Kamala Harris achieved a lot of firsts this week. The first woman to be elected Vice President of the United States. The first woman of colour. The first Black and South Asian woman.
Also, the first petite woman. Yep, Kamala is 5’2″, which means she’s one of us. Petites, represent!
Surprised? Yeah, I was too. Harris carries herself with authority and generally looks taller than she is in most photos and TV appearances. Here she is in the Carolina Herrera suit she wore for her victory speech on Saturday, looking jubilant and celebratory. Fierce!
Why is this significant?
It shouldn’t matter, of course. Kamala Harris’s qualifications, political views and positions should be the factor in deciding whether to vote for her, not her height or her appearance. Actually, it was refreshing that there was far less emphasis on the physical appearance and wardrobe of the female candidates in this race than there was in, say, 2016, when the media couldn’t get over their obsession with what Hillary Clinton was wearing.
Sadly, though, our society is one that seems to equate height with status and power. In elections, the taller candidate usually wins, and bully candidates like Donald Trump even use height as a weapon. When women tend to rise to positions of power — CEOs, world leaders — they tend to be on the taller side of the height curve.
Arguably, Kamala Harris’s success as the VP candidate on the ticket may have had more to do with Joe Biden than herself. But she’s now the second-most powerful person in the US, and at 5’2″, that matters. It proves that height doesn’t need to limit anyone.
Powerful petite style: How Kamala does it
While I’m glad that there’s been refreshingly little coverage of Kamala Harris’s outfits, I will point out a few things that she does with her personal style to achieve that air of commanding a stage, in hopes that other petites can take some inspiration from these tips:
- She wears perfectly tailored suits. She favours power suits — usually pantsuits, but occasionally a skirt suit — which are always tailored to fit her proportions. This is likely a style she adopted with years of courtroom experience as a lawyer, and she’s carried it into her political campaign. The best way to not look overwhelmed by a power suit is to ensure that it fits perfectly.
- She favours a strong shoulder. Exaggerated 80s-style shoulder pads haven’t been in style for decades. But Kamala Harris, without overdoing the effect, ensures that her blazers are structured and cut to give her a strong shoulder line. She also favours visual detailing at the neck, including pussybow blouses. These are just a few visual illusions that petites can use to signal power and status. They also serve to draw the viewer’s eye upward towards her face, and presumably, towards listening to what she’s saying rather than focusing on what she’s wearing.
- She often eschews heels for comfortable sneakers. In more dressy outfits, Harris is often sporting a classic pair of nude pumps, which is a great way for petites to elongate their look. But when on the campaign trail or in more casual settings, she could often be seen in flat, comfortable Converse sneakers. Nothing says confidence like rocking the flat shoe at 5’2″, basically signalling to the world that you’re too busy and important to care about fashion norms and judgments of taller people. Not only did her choice of shoe likely add a spring to her step, but she even got Chuck Taylors trending again, as her sister Maya helpfully pointed out on Twitter.
- Her casual looks pair blazers with skinny jeans. This is a great way for petite women to draw the eye upward and always look put together in every setting. It’s a favourite fashion tip of mine, too. Sometimes she swaps the skinny jeans for a classic dark wash pair of straight leg jeans or black pants. It works either way.
- Her signature pearls are her fashion statement. While her overall style has evolved and changed over the years, Kamala Harris always wears her signature strand of pearls — a signature accessory that has been her calling card for 35 years.