Fashion Diplomacy: How to Get Things Done With Fashion
By Yilin Du
Fashion and diplomacy, two seemingly different topics, actually have a mutually benificial role. When First Ladies go on state visits, people analyze what they wear, from brands to colors.
With the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Washington, his wife, Peng Liyuan, and FLOTUS Michelle Obama were under comparison. Peng Liyuan is known for her traditional Chinese style, while Michelle Obama is known for her unique taste featuring vibrant colors and patterns by up and coming designers. The two first ladies each had shown their styles with a touch of the beauty and culture of their respective countries. During the state dinner in honor of China’s First Couple, Mrs. Obama wore a black gown by Vera Wang, a Chinese-American designer.
Fashion can also be used to create links between countries establishing better relationships. According to The Week, Michelle Obama has become a fashion icon in India, a culture that previously equated beauty with whiteness. By curating her appearance, she partly helped to end some of the stigma against dark skin.
In a similar case, the United Kingdom’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge showcased diplomatic fashion on an official royal tour to Canada in 2011. The International Business Times complimented the Duchess’s fashion diplomacy, calling her choice of a diamond maple leaf brooch, the national symbol of Canada, a “smart fashion move.”
Fashion is important not only to First Ladies and the Duchess, but also to presidential candidates, who rely on color psychology. According to ABC News, “While a presidential candidate’s tie color rarely makes post-debate headlines, the tie he chooses to wear around his neck can send as much of a message as the words he chooses to come out of his mouth.”
Even Pope Francis, during his tour of the Americas, pays attention to his attire. His classic all-white cassock and simple black shoes convey the simplicity of the Pope, with a white skull cap and a cross on a silver chain as his only accessories. According to Time, the Pope is the only member of the clerical hierarchy who can wear a white skull cap.