Maya Wiley and the Color Purple

“Shirley said, ‘People have to feel you,’” she said. “In typical campaign mode, pre-Covid, you get all these different ways for people to feel you — you can be with them, talk to them, look them in the eye.” But because so much of the campaign is happening remotely, she said, “appearance is even more important in helping people to feel me and know who I am.”

Though she is aware of the way appearance has been used for and against women, especially Black women (remember the to-do about Michelle Obama’s arms in an official White House portrait during her time as first lady?), and the fact that, as a result, most female candidates have refused to engage with the topic, she has a different approach.

Chalk it up to her experience on TV, where she was keenly aware of perception and the balance between “drawing the viewer’s eye” and getting them to hear the message, as she told The New York Times in an earlier interview.

At that time, Ms. Wiley described her aesthetic as “Boho meets B.A.P.” “And I’m sticking with it,” she said now. “That includes all that I am. That includes unapologetically being a Black woman. That includes unapologetically being a Black woman whose parents were activists, but also a Black woman who is a lawyer, so that just envelops all those different parts of me.”

As she said this, Ms. Wiley, 57, was wearing the same power-shouldered Anne Klein lilac blazer she had worn in her ad, as well as small interlocking hoop earrings from the Makers Show at City Point Brooklyn, a pop-up shop created by Julie Feltman to support local female entrepreneurs.

“Blazers are perfect for me because I just do a black T-shirt and pants underneath,” Ms. Wiley said. “I get to be comfortable and casual at the same time.” In any case, the style choices are her own; she does not use a stylist and doesn’t solicit input on her dress from her staff.

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