Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clarke - Guilty Of Fashion War Crimes?

Amy Finnerty writes in the WSJ.com: Like a hothouse flower growing in a bed of moss, Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman with a penchant for nonregulation attire, has been attracting admirers and puritanical detractors. It's hard to believe, but the Defense Department reportedly has had to waste time fielding comments about the assistant undersecretary's jackets. The impressive Ms. Clarke delivers her crisp war briefings while seeming oblivious to the fact that she's wearing chirpy violet, preppie pink-and-green, or Mondrian color blocks from the neck down.

Women in public life are more likely than men to be judged by their appearance.

Sherry Maysonave, a "communications image consultant" and the author of "Casual Power: How to Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication and Dress for Success" (note that "power" appears twice in the title), admires Ms. Clarke mightily, and is sympathetic to the plight of scrutinized women. But even she thinks that the attractive, humane face of the Pentagon has way too much going on from the neck down.

"She needs to avoid color blocking, which is disempowering for women because it confuses the eye and distracts from the message. People will be trying to make sense of the design and get distracted from what she's saying." Sadly, this is thought to hold true even if what she's delivering is grave or vital news about American troops.

Fortunately, for those of us able to filter out the visual noise of fuchsia juxtaposed with purple, Ms. Clarke is an intellectual and aesthetic Balenciaga from the neck up. "She has tasteful makeup, tailored jewelry, an excellent haircut, and she's a good communicator," Ms. Maysonave says. "She's fashionable but professional."

Spanno writes: Am I the only one that thinks something is wrong with this woman's dress sense? First time I saw her on TV she was wearing some kind of half one colour half another thing today she has some violent pink and black number on, is she for real ? How does she expect people to take seriouslly talking about Iraqi brutality, deaths of soldiers etc when she's standing there looking like a clown?

MrPopup writes: Hmmm....look at her wardrobe.... Does she own stock in a terrycloth company? You should lobby for a pay raise for this bird so she can afford some new duds. Women and their "power suits".....sheesh.

Livedose writes: MILF or dyke? Can't decide...

Jake writes: Victoria Clarke is on Cnn again, I think she's sober. For those that missed it, was , i dont know even how to describe it..Was a like she had her seamstress sew two random blazers from her closet together, right down the middle.Was something outa a bad 1980's dream. If there gona represent us (us) and the pentagon, shouldn't they have some dress code? Maybe trying to kill suddam with laughter when he see's it.

Perfection Girls writes: It looked like an open box of neopolitan ice cream. I called all my family on the phone and had them laughing with me. LOL

Oliver writes: And she is such a ball buster! Did you see her busting the chops of one of those reporters? What the hell was she thinking when she got up this morning? "Hmmm I'm going to be on National TV today so what should I wear?"

King writes: Hahaha, I saw that one too, and thought there was something wrong with my color-settings on my TV. The only thing missing from that picture is a big-ass hairdo and some pastel ear-rings.

Winning Women Pic1 Pic2 Pic3 Pic4 Pic5

Lauren writes: Someone from the Fashion Police needs to talk to Victoria Clarke about her *Shag - a - Deli* blazer!!! She's worn it several times and it's horrible!!!! I was just watching CNN and she wore it again!!!!

Fred Barnes writes for the Weekly Standard: Thomas M. DeFrank, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, would seem to be perfectly qualified to be the chief spokesman for the Defense Department. He is a Texan who's known President Bush for years. He has 22 years of military experience, including two as an Army second lieutenant working in the Pentagon office of public affairs. He's also served in the Army public affairs shop. DeFrank knows defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld well. In 1975, he spent two weeks of active duty on Rumsfeld's staff during Rumsfeld's earlier stint as defense secretary. And that was at Rumsfeld's specific request. He knows the military culture that dominates the Pentagon. And he frequently writes about military affairs.

Yet DeFrank, strongly favored by some at the Pentagon for the spokesman's job, was passed over. Instead, the White House announced last week that Victoria Clarke, a Washington public relations executive with no experience in military affairs, was the nominee for the post. Clarke was selected to comply with the White House's insistence on women or minorities in high positions. Among her champions was Karen Hughes, President Bush's communications director and the person in charge of picking spokesmen, or spokeswomen, for cabinet agencies.

There's more to it than a successful power play by Hughes. Clarke is part of a phalanx of women who have gained top positions in the Bush administration. Clay Johnson, the White House personnel director and a longtime friend of Bush, says no quotas or even rough goals come into play in choosing appointees. "Even if you were inclined to set a goal, I don't know what the goal would be," Johnson says. Still, there's been talk inside and outside the administration about having no more than half the 484 political positions in the cabinet and agencies go to white males and at least 30 percent to women. As luck would have it, about 30 percent of the president's picks so far have been women and about 50 percent white males.

Many of Bush's female nominees are both experienced and talented. Victoria Clarke was press secretary to Senator John McCain, worked with Matalin in the 1992 reelection campaign of the first President Bush, ran PR for the National Cable Television Association, and more recently has headed the Washington office of Hill and Knowlton, the respected public relations firm. No doubt she's qualified to be spokeswoman for many federal agencies. The problem is the Defense Department may not be one of them.

Is pink inappropriate in time of war?

By ROBIN GIVHAN, The Washington Post

It is hard not to notice Victoria Clarke's clothes whenever the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs fields questions from reporters during televised briefings. Clarke is often flanked by Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of operations, and the contrast between a civilian in business attire and the chest-forward posture of a soldier in a medal-bedecked uniform is impossible to miss.

But Clarke also stands out because she wears bold jackets in raspberry, tangerine and fire engine red, as well as in delicate pastel combinations such as peach and sky blue. She is a spark of conspicuous color in a room filled with dark suits and sobering news.

Clarke's preference for colorful jackets is not a symbolic display of rose-colored optimism to balance the somber war news that she now has to deliver. She has always been more apt to wear geranium pink than charcoal gray. Quite simply, Clarke has decided not to change her professional attire in deference to the war in Iraq.

There are those, however, who think she should. The Defense Department's Office of Public Affairs acknowledges hearing complaints, mostly from men who find pink inappropriate during a time of war.

Through a spokesman, Clarke "politely declined to comment on her wardrobe." It is a personal choice, she said, and she would prefer to keep her personal and her professional lives separate.

Although one can understand the desire, the reality is that personal decisions and professional duties collide each time Clarke stands before the cameras to discuss developments in Iraq. It is understandable that some feel uneasy seeing condolences delivered by someone dressed in a pink plaid jacket suitable for Easter Sunday services. But if one were tempted to deride her penchant for pink or to mock the Mondrian jacket she wore last weekend, one should first know that a senior defense official said Clarke is "colorblind. She couldn't tell you the exact color of what she was wearing."

Colorblindness could certainly explain Clarke's affection for jarring color combinations or the tendency for her wardrobe to look like a collection of prepackaged separates rather than suits assembled based on mood or whims. Colorblindness may account for poorly calibrated hues of red and orange...


Victoria "Torie" Clarke - 42 years of age, mother of three young children, Chief Spokeswoman for the Pentagon.

"Clarke's husband, Brian Graham, an executive at Fannie Mae, takes on a lot of responsibility, and Clarke came home one night to find him asleep on their bed, surrounded by camp forms, photo orders -- the debris of daily life. But if motherhood makes her job harder, it also provides motivation. 'It makes you appreciate how important it is to make the world a safer place,' Clarke says. 'That gets driven home to me every night when I go home to see my kids, and every morning when I leave in the dark and kiss them goodbye.'"

(USA Today's USA Weekend April 12-14 Cover story titled "The White House Message Machine," reported by Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts.)

Christ's Bride Ministries says: "Victoria Clarke, the chief spokeswoman for the Pentagon, is the ideal choice to serve as the spokesperson for the modern U.S. military, the feminist military, the sodomite military, the politically correct military, the military which is ignorant of the true Constitution of the United States, and thus of their constitutional duties, the pluralist military, the pagan military, the heathen military, the infidel military, the technology-trusting military, the doomed military."

Kim Hume writes for the Weekly Standard: VICTORIA CLARKE, the veteran political public relations diva, had no idea where the roller coaster was taking her when she signed on to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Relations under Rumsfeld.

September 11 changed her world and she was suddenly thrust on the stage with the U.S. military response in Afghanistan. Things did not go so well between the media and the military and the bureau chiefs really did have something to complain about. But out of that experience Clarke did what she knew best--she went on a campaign.

Her goal was to bridge the old gap between the generals and the journalists. She held forums at think tanks, she had bi-monthly meetings with the bureau chiefs, she yessed us to death. Yes, we would have dialogue. Yes, we would consult. Yes, we would get access.

Right, we all said skeptically. We knew the game; the military would never let us in. And even if it did, we wouldn't be allowed near the fighting and would either be censored or not allowed to file stories until it was over.

We were wrong. Clarke's brilliant idea was to have the embedding project sanctioned from the top down. Get Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard Myers on board.

"They are very involved in making sure that everybody on our side of the fence understands the intent, understands what the mission is," Clarke said in January, "and that's been a distinct difference from the past."

The idea was to push the policy decision down the ranks and not to let concerns about operational security hang it up. The military used to claim that the media couldn't be trusted; that they would broadcast operational details and men and women in uniform would die.

Clarke's answer: If the journalists' lives are on the line too, they'll keep their mouths shut when they're supposed to.

What is she wearing?

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke has attracted more comment on her dress sense than her style of delivery. There could be a good reason for that, says Gary Younge

Wednesday April 2, 2003 The Guardian

The US defence department's press office has been receiving complaints following its daily briefings. Given the abrasive style and evasive nature of defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's delivery and the splits emerging between the politicians and the military, you would think it was about time.

But the complaints are not from peace protesters demanding more information on innocent civilians, or retired generals worried about supply lines, but men who believe that pink is an inappropriate colour to be worn from the Pentagon podium at a time of war. The focus of their concern is the assistant secretary of defence for public affairs, Victoria Clarke. Or, more specifically, her wardrobe.

The fact that at times such as these, not least in an era where women comprise 16 per cent of the US armed forces, men might still find time to fret about the shade of Clarke's plaid jackets rather than the tone and content of her delivery is worrying. None the less, when you see the first woman to hold the job standing six feet tall in fire-engine red and pastel plaids in a room full of medalled-military blazers it is difficult not to notice.

Even the Washington Post, not renowned for its frippery or flippancy, has been pushed to comment that Clarke's dress sense can at times detract from or even confuse the message.

Americans will have to get accustomed to her idiosyncratic style. While she may never get the casting vote on the style council, Torie Clarke is going to become ever more familiar to viewers.

For a Republican party fighting a war far less popular with women than men, Clarke's on-screen presence has a particular currency. You will find her on the party's website, marketed as one of "thousands of women across the country who are providing the local leadership needed to deliver President Bush's compassionate conservative message."

Yet while her delivery at the podium is a relief after Rumsfeld's scowl, her manner, let alone her message, is none the less abrupt. She says she has abandoned the "smart blankety-blank" style that characterised her role as a PR woman in the corporate world when dealing with the press at the Pentagon. Her role, is "just too important". In most jobs "you think, well it isn't a matter of life or death. Here it is life or death matters," she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Raised as the youngest of five daughters in a middle-class family in Pennsylvania, her name alone presaged a fearsome if not fighting character. The way her father tells it she was named after Queen Victoria. According to her mother, "her heart valve didn't work so they baptised her right away, and when she made it through, they named her Victoria because she was victorious over death."

A lifelong Republican, she was press secretary for the Bush-Quayle presidential campaign in 1992. When Bush lost she moved into the private sector where she remained until she got a call from Bush junior's administration two years ago. Referring to herself as the president of the Friends Don't Let Friends Go Back into Government Committee, she was a reluctant recruit.

She had been in her present job just six months when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into her workplace on September 11 2001. Later that day, she told the world the Pentagon was still open for business. Since then, with America declaring an endless war, Clarke has acquired an almost permanent presence.

And if her outfits raise eyebrows then it is a response with which she is familiar. As a child, her mother said: "She used to insist on walking around the house in a cowboy hat and leather pants. I think she actually had a holster and a gun." An instinct of which her current employers would no doubt approve.

Tim writes: Is she the one that was wearing a pinstripe suit top with white pinstripe sleeves back rolled all the way up her arm on CNBC? I almost gagged.

Fritz writes: I mean come on, did she lose her ability to see what color she is wearing? She looks like an 80's hard rock band backup singer. Am I the only person who has noticed this?

Connie writes: I agree totally (how 80s is that?). She was wearing a suit the other day where the left half was pink and the right half was gray (or the other way around) with a lt. blue turtleneck. Horrendous!

Bud writes: It was worse than pink and gray, it was pink and brown. We laughed like Hell when we saw that. Her earrings are the worst part of her wardrobe. They look like the ones my grandma quit wearing about 30 years ago.

Barry writes: The first time I saw the half-pink, half-tan blazer, I just figured she'd lost a bet or something. But it seems to show up with alarming frequency now... Maybe somebody should tell her that New York fashion show stuff isn't actually meant to be worn by actual people.

Marilyn Welch writes: Here's what Camellia Paglia said about the US administration hawks: "There was a shiftiness, a sleight of hand, a kind of blustery bravado and smugness: "Well, we know, but we just can't tell you, because it would compromise national security." Give me a break -- we're about to go to war and kill or maim thousands of innocent people. Americans will die too. And they couldn't lay all their cards on the table? "

It sure applies to Victoria Clarke. She never confirms her rumours, oh no can't tell you the source of that one. When questioned about other rumours, she never denies them. Asked about the battery being used to torture prisoners, she goes into a spiel on the cruelty of Saddam Hussein. This morning she corrected a reporter, "inevitable outcome? it is not a feeling it is a reality." She repeated this 3 times. How can something in the future be stated to be unequivocal 'reality.' She really is coming off as a testy witch.

Myname writes 3/29: OK, today it's not that bad. Bright pink jacket with black sleeves and a black turtleneck. It's not as bad as the Necco wafer inspired outfit, but it looks as though whoever made it ran out of pink material and decided to finish it with black. Someone get her over to alt.fashion...asap!

Ron writes: I'm not a fashionista or anything. But she has to have the absolute worst taste I've ever seen. The neon multi-color suits in particular would make Joan Rivers have a heart attack.

Sara writes: They're rather inappropriate for announcements regarding a war. I guess she just decided a big old war wasn't going to stop her from having *fun* with fashion. Why be a gloomy gus?

Cliff writes: I think she's sending secret signals to the troop commanders with these outfits: there's no other plausible explanation.

Podkayne writes: Does anyone know if she's related to the late Captain Kangaroo? It looks as if she inherited his wardrobe.

Keeper writes: Has anyone noticed that the DoD spokesperson Toria Clarke has spooky eyes? Eyes that may remind you of a Linda Blair or worse, Rumsfeld?

Caption Contest for Victoria Clarke's outfit

Kori Lawrence writes: It reminded me of a scene last May (I remember the month because I'd just given birth, not because I'm a rabid briefings watcher) when VC wore this outfit that my Mom and I agreed could cause seizures in some people. It was so horrible I can't even bring myself to describe it. Suffice to say, it was composed of about 3-4 prints and a mulititude of clashing colors--even worse than this collage. I appreciate that as a spokesWOMAN she probably has a lot of pressure to have a bunch of outfits instead of just rotating ties like Ari Fleischer, but there can't be that much of a shortage of good clothes in DC.

Lavoix writes: The reason she was so badly dressed is that she has no gay friends.

Myn writes: It was unprofessional if you ask me, especially if you consider the gravity of the situation that is happening. There are expectations of what's acceptable in terms of clothing depending on the level of your position. For her to have such a high profile job that represents the Pentagon she should be wearing business professional outfits. The outfit she had on would have been acceptable at a ladies luncheon or something social, but certainly not to inform the press of such grave matters with regard to the war in Iraq. It was a poor choice on her part and if she doesn't care what other people thing she needs to find another job. Not to mention that it was just plain fugly.

Mack writes: If there are rumblings in the earth today in southern California, it won't be earthquakes, it'll be all the deceased movie fashion designers, like Edith Head, Jean Louis, Adrian, and others turning over in their graves. This outfit's vendors are still laughing that they were actually able to SELL this little number. They had better designs for clothing in LOGAN'S RUN.

Jane Ganahl writes: She's a former athlete who stands almost 6 feet tall, an unremarkable student who got where she is today by working 14 hours a day -- somehow with three small children. She goes toe to toe on policy with the big guns -- but never in front of reporters. She was instrumental in getting the military to allow reporters to be embedded with troops -- something that may come back to haunt her when the war postmortems are done.

Clarke also has a penchant for wearing bold colors -- raspberry and tangerine and red, further setting herself apart from the men in drab. And if we need any further proof that women are treated differently in the media from men, the Washington Post did a full story on Clarke's fashion sense -- dissecting it every which way. Did she dress appropriately for her post? Should someone delivering grim combat news be sporting any other color than gray?