Chelsea Clinton’s individual style has grown significantly over the years as she transitioned from White House teenager to well-groomed author and advocate for global health. But is there more to her fashion choices than meets the eye? Well, some commentators have wondered whether the former first daughter’s wardrobe has been motivated by particular career aspirations. So let’s take a closer look.
To begin with, most people discovered Chelsea Clinton as an awkward teenager yet to find her own style while her dad, Bill, sat in the Oval Office. This was between the years 1993 and 2001, of course. At the time, then, some of Chelsea’s early fashion choices could only be described as conservative — even though the young lady herself identified as a Democrat.
As Chelsea transitioned from teenager into adulthood, however, her personal style grew up with her. Having navigated through college and university, you see, Chelsea emerged as a smart and sophisticated young woman with a wardrobe to match. Then her fashion sense would strengthen again as a working mom with a high-profile career.
So it’s safe to say that Chelsea grew up in public. And with her life well documented in the media, it’s hard not to notice the changes that have occurred in how she presents herself. It’s a transformation, in fact, that some observers have put a great deal of emphasis on.
After all, Chelsea has, over the years, seemingly presented herself as increasingly dressed for success. And those who keep a close eye on her activities have started to ask questions about where her career is heading. Could it be, for instance, that the former president’s daughter is setting herself up for a run at office?
Well, it wouldn’t be too surprising. Chelsea — born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in February 1980 — is, after all, the daughter of the 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. And Hillary also served as U.S. Secretary of State and became the first, and so far only, female candidate to ever be nominated to run for president by a major American political party.
For Chelsea, though, she began life in Arkansas’ state capital, Little Rock, just over 110 miles away from father Bill’s birthplace of Hope. And at the time of his daughter’s birth, Bill was actually serving as the 40th Governor of Arkansas. He and Hillary had married in 1975 — having met while they’d both been studying at Yale Law School.
Interestingly, too, Bill and Hillary chose their daughter’s name during a visit to Chelsea in London, England, while on vacation in Christmas 1978. Upon hearing the Judy Collins cover of the Joni Mitchell song “Chelsea Morning,” in fact, Bill told his wife, “If we ever have a daughter, her name should be Chelsea.”
So, with her father already Governor of Arkansas and her mother as the state’s first lady, Chelsea’s exposure to politics evidently began from an early age. Indeed, Chelsea was only two years old when she first hit the campaign trail during Bill’s gubernatorial race.
And it was only a little over a decade later that Chelsea accompanied her parents to the White House. Her father first entered office in January 1993, in fact, and would eventually serve two presidential terms until George W. Bush succeeded him in 2001. Yet despite their positions on the global stage, Bill and Hillary wanted a relatively normal life for their daughter.
For her part, Chelsea was fond of reading and writing as a child, having learned to do so at a young age. When she was just three years old, apparently, Chelsea was reading newspapers. And at five she wrote to then-President Ronald Reagan requesting that he not visit a West German cemetery that served as a burial ground for Nazi soldiers.
While living in Arkansas, then, Chelsea had attended public schools – and she reportedly skipped the third grade thanks to her advanced intellect. But when the family moved into the White House, her parents instead sent her to the private Sidwell Friends School. The children of several former presidents had attended the institution in the past too.
Yet the Clintons received criticism for their choice to have their daughter privately educated. In a CBS This Morning meeting in 1993, though, Bill argued that the decision wasn’t a rebuttal of the public school system. Rather, he claimed that Chelsea wasn’t fond of media attention and that he and Hillary felt that their daughter would escape the glare of the world’s press at a more exclusive establishment.
Hillary also took advice from John F. Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and requested that the media keep its distance from their daughter. For example, Bill and Hillary asked that the press only give Chelsea coverage during public events and state visits. And it was a strategy that was supported by another former president’s daughter.
Yes, Harry S. Truman’s daughter, Margaret Truman, had something to say on Chelsea Clinton’s privacy too. She even penned a letter to the editor of The New York Times expressing how unrelenting media scrutiny could have a negative impact on the young girl. And most of the press obliged.
There were exceptions to the media’s unofficial agreement to lay off coverage of Chelsea, however. For example, controversial broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and certain sketches on the comedy show Saturday Night Live would in particular mock Bill’s daughter’s looks.
At the time, you see, many associated the young Chelsea with her big, sometimes braced, smile and masses of curly hair. But whereas most people are able to keep their embarrassing snaps away from public consumption, the president’s daughter wasn’t so lucky. It’s refreshing, then, that she can look back at herself with a sense of humor.
On Independence Day in 2013, you see, Chelsea posted a throwback photo on Twitter. She wrote, “Happy Fourth of July! Thank you [BuzzFeed] for reminding me of my awkward [years, including] my [Fourth of July-worthy] shades.” In the picture, the braces-wearing girl is being hugged by her mom while wearing red, white and blue Clinton-Gore sunglasses.
The photo was actually taken on the campaign trail prior to her father’s first term as U.S. president. And it was evidently a time when the pre-teen Chelsea had a very casual approach to fashion. She would often be, for instance, pictured with her suited dad and smart-casual mom wearing nothing more fussy than a loose-fitting T-shirt and jeans.
As a case in point, in 1992 Chelsea accompanied her folks to await the presidential election results and seemingly opted for a casual look again. Yet while her wardrobe consisted of go-to jeans and a T-shirt — and she wore her signature curls loose and flowing — the young girl also opted to make a statement in a different way.
The shirt Chelsea wore on that occasion in fact bore a picture of an elephant and the slogan “endangered species.” So even at that young age Chelsea displayed strong ethical beliefs. And the protection of endangered species would be a subject that the young woman would later go on to write children’s books about.
On more formal engagements, however, the young Chelsea would dress for the occasion. Joining her father’s inauguration in January 1993, for instance, Chelsea opted for something more stylish. Taking the lead from her mother, she wore a tailored jacket and skirt suit in deep red, blue and green plaid.
Then, around the time Chelsea turned 15, her fashion sense developed an air of sophistication. When she attended an Easter service with her parents at their local church, for example, Chelsea lost the braces and wore a fitted black suit underpinned with a similarly flattering shirt. She even introduced her curly mane to styling products.
Indeed, it seemed that Chelsea’s entire wardrobe received a sleek makeover in 1996; even her casual wear oozed easy sophistication. While Chelsea was on a family break to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, for instance, photographers spotted the teenager with her father ready to board Air Force One wearing fitted black pants and a figure-hugging gray sweater.
Then, when Chelsea graduated from high school in 1997, the media became more interested in the teenager’s activities. Of particular interest at first was the location she chose to continue her studies: Stanford University, where she would major in history. But Chelsea’s style evolution continued at the institution as well — and the media took note.
As her own style progressed, Chelsea sometimes seemingly looked toward her mother’s business-like closet for inspiration. Not only was Hillary first lady, you see, but she famously went on to become Secretary of State for four years too. She is also a self-proclaimed “pantsuit aficionado,” according to her Twitter bio.
So as Chelsea transitioned to adulthood, she would sometimes accompany her father on official foreign trips. One such excursion was the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in 1999. There, she stepped out wearing a tailored pantsuit that could well have been liberated from her mother’s wardrobe.
It wasn’t just clothing styles that the first daughter was experimenting with, though. In her youth, Chelsea was renowned for her long, naturally curly hair. But during the latter half of the ’90s, she opted to sport shoulder length tresses or a bob cut. Yet her signature curls were always present.
As Chelsea entered her 20s at the turn of the millennium, then, she had apparently learned what clothes complemented her figure and swapped the conservative outfits of her youth for a far more modern and sophisticated look. And yet, although her style was altogether more sassy, the first daughter always retained a reserved modesty.
And by the time the Clintons left the White House, it seemed that Chelsea had learned to accessorize her outfits as well as wearing them. There was another introduction to her personal grooming by 2002 as well: she no longer stepped out sporting her signature curls. Instead, Chelsea had apparently discovered flat irons.
Then from her graduation from Stanford through earning her master’s degree at the University College of the University of Oxford in England, Chelsea was seen rubbing shoulders with the world’s rich and famous. And perhaps it was her newfound alliances with the likes of Madonna and Donatella Versace that had an impact on her style choices.
Several years later, you see, Chelsea returned to the presidential campaign trail — this time for her mom. Yes, Hillary made her first run for office in 2008, and her daughter was by her side every step of the way. And Chelsea’s style continued to impress those who observed her emergence as a professional young woman.
Chelsea’s signature curls had disappeared, it’s true. However, her hair’s subtle wave was the height of elegant sophistication. The perfect pairing, then, to the sleek tailoring and chic suit jackets that she often wore during the campaign. Furthermore, her apparent knack for accessorizing took outfits to another level.
For Chelsea, then, a colorful scarf can lift what might otherwise be a nondescript brown suit jacket. Or a statement necklace pops against a two-tone skirt and blouse ensemble. But she always wears event-appropriate attire and seemingly knows when less is more — often allowing a little black dress to do the talking at social functions.
Yet it was during Hillary’s second run for president that the former first daughter really turned heads with her chic style. By then a wife and mother herself, Chelsea was again supporting her mom’s campaign. But when Chelsea delivered a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, her outfit received as much attention as her words.
Chelsea strode onstage wearing a figure-hugging red sheath dress and a beaming smile. The dress was by London-based French designer Roland Mouret and had a price tag of around $2,200. And people were talking because the mom-of-two had seemingly now cast herself among the style elite.
That’s because onlookers spotted actress Jessica Alba sporting that same dress — albeit in a light blue color — just months earlier. Alba is arguably as well known for her style as her film roles, after all. So it seemed a simple dress had completed Chelsea Clinton’s style evolution from awkward teen to fashion siren.
However, Chelsea’s style transformation wasn’t the only thing that the press was speculating about. Indeed, some commentators pondered over any hidden motivation behind her recent fashion choices — not least, perhaps, due to her continued involvement in her mother’s campaigning. Does she have a desire to enter into the political arena herself? the media asked.
It’s a question that has regularly been put to Chelsea since she was a teenager too. And it’s one she addressed in an interview with Variety in March 2017. She said, “I am not running for public office.” After singing the praises of her local New York City representatives, though, Chelsea didn’t rule out the possibility in the future.
Chelsea added, “If someone stepped down or something changes, I’ll then ask and answer those questions at that time. But right now, no, I’m not running for public office.” Besides, since she and husband Marc Mezvinsky became parents for the third time, Chelsea no doubt has her work cut out for her.