Nancy Pelosi’s plane may have landed in Taiwan under the cover of night, but her arrival was, in every other way, orchestrated to be visible.
Descending onto the asphalt at Taipei Songshan Airport on Tuesday evening, the US House speaker shone out from the darkness in a pink pantsuit. Amid a sea of black and gray (fellow Democrat Mark Takano’s powder blue number notwithstanding), her outfit recognized that this was no time to be understated.
Nancy Pelosi meeting with Malaysia’s Parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun during her recent visit to Malaysia, dressed in a pink suit. Credit: Famer Rohen/Malaysian Department of Information/Reuters
It was not simply a case of sticking out for the cameras, however.
What has commentators really guessing is whether Pelosi intentionally nodded to another of America’s great pantsuit aficionados: Hillary Clinton.
In 1995, the then-first lady wore a remarkably similar outfit to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she famously declared: “Women’s rights are human rights.” Like Pelosi’s trip, Clinton’s speech was somewhat controversial. During her address, she detailed threats facing women globally — including in China — and made thinly veiled swipes at her host’s intolerance of dissent.
Hillary Clinton, dressed in a pink power suit, speaks in Beijing in 1995 at the UN Fourth World Conference. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
The moment was, unsurprisingly but ironically, censored by Beijing. And if Pelosi were aiming to evoke a historical memory, then that of Clinton openly criticizing the China on mainland soil would certainly be a subtly provocative one.
There was the hot pink suit she wore on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the one she sported (with pink pumps) for the House committee chairs’ latest official photo and the fuchsia dress she chose for the 116th Congress’ wearing-in , which featured a record-breaking 127 women. She can even be seen wearing a pink blazer in her official Twitter profile picture.
Hillary Clinton wearing a rose-hued outfit in 1995, during an exhibition opening at the White House. Credit: Joyce Nalchayan/AFP/Getty Images
One can read too much into politicians’ wardrobes. Indeed, it may have been no more than a coincidence that Tsai Chi-chang, deputy speaker of Taiwan’s legislature, appeared to respond to Pelosi’s suit by wearing a pink tie to meet her on Wednesday morning.
But clothes carry symbolism — and if the roars of approval on social media are anything to go by, the message behind Pelosi’s pink suit was heard in Taipei, Beijing and beyond.