As the race to choose a Democratic nominee for the 2020 election heats up, the two frontrunners—Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—are receiving increased attention, along with their families. While former Vice President Biden’s wife Jill has been in the public eye since Barack Obama took office in 2009, the glare of the spotlight is hitting Jane Sanders, the social worker, college administrator, and political staffer married to Bernie since 1988 who is also a longtime campaign advisor, in a new way.
Jane and Bernie met in 1981 at an event during his first mayoral campaign, and she stayed heavily involved with his work; the has characterized her as “his closest adviser.” “She’s the one person Senator Sanders listens to above everybody else by an order of magnitude,” California’s Rep. Ro Khanna told the New York Times. “There’s no one whose political judgment he trusts more.”
Jane’s presence on the Sanders campaign trail has another effect too; she frequently lends some lightness to Bernie, who some see as irascible, with relatable moments like calling out “Bern! Bern!” as the presidential candidate accidentally locked her out of the family Subaru Forester. Jane grew up 15 blocks from Bernie in Brooklyn (he even proposed in a Friendly’s parking lot, because of course he did), and her cheerful image softens his; she has addressed Sanders’ demeanor directly, explaining to CNN, “I tell him all the time, you have to bring it back to the hope at the end, but no, he is not grumpy really, just except when the media doesn’t pay attention.”
Her sartorial choices are as relatable as her demeanor. While Melania Trump may take pride in tromping through a flooded area in stiletto heels or bringing an insensitive fashion statement to the border, Jane can always be counted on to look unfussy yet unique. While Bernie is known for being frequently rumpled, Jane’s style skews more “cool art teacher at graduation.” Jane favors classic, tailored silhouettes at official campaign events, but with a touch of hippie-forward Vermont; she tends to pair them with a pop of color and at least one piece of statement jewelry, frequently featuring amethyst or turquoise. (Think Marianne Williamson’s spiritual, crystal-forward energy, scaled back by about 85%.)
Examining a potential First Lady’s fashion choices can feel a bit retrograde in 2020; thankfully, these aren’t the days of Camelot, when Jackie O’s every dress was the subject of debate. Still, there’s something to be learned from looking closely at Jane’s style, even if it’s just a clue about how she wants to be seen; her quietly confident clothing tells a story of relatability and competency, especially in the context of her role as one of her husband’s closest advisors.