Interactive Feature | NYT Living Newsletter Get lifestyle news from the Style, Travel and Food sections, from the latest trends to news you can use.

Perhaps more pointedly, a woman wrote on Twitter that “6 months ago Hillary Clinton thought she’d be the next President of USA. Now she’s advertising Katy Perry’s shoeline sale. I CANT BREATHE.” Beneath her post, some commenters compared the move to the actions of the current first family, whose members have created controversy because of the entanglements of their personal brands.

The comparison isn’t really correct. Mrs. Clinton is not benefiting financially from the Katy Perry relationship, though the very public choice of a somewhat wacky shoe is indubitably something of an image-changer: a declaration of independence from expectations and tradition, a visual statement that goes with her new haircut.

Mrs. Clinton, after all, has had a famously conflicted relationship with fashion, chafing against the idea that she would in any way be defined, or identified, by what she wore as first lady or as a Senate candidate, seeing it as gender prejudice; then relaxing into her own uniform; and then using fashion as a tool to increase her relatability, by making jokes about her pantsuits and hair. But a social media post in which Mrs. Clinton not only wears Ms. Perry’s shoes but also has her arms spread in a “ta-da” pose, suggests Mrs. Clinton may be entering yet another stage: one where she actually has fun with clothes.

That’s not a bad thing. And now the resistance, which took its dressing cues from the candidate last fall, from pantsuit nation to the voters who went to the polls in suffragists’ white, has something to wear on its feet.

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