Amy Coney Barrett’s beet-pink dress spoke before her: she looked sane, practical, and stoically feminine, an image she intends to project.
It was a pretty dress, maybe even elegant by DC standards. A flat bow rested on his right shoulder, just under a string of pearls. Justice chose a very nice outfit for its first confirmation hearing. Too bad he was organized for such an ugly and rotten process.
The dress stood out in a room full of harmless blue and black suits; he spoke of sweet beauty when the debates are pretty much the opposite. Her outfit gives off a maternal warmth, easy comfort. This hides his decidedly right-handed record. This masks the harm it has the potential to cause once confirmed against women, LGBTQ people, anyone with Obamacare and the victims of voter suppression.
Barrett’s dark pink color may not be young, exactly, but there is life – underscoring his relatively young age for a Supreme Court judge. Barrett 48, like Brett Kavanaugh 53, means a long tenure. This dress, with its saccharine design, recalls it.
Barrett’s dress made a statement. It was the same for the democratic women parliamentarians during the hearing. Senators Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Mazie K. Hirono and Amy Klobuchar all wore bright blue blazers, their party color.
Hirono and Klobuchar put Ruth Bader Ginsburg enamel pins on their lapels. Kamala Harris, who zoomed in on the reunion, had a copy of the children’s book I disagree on a table behind her. A cartoon of RBG wearing his judge’s robe and famous necklace, smiled for the camera.
While the Democratic sartorial coup spoke loudly, Barrett’s dress had a quieter impact. In his opening speech, Barrett spoke of his dedication to the family. She dotted sweet details about each of her seven children. She mentioned that her college mentor, an English teacher, gave her a copy of the works collected by Truman Capote after graduation. (Is the subtext that she is anti-LGBTQ?)
The dress was working overtime to allay some fears. How could someone who looks so sure be a threat?
Barrett appeared at the hearing dressed as the caricature of a mother, or at least the archetype of the Right. Outfits can go a long way in building a reputation or communicating values. Barrett’s gender and family are considered an asset by conservative men who support her loudly, and this placid dress is a perfect sartorial vehicle for her and them.
Thom Tillis, a senator from North Carolina, supported Barrett as an avatar of women’s empowerment during his statement. He said she signed two copies of the Constitution for her granddaughters, writing “Dream big” next to her signature. He called Barrett “an inspiration to millions of young women in this country.”
Lindsey Graham said: “This is a vacancy that has occurred following the tragic loss of a great woman, and we will fill that vacancy with another great woman,” referring to the takeover by Barrett of the seat of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg. As if women were interchangeable. As if an exceptionally remarkable woman’s seat could be so easily filled a little over three weeks later.
But there is more to being a mother than being like one. There is more to being a “great woman” than being close to power. Barrett’s outfit projected ability and friendliness, but she wore it while claiming a president who lacked any of these traits.
Amy Coney Barrett’s dress underscores the absurdity she was meant to lull into. And maybe that’s a warning. Republicans are rushing this process, and she’s happy to walk with them, perfectly and properly dressed.
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