There comes a time when people gather to make important decisions that will significantly impact their lives. They think about how things have changed for them in the last couple of years, and what is the best way to move forward. 2024 is not just an Election year, it is a year when 64 countries plus the European Union will hold national elections –this constitutes about 49% of the entire population.

To say that 2024 is a pivotal year in politics may be an understatement. We will have a better understanding once the polls close, the new or re-elected leaders have won their elections, and there is a clear path to move towards. 

Among the several historic elections taking place this year, the presidential elections in Mexico are already historic. With the two leading candidates as women, 2024 is set to be the year when Mexico will see its first female President in its history. 

Let’s talk about the two leading presidential candidates in Mexico, and how they are using Political Fashion to communicate their messages. 

Claudia Sheinbaum 

Image Courtesy of Reuters

Sheinbaum was Mexico City’s first female head of government and only the second ever after Rosario Robles. Sheinbaum has been working very closely with the current president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, on issues regarding confronting corruption, and social programs for low-income families. 

Sheinbaum has had to run a presidential campaign with several challenges. First and foremost, there have been previous female presidential candidates in Mexico. But how does one that has a good chance to win look like and dress like? In a political world that is extremely critical to female political figures, this becomes a subject of analysis, critical thinking, and a lot of decision-making.

For many women in politics, there’s been a formula of “emasculating” themselves. Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Angela Merkel are all examples of women who, with short hair, subtle makeup, and tailored suits as their signature outfits, dressed up to thrive in their political careers. 

Sheinbaum decided not to choose a “staple uniform”, a permanent formula that politicians like Kamala Harris, and Barack Obama used to be consistent with their attire, and save themselves from fashion criticism as well. Instead, Sheibaum is using the color of her party as a consistent element in her attire when she is attending campaign events. 

One of the signature messages of her campaign is that “the hope of Mexico continues”, a statement controversial in itself as a lot of her talking points regarding safety, education, economy, and external affairs couldn’t be farther from the truth, although that is another story.

A way for Sheinbaum to communicate this message of continuing hope is by embracing this color of the party. Imitating the leader and founder of MORENA, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Sheinbaum wants to obtain some of the positive attributes and reputation that the political party has; using this red burgundy color is one of them.

Image Courtesy of López Dóriga Digital.

Sheinbaum has struggled to develop a strong identity that fits who she is as a political figure. Almost as a child who is about to inherit the company of her dad although she may not like the way her dad runs the company, Sheinbaum presents to the public speaking about many of the projects that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador started, and that, Sheinbaum must applaud and endorse to continue receiving the support of the current president.

One of the reasons why Andres Manuel is so popular is because of his charisma and his unique out-of-pocket way of communicating. He delivers speeches in front of people who love him as if he were a saint. He constructed a strong brand around the idea that he created a new party that was going to make politics different for the working class of Mexico and against the parties that have been in power for so long. (Andres Manuel, among the majority of the people who serve on his team and in his party, have been working for several years for these parties that they are now attacking).

Ads of Sheinbaum caused controversy since it was hard to justify the expenses for these advertisements. Image Courtesy of El Pais.

So when we see Sheinbaum as a candidate, we see a serious former mayor of Mexico City, who undeniably had her accomplishments in Mexico City that are worth celebrating and becoming talking points for the campaign. But there is also a continuous push to try to be as charismatic and loved as the founder of MORENA. This has been a challenge for Sheinbaum because it is naturally not her personality.

A lot of her talking points are very similar to those that Andres Manuel used six years ago in 2018, but her branding has had to be tailored to Sheinbaum as this female politician with a ponytail. She embraces the color and the values of her party while trying to adjust the message, and the delivery to who she is.

Xochitl Gálvez

Image Courtesy of Enfoque Noticias. 

Galvez started her presidential campaign with a lot of excitement. Ironically, she seemed to be the hope to defeat the party that branded itself as the “hope of Mexico”. Galvez is the presidential candidate of the political coalition that encompasses PRI, PAN, and PRD. 

Throughout the campaign, Galvez has struggled to address the three elephants in the room – the three political parties that she represents and that carry controversial stories that are unpopular in many communities across Mexico. 

The ideas and values of Galvez, are subjects that can cover several articles of Political Fashion. What we want to focus on now, is her particular way of communicating and presenting herself to the people of Mexico. Galvez is one of the two leading presidential candidates of Mexico; traveling from the south of Quintana Roo to the north in Tijuana, and going to visit Mexican citizens in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Galvez is not a standardized candidate who follows standard rules of advisors and follows a script. 

Galvez wore a tailored pantsuit at the first debate and confessed she felt uncomfortable. She is used to flowy clothes that are more friendly to her body. Image Courtesy of Yahoo! Noticias. 
“I mean, I am a curvy woman and that’s why I love wearing these flowy clothes. I’m f!!!!! tired of my advisors telling me to wear tailored suits. I’m not going to do it. –she said during an interview. “They also told me to stop saying bad words on air but here we are”. 

Mexico has a rich history in culture, textiles, and fashion. The several indigenous communities that have inhabited Mexico, many of who still prevail, create outstanding artisanal pieces that are worth displaying in museums, as they are so rich in symbolism, history, color, and craftsmanship.

One of the ways in which Galvez makes a non-verbal communication with these communities is by wearing huipiles. Huipiles are a loose-fitting tunic usually worn by indigenous communities in Mexico and Central America.  

Unlike Sheinbaum, it is challenging to attribute a specific color to Galvez, since she represents three political parties with three different color palettes as different as the ideas that they are meant to be standing for.

PRI, is the Institutional Revolutionary Party, established as a left-center party with the colors of the Mexican flag (green, white, and red).

PAN, is the Party of National Action, a conservative party with blue and white as its colors.

Then there is PRD, the party of the Democratic Revolution, a left party with yellow as the principal color of their branding.

“Galvez wears the color of the party that is doing best that day” Is the kind of criticism this candidate has received as sometimes her narratives clash altogether as if the colors of all these parties were thrown into one outfit.

Despite this criticism, or perhaps, because of it, Galvez has branded herself as a “new candidate” one that represents entrepreneurship, leveraging the convenient geographic location of Mexico in reference to the US, which can lead to huge economic developments amid the interests of the United States to produce their goods closer to them, and without relying so much on Chinese manufacturing and labor.

Hot pink as the signature color of Xochitl Galvez. Image Courtesy of Debate. 

The main color of Galvez’s campaign is hot pink, a powerful color that makes no reference to any of the political parties that she represents. Instead, she brings attention to the excitement of having a woman as the President of Mexico and having the voices of women being heard.

Mexico faces some of the highest numbers of hate crimes against women, with 9 to 10 women being murdered every single day.

This is an issue that Mexicans have been very outspoken about, with Women’s Marches every year that gathers over a hundred thousand women from all ages, and backgrounds to protest for peace, and safety amid this violent social context.

Galvez is not a traditional presidential candidate. She refuses to wear tailored suits because she doesn’t feel comfortable with them. (In the first debate, she wore a suit that looked great on her, although she also looked uncomfortable and her non-verbal language made that very clear to the audience.

There is also physical appearance, an important feature for political candidates of all genders where consultants might invest a significant amount of time and money since the appearance of a candidate can be the determining factor for a voter to choose one candidate or the other. (In 2012, several thousands of voters admitted they voted for Enrique Pena Nieto because he was the best-looking candidate on the ballot).

Galvez has refused to fix her teeth and is very comfortable using bad words in interviews. And although the huipiles are a beautiful artisanal way of celebrating the craftsmanship and talent of communities across Mexico, it is hard to picture Galvez as a presidential figure when you put together all of these features that she is refusing to change and that would make her overall appearance stronger or more appealing for indecisive voters.

Third Presidential Debate in Mexico City. Image Courtesy of France 24. 

In the end, the voters will decide on the polls who the president of Mexico will be. They will make their decisions based on policies or on the color of the pantsuit. But it is fascinating to come every election cycle and see how the candidates, their appearance, and what they stand for represent the social context that we are in and where we can go from here. 2024 is the year when 49% of the entire global population will make an important decision to elect their national leader. Let’s pay close attention to the messages between the words and between the seams. Every communication matters.