What Nikki Haley’s Dress Says About Her Campaign Against Trump

What Nikki Haley’s Dress Says About Her Campaign Against Trump

It wasn’t only Nikki Haley’s promise after the New Hampshire Republican primary that she would continue to fight that got under Donald J. Trump’s skin, apparently; it was her clothes, too.

Or rather her “fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy,” as the former president put it. And though he is often prone to exaggeration, in the case of the dress Ms. Haley wore Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump’s description turned out to be pretty much right.

The dress was, indeed, fancy-but-not-so-fancy. It looks to be from the brand Teri Jon, a New York-based line that Ms. Haley has long favored. She wore Teri Jon when she was ambassador to the U.N. in 2018, on Fox News in 2022, and to her daughter’s wedding in 2023.

Founded by a woman named Rickie Freeman, Teri Jon is carried by department stores around the country, like Saks and Neiman Marcus. The dress Ms. Haley wore in New Hampshire retails for $580, which is expensive-but-not-too-expensive. Knee-length, in blue floral jacquard with a slightly A-line skirt and fluted sleeves, the cut vaguely resembles a sort of 1950s hostess style; it looks conservative but not too conservative.

Exactly the sort of style, for example, that might appeal to Republicans with a yen for the old days. Teri Jon describes their customers as “Professionals. Mothers. Daughters. World travelers. Home-makers. Sisters. Partiers.”

And while Mr. Trump clearly intended his sartorial criticism to be a barb at Ms. Haley — perhaps an implication that he knows fancy (or his wife, Melania, does) and his rival does not — the dress was in fact a pretty effective representation of how Ms. Haley has used her image as part of her campaign strategy.

That starts with the fact that she even wore a dress to make her speech, rather than, say, the standard female politician’s trouser suit or even the American flag Ralph Lauren sweater she had been sporting on the road.

Gender, especially as expressed in clothing, has been a part of Ms. Haley’s political platform since she announced her candidacy for president, whether it’s her high heels, which she has been referencing in stump speeches for years (and which she name-checked in the third Republican primary debate) or her penchant for quoting so-called Thatcherisms (from the conservative former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher) like “‘If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’”

And in the semiology of clothing, a dress often suggests “woman.” Mr. Trump of all people should understand the subconscious messaging. He is, after all, the man who, as president, announced that the women in his administration should “dress like women.”

Ms. Haley simply turned the suggestion to her own ends. That suggests more wardrobe salvos to come, as the race moves on to South Carolina.

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