Campaign Couture

updated 09/18/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/18/2000 01:00AM

The Gores

AL GORE: A CHANGED MAN
As Vice President, the self-confessed policy wonk had been hearing for years that he should lighten up. Running for the top job himself, Gore, 52, has taken the advice literally. Whether it came from feminist author Naomi Wolf–hired by the campaign in 1999 to help woo female voters–or (as Gore insists) his wife, Tipper, and daughter Karenna, 27, the veep got the message: The road from second banana to alpha male is best traveled in more earth tones, jeans and snappy ties, and fewer starchy blue suits. "By introducing a little color and splash to his look, Gore began to separate himself from his earlier image," says campaign watcher Craig Crawford, editor of the political e-newsletter Hotline. "He's very conscious of appealing to women by showing himself to be a man of style." Although Gore still campaigns in resoled, decades-old cowboy boots, he now pairs them with up-to-the-minute three-button suits (bought off the rack), as well as jeans and chinos. "The new norm for politicians is how Gore is dressing," Crawford says. "It's casual clothes, and a touch of fashion without going overboard."

TIPPER GORE: THE HIPSTER
In the eight years her heels have clicked along the corridors of power, the Second Lady has managed to avoid ducking into any doors marked "Wacky Trends" or "Inauguration Night Disasters." Glam when she has to be, Gore, 52, a mother of four, has spent most of her two terms in tailored ensembles–pantsuits as often as skirts and jackets–from working-woman favorites Dana Buchman (one of our Best and Worst judges) and Ellen Tracy. She usually shops at retail stores, and "likes things she can easily wear in a lot of different situations," reports Tracy rep Laura Holbrook. But the amateur drummer also pays attention to what the trendier citizenry is up to. Her coat-length jackets, says Holbrook, "are what's happening now."

Al and Tipper Gore (at a D.C. fund-raiser last September) stand together on style. Tipper "dresses like a lot of women dress. She wears things that are flattering to her," says her spokeswoman Camille Johnston. And from whom does Al get his fashion advice? Says Gore: "Tipper."

Gore's casual attire in Cleveland last month prompts Martin Greenfield, a Brooklyn-based tailor who has served four Presidents, to reminisce: "Years ago, no candidate would ever dare go out without a shirt and tie."

Gore's choice of a light three-button suit for an October debate at Dartmouth College was "fashion-forward," says Lyn Elizabeth Paolo, costume designer for NBC's West Wing. It was Tipper who coaxed her husband out of a fashion rut. "She got tired of me wearing dark-blue suits all the time," Gore said. "She picked out a couple of light suits."

Tipper (at an October fundraiser in Denver) has a style best described as "casual professional," says her spokeswoman Camille Johnston. "Pants are easier for work."

On convention night, Tipper's custom-made silk-and-linen Ellen Tracy suit proved boogie-worthy and "shows she's smart, pragmatic, with a real sense of style and fun," says Craig Crawford. "We may see the emergence of a Tipper look. Maybe not a Jackie pillbox craze, but a possible trend."

The Bushes

GEORGE W. BUSH: STRAIGHT SHOOTER
Although the GOP candidate's basic-blue suits look unstudied, almost everything he wears is handmade to his exacting specifications. (An exception: the "yearly Hawaiian shirt" wife Laura says their twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, 18, give him each Father's Day.) "He told me, 'I like to look like a real American,'" says Austin tailor Ghassane "Gus" Karim, who makes the Texas governor's suits and shirts. "He doesn't like to go wild, and he likes high-quality materials and a good fit." Bush's taste in footwear is less staid: He owns more than a dozen pairs of cowboy boots, mostly in ostrich, custom-made by Houstonian Rocky Carroll, an ex-narcotics agent who has shod Presidents (including Bill Clinton) and movie stars (Liz Taylor owns a diamond-trimmed pair). If Bush is elected, Carroll plans to make him another pair. "I'm gonna do what I did for his daddy. They'll have the presidential seal on the front in gold, his initials on the side and the Texas flag on the back."

LAURA BUSH: SUITABLE SPOUSE
To avoid repeat appearances in the same ensemble, Bush relies on "a little system," she says. "I put a piece of paper on the hanger and write down where I wore the outfit." For a politically perfect wardrobe, she depends on Dallas designer Michael Faircloth, who dresses her in modest knee-length suits that need no blouse. "It's cooler," Bush says. Besides, explains Faircloth, "when you're constantly waving, shirts come untucked." The style has caught on. "Other clients are now asking for the Laura Bush suit," says Faircloth. The signature says as much about politics as it does about fashion. Though the Texas governor's wife once lived in jeans, Faircloth now tries to keep her in skirts, he says, to avoid any "association with the more casual current residents of the White House."

At a victory party in Austin after the Texas primary in March, George W. and Laura Bush also present a united fashion front. He wears conservative colors; she wears conservative styles. Still, says Laura's designer Michael Faircloth, "she's a very up-close-and-personal type of person, and we try to reflect this in her clothes."

Sporty style comes naturally to the former owner of the Texas Rangers (in New Hampshire in November). "In the baseball business," says Laura Bush, "you dress in a casual way."

Laura Bush (in Stockton, Calif., in March) says pants are easier "for getting in and out of cars in motorcades." Also for visiting schools, when "I'm either sitting in tiny children's chairs or on the floor."

Bush (in New Hampshire last fall) is so precise about the fit of his suits that he once told tailor Gus Karim to shorten his pants exactly one-sixteenth of an inch. "He wrote it down on a card," says Karim.

The pale-green suit Laura Bush wore for her speech at the Republican convention "was very softly tailored, with soft shoulders," says Michael Faircloth, who designed it "It could not look very hard or too authoritative."

The Running Mates

JOE AND HADASSAH LIEBERMAN: FRESH FACES
Since becoming the Democratic candidate for Vice President, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, 58, has been shopping–and not just for votes. "He's had to get more clothes," explains his wife, Hadassah, 52. "Because he's out there in hot rallies, he has to change his shirts all the time." But he's still sticking with "the same black shoes that he buys every year," Hadassah says, and he's also keeping what Washington pundit Craig Crawford calls "a well-tailored, traditional look." Mrs. Lieberman, meanwhile, appears to support campaign fashion reform. Although so far she's done little more than "get my hair trimmed," Hadassah–who liked leopard-print dresses as a teen and still favors clothes that are "fun to wear"–may consult a stylist. "I'm not into the fashion thing yet," she says, "but I'll have to get my act together."

DICK AND LYNNE CHENEY: POLISHED PROS
As a congressman from Wyoming, Dick Cheney, 59, often paired his suits with cowboy boots when on the House floor. But that's about as casual as the former Defense Secretary–and GOP vice presidential nominee–gets in public. "He'll never really dress down," says master tailor Martin Greenfield, "because that's not what he's about." What he is about: "A clean, classic East Coast look," says costumer Lyn Elizabeth Paolo, "that's perfect for what he's doing." Cheney's wife, Lynne, 59–a onetime host of CNN's Crossfire–makes sure she's equally proper with custom-made clothes by McLean, Va., designer Kwon Suk Im. "Sometimes she brings in pictures from magazines," he says. "Sometimes I give my own ideas." To ensure that she and her husband look crisp on the campaign trail, Mrs. Cheney has been known to iron their clothes herself.

Arriving in Nashville last month, Lieberman "looks like he feels at ease in his clothes," says Martin Greenfield. Hadassah describes her own style: "I like the classic look, solid colors."

The Liebermans shop at department stores. At the Democratic convention, Hadassah "looks appropriate," says tailor Martin Greenfield. Her husband, adds costumer Lyn Elizabeth Paolo, "is doing quite well being thrown into this unexpectedly."

Tucking a flared-collar blouse under a long suit jacket shows that Lynne Cheney (in Plainfield, Ill., last month) "knows how to dress," says Martin Greenfield. Her husband's customary blue suit, adds pundit Craig Crawford, "is who he is. He's not trying to be Ricky Martin."

Designer Kwon Suk Im, who made the suit Lynne Cheney wore to the GOP convention, says his client "likes all types of colors." Her husband, Im adds, wears a range too: black, navy, brown and beige.

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