Argentina's Fashionable Presidential Hopeful Cristina Kirchner Makes Hillary Clinton Look Dowdy

"Hillary looks better than ever," said Corrigan. "She's not going to lose her Democratic base by going too high fashion. She doesn't have the body type for Kate Moss' clothes."

Steele said America's no-nonsense approach was solidified in the mid-19th century when the naturalist Henry David Thoreau warned, "Beware of occasions that require new clothes."

"In a democracy, you have simple clothes," said Steele. "There is a sense that fashion is false and deceitful. But in countries like France and Italy, there is a historical feeling that you dress to present your best to the world like a mask, best foot forward. In the American heritage, clothing should be like a mirror instead of a mask, and should reflect the self. You shouldn't be any better than you really are."

Just this spring it was revealed that presidential candidate John Edwards had paid $400 for a haircut. Voters were outraged. But in France, the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy was praised for wearing Prada to his inaugural.

What if Hillary were to sex up her look? Politicians have to play it safe, like lawyers," said Steele. "They are in front of a jury that's judging you."

Americans have always been uptight about sexuality, according to Judy Kuriansky, a clinical psychologist from Columbia University. When CNN promoted its new "American Morning" anchor Paula Zahn in 2002 as "sexy" paired with the sound of a "needle pulled off the record," the network received so much criticism it pulled the ad.

Kuriansky just returned from a trip to Buenos Aires and watched all the fanfare surrounding Kirchner's campaign — and the Latino sex appeal.

"People are always looking at what everyone wears," said Kuriansky. "In Catholic countries, where you would expect something more conservative and repressive, but you look at the beaches in Rio, and you know it's not the case. There is a real diversity and acceptance that is very different from certain pockets of our own country that have pervaded and invaded our mores."

But Kuriansky understands that what garners votes in Latin America doesn't work here.

The uniform for success means looking like a woman but not "over-feminizing," said Kuriansky. "If your clothes are too-tight fitting, exposing your body, it's inappropriate."

Never wear pale colors because they are associated with weakness. Pearls mean a woman has a certain amount of money: "She's feminine, but not too feminine," said Kuriansky. "Jewelry shouldn't be too gaudy."

"Women are always judged on their appearance," said Sterling-Golden, president of the Women's Campaign School at Yale University, which trains women for political life. "They go after Katie Couric but no one cares about Charlie Gibson's tie."

"You look at women in banking and it's pretty much the standard suit," said Sterling-Golden. "Serious colors don't distract from the face, and people remember what you are saying. Nothing should distract from the message. You don't want that man across the board saying, 'Wow, that's a great sweater, but a great project."

Still, in parts of the world like Kirchner's Argentina, that message flies in the face of good taste.

During a special shoe exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology recently, a Brazilian writer approached a Birkenstock display in her highest high heels. "No Latin American would wear shoes like that," she shrieked. "Even if they are comfortable."

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