Hillary Clinton was the unquestionable star of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s annual award show in New York Monday night. While most presenters and award winners and even the night’s host, Andy Cohen, the executive vice president of Bravo who also presides over Watch What Happens Live, struggled to get even a semblance of laughter out of the crowd of designers, fashion editors, and celebrities, Clinton absolutely killed them with her pantsuit jokes.
“I’m going to be pitching Andy on a new show for Bravo,” Clinton said in her remarks introducing Oscar de la Renta, upon whom she was asked to bestow the night’s Founders Award. “We can call it Project Pantsuit.”
Clad in a navy beaded pantsuit with a relaxed, pajama-like cut by de la Renta, Clinton recalled meeting the designer for the first time at the 1993 Kennedy Center Honors, which she hosted at the White House with her husband. “There was a receiving line in the White House, and people were coming through, and they were making small talk and exchanging pleasantries, and along came Oscar and Annette, his fabulous wife. So I reached out to shake Oscar’s hand and he looked me up and down and said, ‘That’s one of my dresses.’ I said, ‘Really?’” (Here, the audience laughed.)
“I was then, as I am now, such a fashion icon,” Clinton joked, to more laughter. “So I said, ‘Really? Well you know, I bought it to wear for this occasion.’ And he said, ‘Turn around.’” The audience hanging on her words like she was about to announce big plans for 2016, Clinton remembered thinking, “Oh my god, I’m being, like, examined by Oscar de la Renta. But it started a great friendship.”
CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg, who does charitable work with Clinton, asked her to present the award to de la Renta. When de la Renta came on stage to accept his award from Clinton, he opened his remarks with, “I hope she’s going to be our next president.” The crowd burst into cheers and applause, as Clinton stood by de la Renta’s side, grinning. (Should Clinton move back into the White House, she’d surely bring along plenty of Oscar de la Renta clothes, which she’s always favored but which past CFDA Fashion Icon Award recipient Michelle Obama has notably never publicly worn.)
Though she used to get routinely slammed for her pantsuits, scrunchies, and other hair accessories, Clinton’s presence at these very fashion-y fashion awards — they’re known as the Oscars of fashion — hardly felt out of place. Over the course of her political career, she’s successfully drawn attention away from her clothes while finding some of her biggest supporters in the industry that creates the most cutting-edge attire in the country: the blatantly left-leaning fashion crowd. At the CFDA Awards, Clinton’s clothes weren’t something she felt the need to downplay, but finally something she could start to have fun with. The way Michelle Obama does, only, well, different.
“Project Pantsuit is totally a go,” said Andy Cohen when he retook the stage. “Madeleine Albright is doing the first challenge.”