“When ‘Morning Joe’ started, I was a hostage to fashion by network executives and stylists, who thought they knew what I should wear,” Brzezinski said, calling the clothes “short, skimpy, tight. They were not me and not Washington.”
It was only when she went on the road with the show during the 2008 primary season that she began choosing her own clothing, which then included J.Crew blouses and casual separates.
“Joe [Scarborough] said, ‘That’s the look you want to hit with this show. You want to be you,’ which is kind of Washington, comfortable, not very showy. My style’s evolved over the years, but it came from shedding the culture of TV news that I used to try and compete in.”
Brzezinski’s current wardrobe falls in line with the modern uniform of female hosts and anchors.
“I can’t imagine wearing a jacket anymore,” Brzezinski said. “But I’m almost 46. There’s not a lot of choices for women my age. I get a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, you can wear that!’ But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Sexuality on screen
What women should wear on television is an ongoing public debate, particularly among newswomen themselves. In a 2011 interview with Katie Couric for Glamour Magazine, Rachel Maddow called the look of cable news “un-businesslike.” Couric concurred, saying, “Some newswomen dress like they’re going clubbing.” Critics point to 24-hour cable news as the catalyst for the changing uniform. But Fox News fashion director Gwen Marder says that workplace fashion was evolving before cable news started showcasing shoulders.
“When I started 12 years ago, anchors wore two-piece suits, a corporate uniform,” said Marder, who buys and styles the wardrobes for 140 Fox anchors and reporters. “About seven years ago, fashion trends started to change and dresses were readily available.”
Fashion labels such as Diane von Furstenberg, Hugo Boss and Anne Klein started producing sheath dresses in solid colors that double as work and cocktail wear. The dresses showed up on cable news anchors around the same time, making it hard to pinpoint whether cable news caused or reacted to the retail trend. But among newswomen, at least, 24-hour cable news networks became the laboratory for a grand makeover, which has since permeated the entire industry.
“We decided to push the envelope,” Marder said. “Everyone was wearing cardigans, and [we] said, ‘Let’s just try the sleeveless dress.’ It started to feel natural to everyone.”