Talking style with the Minneapolis mayor

In her first 100 days in office, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has shown that women can possess a serious sense of fashion and still be taken seriously. We recently caught up with Hodges, only the second female mayor in the city’s history, to discuss her challenges with dressing in a male-dominated world, her love for lip balm and her obsession with Wonder Woman.

Describe your style: “At this stage my style is more mayor style than anything else. I have to wear more suits than I’ve ever worn before, but I try and keep it interesting and fun for me. [It doesn’t] have to be an ’80s power suit. I look for things that have details that I like. This jacket has tuxedo lapels to it, for example. Or adding a little color — in a world of men in navy and gray suits — is one of the things I can do. If I’m having an off day, I’ll throw on some red or some purple.”

You feel you’re best when you’re wearing … “Things that fit properly. A tailor is a person’s best friend as far as I’m concerned, because you can take things that fit OK or look OK, and if you get them tailored they can be fabulous.”

Where do you shop? “I shop at a lot of consignment stores, and I can give you a full spreadsheet of all the great ones around town. There’s Turn Style, Nu Look, My Sister’s Closet, Better Than Ever, B. Resale, June. … There’s a lot of really good consignment shopping in Minneapolis. I do my best not to pay full price for anything.”

You never leave home without … “Lip balm. I’m a little obsessed with lip balm. When I go to a new place, I’ll find the locally made natural lip balms and buy them as my little memento. Lipstick is probably another. I vary [the color] depending on the mood, what I’m wearing, what I’m doing and where I’m going. Also, hand lotion. You can use it to get rid of flyaway hairs or polish up your shoe.”

What’s your No. 1 fashion rule? “If you wore it the first time around, be very careful about wearing it the second time around when it comes back into fashion. Also, I’m doing my best to dress my age, but not underestimating what people my age can wear. I usually keep the lines pretty simple and try to make sure it fits me pretty well. I had a great experience with Joann Hopkins [at Revamp Salon]. She actually does a silhouette analysis for you of your body shape. She takes a million measurements and then she talks to you about what kinds of clothing flatter you and what don’t. It’s a little bit of ‘What Not to Wear’ right here in Minneapolis.”

Are there any fashion challenges that come with being a female in politics? “Yeah, you have to weigh things pretty carefully. You want to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for what you’re doing and that you’re taking enough care with your appearance that people know that you care. Rightly or wrongly, as a woman in politics you’re being judged for what you’re wearing and people are paying attention to that more than they do with men. You have a lot of flexibility; you just need to be aware of what you’re doing and think about it and be aware of the impact it will have.”

How has your style changed since becoming mayor? “I wear more suits — fewer sweater sets and more suits. I go to things that have more formality and spend more time in the business community. As mayor in an executive position I have to dress more like an executive, which has been delightful.”

Tell us about your new shorter bob haircut. “Not many people have to consult with their chiefs of staff about whether or not a haircut is a wise idea, but I did. I was just ready for a change. I’d had essentially the same haircut for about eight years, and one day I said, ‘I have to cut this off.’ I worked with my hairstylist [Goodie Audette at Petite Salon], who I’ve been seeing for 12 years, and put myself in her hands.”

Who are your style icons? “Laura Petrie. She was on ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ played by Mary Tyler Moore. From that era, most people looked to Jacqueline Onassis or sometimes Grace Kelly, but I realized for me as a kid, it was Laura Petrie and her cowl neck, three-quarter-sleeve sweaters with her capri pants and her flats. Some of those flatter me more than others, but that simple styling has stuck with me my whole life.”

I can’t help but notice the Wonder Woman décor. “I’m a big fan of Wonder Woman. I have been since I was a kid. She’s pretty powerful — she can deflect bullets, she can fly now, on her own, and she has a lasso of truth. What politician worth her salt would not want a lasso of truth?”

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  • Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges in her office.

  • Since she became Minneapolis mayor, Wonder Woman fan Betsy Hodges has cut her hair and taken to wearing more suits. She hunts for bargains at consignment stores.

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