Why do we care about the Social Secretaries’ Sense of Style?

UPDATE 3/3/10:

Seems her sense of style outshined her job. With Roger’s departure from the White House, comes more analysis. The link below is from Robin Givhan.


May 1, 2009

There has been a lot of press about Obama’s Social Secretary Desiree Rogers. We have seen her at Fashion Week, in articles in the Washington Post and just like the First Lady, she seems to get more coverage for her clothing than her Harvard education and career. The link below is from the Huffington Post Blog.


Why do we care so much about what someone in power is wearing today or how their sense of style reflects their ability to do their job? Personally, it’s my job to help people look their best for photos and at times it does seem trivial to find the balance where makeup will enhance and not detract from the client’s look.

Yet, we are creatures built for survival. Just look at male birds’ markings and behavior, like the peacock’s gorgeous teal feathers or the flashy dances performed by the black, “Tutu” Rain Forest bird in Disney’s Earth and we see how our grooming and appearance is a chance for us to get noticed for mating or powering up the ladder of success.

When we look back on the history of Social Secretaries from the Kennedy era, Letitia Baldridge was instrumental in the White House’s social affairs.

Photo by Mark Seliger for Vanity Fair/ Grooming by Susan Heydt

Comparing Latitia Baldridge to Ms. Rogers, we see how a contemporary approach to White House entertaining prevails. At the Vanity Fair photo shoot for Portraits of  Power, Mrs. Baldridge emphasized the lack of formal affairs and behavior among today’s hostesses. Who can argue with the puppeteer of Camelot? Mrs. Baldridge went so far as to place blame on our current average and vanilla sense of style brought on by the influence of Martha Stewart. Please read my comments (click the link below) in the Mrs. O blog about Desiree and Latitia for more details.


Mark Seliger, Rolling Stone rocker photographer, shot the Vanity Fairpicture of Latitia Baldridge with Sargent Shriver and the others. Mark’s photography is characterized by incredible natural looking light bouncing off the subjects. The best photo I’ve ever sat in for was Seliger’s. We were setting up for another photo shoot for Vanity Fair. The subjects were to include Ted Kennedy and the most senior Senators and Representatives from the United States. Mark asked if  “The Dream Team”, that being our crew, would step in for the test photo. The Polaroid from that lighting test was the best picture of  the photo assistants and myself that I’ll ever be privy to. I wish I had asked for the Polariod! Here is the actual photo that appeared in the February 2007  issue. I guess no matter what, unless there were no mirrors, at the end of the day we do care about how we look and how others look. Darwin would be happy because especially in Washington, D.C. it’s survival of the fittest.

photo by mark seliger/grooming by susan heydt
photo by mark seliger/grooming by susan heydt



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