WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared at her party's sixth presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wearing a bright yellow silk jacket, social media fashion commentators had a field day, comparing her outfit to everything from Sesame Street's Big Bird to a 1970s kitchen appliance.
It's a fact of modern political life that a candidate's style choices will be critiqued as much as his or her policies. Ted Cruz's ostrich skin cowboy boots, Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" baseball caps and Marco Rubio's half-zip sweaters are all fair game for the fashion police.
But style experts say the candidates' choices are no accident. Every fashion decision, or even the decision not to follow fashion trends at all, is carefully considered.
Corporate and political image specialist Patsy Cisneros says Clinton is being advised to wear brighter colours. But she's not sure it's the right decision.
"Hillary Clinton is embracing a variety of colours now and I don't know who's advising her to have bright tones. Jewel tones, obviously, jewel tones are considered a more executive look for a woman, a higher powered effect for executives. However, it really should be flattering to the skin tone and it should not overpower the person," said Cisneros, who runs the image consultancy Corporate Icon.
Although Clinton's Democratic rival Bernie Sanders is known for presenting a less polished appearance, he is also making a political decision with his look, according to Cisneros.
"Bernie Sanders often will look like that sweet professor, a little eccentric. His hair will be a bit mussed. But it just shows his energy of that moment, and he doesn't care. He doesn't care. He's really wanting to be so dramatic, of the moment. So he doesn't stop to smooth down and look presidential. It's not that important to him," she said.
On the Republican side, the main differences between the candidates can be seen in their approach to casual dressing on the campaign trail. While Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio embrace it, front runner Donald Trump is rarely seen out of his suits.
"We will rarely see Donald Trump in casual wear, but his idea of casual wear is not blue jeans type of look, because that's not his lifestyle, that's not reality for him. The golf course is reality for him. And so, when he's casual, he's wearing clothes as if he's at a golf course," she said.
The real-estate mogul's signature casual item, though, is his red or white baseball cap bearing his campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.
"(It) isn't a very flattering shape of hat, but that's not important to him, because it needs to say his whole motto across it," Cisneros said.
Firebrand senator Ted Cruz presents himself as a blunt-talking Texan, right down to the cowboy boots he wears with his suits.
But along with the cowboy boots, Cruz is often seen wearing what has become a fashion staple among the candidates -- the half-zip sweater. For Cisneros, the ubiquitous pullover delivers a message alongside its practical purpose.
"A candidate goes to a lot of events. He needs to wear his suit part of the time, be business casual some of the time. It's easy to take off the jacket, throw on the sweater, decide to take off the tie. Critically, it's important for him to have layers on to still look credible, authoritative, believable. And that sweater does it," she said.