16 Jul My Darwinian Dress Theory – the evolution of fashion in politics
Theresa May had just been made the UK’s second ever female Prime Minister but the first question on everyone’s lips was about her shoes.
Forget Brexit, uniting a divided country or the economy – no, the most pressing question for the nation, or so it seems, is her natty choice of shoes!
I was doing a live interview for the news, so I rather tongue in cheek replied ‘well now her shoes are well and truly under the Cabinet table she can wear what she likes on her feet!’ Adding, ‘her shoes show us a bit of her personality’ – for below that matriarchal, political persona there’s a hint of rebel, a flash of a fun personality.
However, this interest in female politicians clothes intrigues me, especially after I became front page news with a grey dress I wore during the 2014 Ministerial reshuffle. Otherwise serious newspapers and journalists became Vogue editors for a day, fixated on hemlines and accessories. One double page headline screamed ‘Esther, the Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk’. No mention of employment figures breaking record highs, with 2million more people in work. I was Employment Minister at the time working 24/7 – all my hard work was outshone by a grey dress!
From Forbes to the FT, the fascination is with fashion, whether it’s Angela Merkel’s single breasted jackets and trousers, Nicola Sturgeon’s bright fitted suits, Harriet Harman’s statement necklaces or Yvette Cooper’s pixie cut and cardies. Move over boys, women are raiding their closet and stealing the political headlines.
I wasn’t joking when I said Theresa May’s shoes provide a clue to her personality – they do, and they’re far more revealing than a suit could ever be about a man’s. Their regimented outfit, with heritage from a far more restrained era of history, allows less individuality to break through. Like Chairman Mao’s blue work suits for his citizens, British men’s suits reveal very little. Women on the other hand, by breaking into the work scene later, have managed to hijack the dress code, their wardrobe is still evolving, allowing them to step beyond men and steal the fashion attention. Their clothes allow for a conversation piece, rapport with the public, puts personality in a picture and a modernity that boys in suits just can’t do.
That’s my Darwinian Dress Theory and how women, through the lens of fashion, are passing men and evolving on the political stage!