maggiealderson

What should women politicians wear?

In Accessories, Older women, Politicians on August 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

The question above -what should women policiticans wear? – is one I normally ignore. It shouldn’t matter what a woman politician wears – what matters is how good she is at her job. And if she’s Prime Minister, or Home Secretary she must be pretty bloody good.

Then I saw Theresa May wearing those pearls while she was making an official announcement about the London riots last night and I suddenly minded very much what women politicians wear. I definitely don’t want them to be wearing that.

I went back on to Twitter – where I was glued until nearly 2 a.m. last night, feeling sicker and sicker about what was unfolding in the city of my birth – to find someone else had already posted a sarcastic comment about them.

There was just something jarring about the Home Secretary wearing oversized ‘fun’ beads on such a dark night in the history of Great Britain. Then she showed up on the news again this morning, sporting a jaunty little choker. (Not this one, but something similar.)

It just seemed so frivolous. I could imagine her getting ready, fossicking around in her jewellery box going, Hmmmm, the heart choker, or the bright blue beads?

She hasn’t got time for that right now. She’s the one who should be persuading the Prime Minister (who had the sense to wear a black tie for his announcement this morning) to get the water cannon sent over from Northern Ireland.

Then they need to rush through emergency legislation permitting the use of rubber bullets, and mobilise the army to drive tanks towards the mobs of 15 year olds who are looting shops and burning down buildings, just because they can.

The whole thing is making me – your typical lily-livered liberal – want the kind of response normally demanded by right wing tabloid readers (see list above, just add ‘bring back the birch and National Service’…).
But this isn’t the moment to be wondering what has happened to our society to lead to such a loss of the rule of law, it’s just got to be stopped.

A generation raised on junk food and Grand Theft Auto, and bombarded with information about the lifestyle of an over rich elite no better them (Jordan, Peter Andre, Cheryl Cole, John Terry et al), has to be put back in its box. Then we can start sorting out what caused them to grow up so morally, as well as socially, impoverished and try to change it.

What? Where was I? Oh yes, Theresa May’s stupid jewellery. You can see why she thinks she needs to get with the flirty accessories. She first came to fame in British politics when she took to the stage at the Tory conference in 2002 wearing leopardskin high heels and she’s been working an attention-seeking shoe ever since.

But now she’s Home Secretary, she really needs to put aside such childish things. She’s doing a very grown up job and it’s time she started dressing like one. She clearly loves glamorous clothes, which is fair enough, but not during working hours. It just doesn’t fit the gig.

If she needs some help, I suggest she checks out former French cabinet minister, now the head of the IMG, Christine Lagarde, who has written the rule book for how women politicians should dress.

Of course, Ms Largarde is French and very beautiful, which gives her two extreme advantages, but beyond that she’s shown that the best way for a woman politician to project authority is to play down her clothing as much as possible.

The simplest sharp tailored suits, in dark colours, set off by a white shirt or T shirt. That’s it. In short, a female version of male politician’s dress, enlivened – as a male politico might wear a jolly tie – by some small pieces of good jewellery. Not something that looks like it came out of a Christmas cracker.

Despite the odd segue into red suits, I think Australian PM Julia Gillard mostly gets it and I like the way she has made the white tailored jacket – appropriate for Australia’s bright light – her signature. (Although I have already had comments from Aussie readers shooting me down on this – tell me more, I want to know what you think…)

These pictures of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, show exactly how the dark suit looks so much more authoritative than the bright one.  They really need to leave jolly brides’s mother colours – in clothes and accessories – to the Queen.

So nothing fussy, nothing bright, nothing ‘fun’. Politics is a very serious business – especially at the moment – and requires very serious clothing.

Got it Ms May?

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  1. What should women politicians wear? Julia Gillard will be wearing a humble pie shortly.

  2. Oh Maggie. Brilliant. Ms Largarde is spot on and the final image made me Laugh Out Loud, which I didn’t think was possible today.
    Thank you.

  3. Surely a policewoman should wear anything that gives her the upper hand in keeping the law.

  4. Brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!! Loved the last photo. If you didn’t want to get seriously sick, avoid looking at some of this country’s nightmares. Bachman and Palin are a disgrave to women everywhere. I think Michelle Obama does a good job. Hillary is fantastic, but i think her clothes could be better. Too bad most media types advise women not to wear black or dark gray. I bet Hillary would look great in black and white.
    The right wing nut cases in this country are the worst dressers I’ve ever seen. Scary, little girl looks and killer hatred looks. Nasty.
    I love that you tackled this subject. Politics is very serious now. Very.

  5. A brilliant article – hope the pollie reads it. You did not mention the elegance of Australia’s Governor General – bright colours, yes, but totally elegant.

  6. I still think Julia Gillard tries a bit too hard. She often looks uncomfortable, like she’s got her mum’s clothes on. Sometimes you catch her with her hair behind her ears – which I think looks much better – but she moves it back quickly as if her stylist has told her it needs to look more like a helmet. Anna Bligh – Queensland premier – really gets it right – she has great hair, she always looks really comfortable in whatever she has on and gives off an air of being relaxed, but always in control. Gorgeous!

    • Julia is hiding her earlobes under her hair! During the last election much was made of the size of her earlobes, they are rather long.

  7. Im a bit of a fence sitter here – these poor female pollies are damned if they do and damned if they dont, I know how hard it is to accessorise dark serious business clothes day in and day out …… and I dont think Ms Lagarde and her super dark sunblasted face is my role model either.

  8. Mme. Legarde should stay away from the tanning salon, an orange face is not flattering.

  9. Oh Maggie I soooo agree with you , esp re comments about the way in which the youth have grown up in regards to junk food, virtual violent games etc. I’ve just had almost two months in London and am very sad and angry at what’s been happening to your beautiful capital and indeed the rest of the gorgeous country.

  10. Agreed.Maybe it’s the females judging each other too much as well.

  11. Christine Lagarde – perfect serious dressing. As you say it helps to be French and Beautiful (I would add Slim to that list) which most female (and male, lets not be sexist) pollies are not. I think Julia Gillard pretty much gets it right. Hilary Clinton, well, I loathe those pant suits but at least they aren’t all that memorable, so we pay attention to what she’s saying rather than what she’s wearing. Our Governor General, Quentin Bryce, always looks immaculate, but then, she was a model and is still gorgeous. I would say the key is dark colours and EXPENSIVE so that the cut and fit are perfect. Expensive suits can forgive a widening middle! That goes for the blokes too by the way.

    • PS Totally appalled by what is happening in the UK. Teenagers for god’s sake. I must remember when my girls grow up into teenage-hood and they are driving me nuts that at least they aren’t out looting and destroying the local shopping centre.

    • What a terrific summary. You’ve said exactly what I would have said!

  12. excellent photos Maggie, I agree women politicians have it hard in the dress stakes, agree with the dark colour attitude (I’m from melbourne the capitol of black though). I would like them to consider that it’s not just about colour, but FIT, STYLE, CUT and fabric, ugh, what are their stylists thinking about, look at the quality of the cut, fabric and styling of Ms Lagarde’s suits, and those shirts, yummy cut, crisp fabrics…she’s put together her suit looks for power and drop dead gorgeousness ….mutter mutter, I’m so proud of our women pollies, but they need to do “suit 101” as they climb the power halls – to be prepared for the highlight-spotlight jobs.
    London burning – I’m watching and glued to news radio to try to understand what’s going on. appalling. was recently in London & Paris and felt an underlying tension I’ve not experienced there b4, a desperation I’ve seen / felt more in developing countries…..good luck London.

  13. During the Queensland flood crisis Anna Bligh was much praised (for far more than her clothes of course) but she did hit the right note there too. A simple cotton shirt, jeans and boots at the daily news conferences – she looked dressed for the crisis at hand. The PM in contrast was in her usual suit (and no doubt hadn’t given it much thought – which I do admire). She looked inappropriately ‘Canberra’ and office-like which added to the feeling that the federal govt wasn’t doing much… Theresa May probably didn’t give it much thought either but it matters.

  14. I was starting to get a bit righteous for a moment there and be all “She might not be “working an attention seeking shoe” – she might just LIKE COOL SHOES, and rallies against having her job dictate her style. Then I saw the pics of Christine Lagarde, and you’re absolutely right. Bright jackets are stereotypical mother of the bride, and with a stereotype like that it’s no wonder they cop so much over their dress sense.

  15. I am soooo sorry we have this conversation. Whilst I love beautiful clothes, pour over fashion mags, subscribe to style blogs 😉 etc and admire those who have ‘it’; the ability to dress well and the ability to do ones job well has no correlation. Has any discussion been had of Boris Johnsons dress sense ( crumpled, illfitting etc) and other male leaders . For the first time in my adult life (50+) I fear the erosion of womens hard fought (semi) equality. I am sorry to put a dampener on things!

    • I totally agree – which is why I always refuse to comment on it (have been asked for quotes for mags and always say NO) but Theresa May makes me so cross, I broke my own rule. You are 100% right.

  16. If we are going to be superficial perhaps Theresa May is wearing the jewellery to distract us from her awful hair?

    Look really the world is full of daggy yet smart and engaging people and there is a certain kind of woman to whom ‘feminine’ = a bit tarty. She needs Trinny and Susannah on her case because I am sure I saw them tell then like it is to a few tarty-ish older women on their show and lots of times the women in question did not know that they were perceived that way.

    On deeper topics today, I agree with you about the riots, it is just teenage boganism at its worst, I say get out the rubber bullets. If they think they will get seriously hurt they will go home. This is is not political it is just opportunism. My Mancunian husband was wandering last night why it had not all kicked off up there yet, this morning he can rest assured they have trashed Manchester too. He came from the estates up there, but he too is scathing of the looters…I think his word were “bunch of c-words” doesn’t come much more northern than that.

  17. Thanks for that last photo…needed a laugh with all the bad news today!

  18. Maggie, I’ve just this week discovered your blog and already I am In Love with your writing and your observations. I also think you are very brave taking on the vexed issue of female politicians’ clothing choices. On the one hand, as you’ve said, it shouldn’t matter what she wears as long as the politician in question does a good job. On the other hand I think we are by instinct semioticians of visual messages. We see before we hear, don’t we?

    As a proud Queenslander I have to agree with previous posters re: Anna Bligh. I once attended an early morning breakfast meeting at which she was the guest speaker – this was in times BP (Before Premiership). Even at 7.30 on a sticky November Queensland morning she looked fresh and smart in a ‘cool wool’ red shift dress. I was pregnant at the time and felt frumpy in beige linen, not to mention wrinkled and dull.

    As for what’s happening in London at the moment, I’m not surprised you couldn’t sleep. We visited there in September last year and are horrified to see such destruction. Where are the army, we are wondering? Was cheering though to see the groups of broom-waving volunteers – reminds me of the mop and gumboot brigade that helped to clean up after last summer’s Brisbane floods.

  19. You need another whole post dedicated to Julia. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
    Those cropped jackets are not doing anything for her shape.

  20. I feel sorry for the female politicians, I mean other than comments about Tony Abbot in his swimmers (honestly Tony, get some board shorts, those budgie smugglers are not a good look) when was the last time you heard comment on what a male politician wore.

    That said, I think it happens because women have a wider scope and therefore more opportunity to get the tone wrong. I agree with both the poster who mentioned an expensive well cut suit, and the one who said Anna Bligh is brilliant at judging tone.

    I do like Julia Gillard in a white jacket but she needs a better style. Shelley is totally right about her cropped jackets not working.

    All I can say though, is I’m glad I don’t have to think about the press when I’m getting ready in the morning!

  21. I think Julia Gillard wears appropriate clothing for her role as Prime Minister. She does favour a white jacket which is appropriate for our climate. The Carla Zampatti ones, are classic and tailored to perfection. But she has one or two white jackets which don’t fit quite as well and should be donated to the op shop. But the real game in the glamour stakes in Australia, is being won by our Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. The woman is a super-model (and she’s 68 years old).

    • My dad went to University with her – she was a supermodel back then too! He remembers her as a young Grace Kelly….sigh! But really, it’s an unfair comparison – the G-G gets to fly around opening things and being ceremonial, and looking fine in the process, whereas Julia Gillard has to spend her days watching her back while ‘moving forward’. Tricky!

    • Agree about Quentin Bryce. Who else can wear a bright pink suit and look elegant. It’s all in the smile as well. Sincerity oozes out.

  22. Love the post Maggie. Julia gets it right some of the time but not often from top to toe. She waddles rather than walks so her posture doesn’t help her overall look. I think it’s the hips that don’t really make it easy to outfit her, or if she’s paying a stylist they haven’t worked out what really works for her figure and posture. The big lapel jackets work for her but they don’t suit every situation. Anna Bligh as has been mentioned appears to get it right. Maggie, have you seen the new hair of ex NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, I know that isn’t an outfit but it’s a big part of the overall look?

  23. It does seem to be a case of damned if we do, damned if we don’t (we, as in us females).

    Women in the ‘serious’ public arena walk such a fine tightrope, I think it’s almost impossible not to slip and fall in someone’s view. To be taken seriously, women must dress in a ‘serious’ way – which seems to mean in a way that is typically and traditionally ‘man-like’ – no feminine accessories, dark, suit-like colours, short, sensible hairstyle – a la Ms Lagarde. So it comes back to men being the benchmark for the ‘right’ way to behave and dress in those kind of ‘serious’ arenas. No fair!

    And on the other hand, at least in Australia, if you’re looking ‘too manly’ you’ll cop it as well. Julia Gillard has, so far, managed to stay on the tightrope as far as her outfits go, even if her politics are wobbling badly, while Kate Ellis seems to be determined to be taken seriously in her job while wearing leather dresses and turquoise stilettos, albeit not a the same time…

    • I totally agree and I hate that ‘male dress’ = appropriate dress, but as we are still in only the second stage of women having this kind of power and Ithink it’s all important to keep the focus OFF the clothes and on the actions. It’s a case of a lose the battle, win the war…

  24. I totally agree. Julia looks great in the white jacket. Brights really don’t cut it in the political arena. You wouldn’t see a male politician in a canary yellow suit…because you never know when the situation is going to turn serious (terrorist attack/natural disaster/war declared)…how would you look in a crisis wearing such chirpy shades? How could you give a stirring speech to lift the spirits of your countrymen in a peach suit? Even in the East, where colour has a different cultural and political symbolism, Ghandi and his followers chose white to dress in (my Indian friends tell me it is a ‘serious’ colour representing death).

  25. I think Julia Gillard wears terrific clothes. She does a pretty good job considering she hasn’t got a typical ‘clothes horse’ figure. Maybe someone is picking them out for her? Whatever. I think it’s important for women politicians to look good i.e. appropriate because then no-one loses focus on their message. Same with male politicians except they’ve (mostly) got the uniform down pat.

  26. Maggie- I think you’ve hit a nerve here- I have never seen so many responses, is this a record?
    I agree with you re the riots. Is this the same gorgeous city that held a magnificent wedding just a few months ago?

  27. Not sure about Julia, but Quentin Bryce, Anna Bligh and Kristina Keneally are 3 Australian women pollies who’ve got the look right. Quentin’s jewellery is gorgeous too – not that we should be noticing!

    • Totally agree – LOVE Quentin, but I think she is more in the Head of State role that the Queen has, and bright colour is spot on for that. It’s the down and dirty, making policy, running the show ones I think need to keep it really serious.

  28. ooh, yes, snaps for Quentin Bryce! Now, This is topical!
    I have been busily buying suits for myself this week as I’m moving into a new job thats in the city and in finance industry – what’s de riguer for the daily grind in the big kids offices?
    Figure Ill be wearing suits every day, so I don’t need to stick to the plain “interview suit’ that needs to stay in fashion for years? But too quirky a suit is such a risk! (as so perfectly illustrated.) Have already purchased a navy and white houndstooth number, a bit channel- ish in the cut, plan on working with a little vintage oroton brooch, but what next? I don’t want to look slobbish, too boring or too fash.
    tips?
    idea?
    warnings?

  29. I agree that in times of crisis or tragedy, poor choice of clothes from leaders can send the wrong message.

    But in terms of day-to-day political life, I’ll quote Aussie MP Kate Ellis who was recently the centre of a kerfuffle over her wearing a pink dress and stilettos on the cover of a newspaper: “there is no point electing young women to parliament if we’re going to pretend we’re middle-aged men.”

    • I don’t agree with her – it’s all too soon. That will work down the line, right now, women just have to be taken seriously and if it takes adhering to a male dress code for a few years, just do it…

      • The Kate Ellis cover was a recent edition of one of the supplement mags in the Melbourne Sunday Age. Maggie – you would be interested to see the letters to the editor regarding it afterwards, it caused some controversy over exactly the points you are making (the stilettos were pretty special though!)

  30. Maggie what a motherlode to mine in this post. There’s no doubt what you wear, sends out messages of who you are, what you do and what’s your view of yourself, this is why we talk about it. I think this issue applies equally to men and women. For those Australians readers remember that Labour Prime Minister with a penchant for exquisite Italian suits (Keating) or the conservative PM with the wild eyebrows and nerdy glasses (Howard) both males for the non Australian readers.What they wore people commented on, as they do with our current first female Prime Minister, who like most of us has hits and misses. There is a clear dress code in all cultures of what is appropriate for certain circumstances, and I think that is why people felt irked by this politician’s choice – big baubles in the middle of a crisis?

  31. Dear Maggie,

    All hail Largarde! Madame definitely has the wardrobe totally and elegantly under control. I feel quite confident that whatever her choice for any occasion it would probably be perfect because the woman has great personal style and a great frame for clothes (if not possibly a little too tan sometimes). Unfortunately, as you have pointed out, not all women in politics or the public eye can make similar claims. We all carry bad habits with us from different stages in our lives and they often materialise in our wardrobes. Quelle horror! For some women a compliment from anyone can be enough to secure them to a dreadful look or style, obsessive shirt length or a horrid piece costume jewellery for life (despite inevitable changes to figure and face). Its like a memory of a golden moment that never ages in their mind’s eye and cannot be abandoned.

    Keeping one’s look fresh, stylish and appropriate for any occasion is a snack for the Largarde’s of public life; but for others it can be a daily trial either for them or the millions who must see them. I believe that someone who dress correctly and respectfully for the moment can be considered as more empathic, connected than one who doesn’t; so of course I agree with you that party shoes and bright colours on sad days should stay at home. And lets be real, no-one wants to see a middle aged woman wobbling up to a media scrum in kitten heels … not dignified and as every female knows, if those shoes are hurtin’ its so much harder to focus and it shows on the FACE!.

    Our Julia, ‘ loved her wearing boots and pants this winter. Comfortable and stylish; much better than the silly little heals and sheer black pantyhose; much better balance in more ways than one. Its a long day when you’re head girl; gotta have the right footwear for the job!

    But very seriously, Maggie, the images and stories coming out of London at the moment; so terribly sad. I am old enough to remember the disquiet of the Thatcher years … let’s hope things settle and life improves for all in London (and the rest of the world at this stressful time) very soon; and most sincerely, for the poor souls in Somalia … words fail me.

    Bernadette Green
    http://www.enrobe-moi.com

  32. I remember when Natasha Stott-Despoja wore Doc Martins – now there was a woman just concentrating on the job!

  33. Oh Maggie!
    I love your blog and reading al the comments. I wish I lived in England or Australia. You Australian women are so f—–g coll and literate.. I want to be there with you, Pardon my tyupos as I am visually impaired. You all make my day!
    I want to be ther ewith all of you.
    Thank you Maggie for fostering this exchange. You are the best. Now, please, I want another novel. I love all your books and just listened to Shall We Dance for the THIRD tiem and it gets bettrer and better and better,
    Tons of love to all of you — you keep this unhappy american on focus and give me much joy and hope.

  34. Has anyone seen the first lady of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah? She just oozes elegance and sophistication, and rocks a mean head covering. The Huffington Post did a comparison between her and Carla Bruni. I think she wins hands down.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/24/carla-bruni-sarkozy-vs-qa_n_219799.html

  35. Really enjoyed this post Maggie (well, I enjoy them all, but this one has got me typing). I agree completely that women politician’s wardrobe should be no more important than it is for a man in the same role, but the fact that it does get comment means they need to think about how they look.

    Julia seems to hit the mark most of the time. Whatever you think of her politics, I did feel sorry for her during the last election campaign when she wore a very nice pearl necklace – a fairly unusual design with 2 drop-shaped pearls hang down from thin chains – and The Chaser team said she had “Kevin Rudd’s balls hanging round her neck”. I thought she’d be off to the jeweller after that one, and sure enough, although I’ve never seen the necklace again, I have seen her wearing a nice pair of pearl drop earrings. I just hope it wasn’t a precious gift from her dead grandma or anything. Still, I see Mme Largarde wearing a very similar pair of earrings, so she can add them to her “chic” box!

  36. Julia Gillard looks a shocker most of the time (remember the wallpaper/coat when she first came to power!) – Julie Bishop looks so much smarter and professional. Many of Australia’s leading businesswomen look equally horrible – take a look at Gail Kelly CEO of Westpac. Working in law we wear navy, black or grey suits, conservative jewellery and neat hair – remember we want our clients to trust us not want to sleep with us! Julia needs to stop shopping at Kmart and buy a decent suit, stop colouring her hair at home and learn to speak properly!

  37. I second Ann at Home’s comment. We love you too, Toby. Keep well.

  38. I was watching the live coverage of the Houe of Commons last night, from Sydney, and I notived an awful lot of purple suits on the femail members… Maybe they just stood our more than their navy clad sisters, but is purple the new navy in the house?
    Oh, and congratulations on how polite your pollies are- your house puts the Australian politicians to shame!

  39. don’t follow politics, not that fussed on our prime minister but love her white jackets. gov general takes the prize for most stylish. love her.

  40. We express ourselves, our SENSE of ourselves, through our clothes. We are judging that when we comment on fashion. Ms Largarde scores because she doesn’t let her clothes speak for her; they support her sense of self (and that self is not desperate or awkward or needy). There’s a coherence in how she presents herself, the look in her eyes, her hair, her posture, her walk. Since the clothes do not take over, if she smiles, her style, otherwise conservative, smiles too. Maggie chose the last pic to test my thesis! Is that? is it? Do NOT fuck with this lady!

  41. I often catch myself admiring Quentin Bryce’s whole look – especially her penchant for the Georg Jensen jewels!!

    Really feel for you at the moment Maggie – must be awful with all that happening around you.

  42. There is also a certain louk when women accused of something appear in court.

    I recall a women here in Sydney who always looked very severe with her hair tied back and a very formal tailored suit.

    When she appeared in court he hair was out and looked soft. And her jacket was still a jacket but not loaded up with stuffy padding and shoulder pads. She almost looked like a nice friendly person.

  43. Can anyone else see the resemblance? CJ from WestWing is now French and running the world economy as Christine Lagarde

  44. yep, I agree, a politicians’ dress sense is never even discussed if they are male. They really only have one option: suit. How they do their job is most important, hence I couldn’t read Hillary Clinton’s bio, which actually began with a description of how she was dressed. I just wrote it off immediately. However, if the blokes have a standard uniform, the women do not and it makes it all the more challenging. They can dress like the female equiv: suit and skirt: yet it’s it’s so tempting to embellish it! I’m not a writer and I really like the examples of the French woman: how can I say? to build on it, I would love to see women adding a bit more colour and still able to do their job…after all, it is a source of endless fascination!

  45. Julia’s clothing is not bad. It’s not like she wears Amanda Vanstone blouses. Sadly, it’s the constantly changing hair colour that is so unbecoming to our PM. It’s a bit like noticing someone has had cosmetic surgery – you’re not sure exactly what is different, but it just looks wrong. The same goes for me who dye their hair – if someone notices it, it’s not working for you. Julia, find a soft colour that flatters your complexion, and stick to it. Please.

  46. All women are disadvantaged, whether at work or play.

    Any man can throw on a well cut suit, a decent shirt and a reasonably contemporary tie – spend five seconds on his (clean) hair – and wow, he looks great, possibly even alluring, but most of all … authoritative. Or for casual wear, a decent pair of jeans, clean cotton shirt and a good belt, hey presto – hot.

    Women have never had any such short cuts to looking appropriate and professional in the public sphere – it’s not a problem confined to women in politics. It’s such a tired old debate, but one induced, alas, by women (young and older, as illustrated by your examples) delusively believing they have equality and can wear any old thing at work and be taken seriously. We can’t and it’s not some hideous double standard, it’s because women have never had the equivalent of the male uniform, they don’t have narrow boundaries, so they tend to wear whatever the heck, with fairly disastrous results.

    Oh Maggie … you have such fastidious and unerring good taste, but Julia and the white jackets? Good grief! They are too small, wrong shape and cut in all the most unflattering places. She has so many of them that I keep expecting her to turn up on MasterChef. The most interesting thing about the ugly white jackets is that our PM insists on wearing a colour that immediately places her as being the least authoritative person in the room … keeping in mind that, in business or politics, dark colours convey the seriousness and status of the person (yes, it’s a male standard, but it’s so entrenched it’s plain stupid to pretend that it’s not a matter worthy of attention and emulation).

    Gilards wide pinstripes are also horribly unflattering. In general, her jacket/top/trouser combo works for her body type, but she’s got it all wrong with tailoring, colour and mixing the pieces. I don’t think the poor woman owns a single item of work wear that fits or sits properly. She doesn’t need to be a fashion plate – it’s not her thing – but as PM, she should convey authority and her clothes should not constantly detract from her person or her role; her unfortunate choices result in both. This is not trivial. It’s her job to look the part, just as it’s her job to sound and act the part.

    Let’s not forget Howard’s make-over, and no one quibbled or suggested he was being vain or insincere or was focused on trivia (let’s face it, those eyebrows were a distraction from policy), nor Beazely valiantly losing weight so as to be taken more seriously as a prospective PM.

    Quentin Bryce is able to dress very expensively, which is nice, but I do wish she’d eat larger meals; I wince at her skin and bones, which significantly ruins what would otherwise be a traditionally conservative but elegant presentation.

  47. I wish women in the public arena, especially on telelvison would stop wearing earrings that move. Julia Gillard has long ear lobes so why draw attention to them by adding irritatingly, dangling, constantly moving earrings. I find I am watching the earrings as well as the size of the lobes, and not listening to the words. (Sometimes this is probably preferable.)
    As far as her overal look is concerned Julia should obtain the services on a permanent basis of the stylist who prepared her for her appearance on the cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly some time ago. Her hair was softly flicked back and the clothes that were chosen for her were flattering and suitable for her role as the Prime Minister.
    Julie Bishop gets it right although I have noticed she is not averse to the wobbling pearls on the ears either.
    Maggie, I was dismayed to read in your Sun Herald column “The Rules” last week that you are going to abandon making negative comments about the way celebrities look — oh no, how boring!
    Haven’t you heard about the little old lady at a Hollywood party one night who said to the person about to sit down by her side: “If you’re only going to say nice things about people then don’t sit next to me.”

    • Very good point about wobbly earrings – over blown jewellery in general, while my favourite thing in every other milieu, is just not right on politicians or bankers. Sorry about the non negtive thing – I hope I will still be funny without resorting to an easy bitch. It’s such a lazy way to make a joke, I’d rather be positive…

  48. I wish our Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon would have a makeover. Nicola also favours the large plastic beads! Ughh.

    Also her hair, I wish she’d change her hair style, I don’t think it’s thick enough for a fringe.

    I feel like screaming every time I see her on telly!

    Ah, I feel better now getting that off my chest!

  49. I think we’ve always wanted politicians and leaders to inspire confidence with their appearance as we’re visual creatures and we believe in displays. These days I think we want to see a hint of personality as well, but we definitely don’t want to see anything that makes them appear frivolous or impractical. It weakens our confidence. It’s just programming, but you risk a lot trying to challenge that if you’re the one person dressed like a dragonfruit in a bowl of eggplants. I don’t agree with the comments implying that this is more of an issue for women. I’ve always worked in traditionally ‘male’ arenas (the military, government and now engineering) and I’ve always found that men are judged just as often and as harshly for their appearance and trappings. (Plus they have to worry about what kind of image their facial hair projects, poor things.) You should be able to wear whatever you want, but we all know that you’re more likely to succeed in certain industries if you look clean, well-groomed, financially secure, conservative but modern, sharp, alert, crisp, strong and powerful. Unfortunately, fetish shoes and gorgeous dangly earrings don’t really intersect with this list anywhere, but that’s why we have weekends. I think work doesn’t really deserve that side of us anyway – it’s too precious and personal, best kept for special occasions, friends and family, where the mood is about comfort, beauty and joy rather than some perception of ‘competence’. Save your most gorgeous, flamboyant looks for when they’ll be properly appreciated. It feels like a real treat to break them out that way.

  50. […] maven, Maggie Alderson tackled the topic “What should women politicians wear?” on her blog Style Notes On Line. […]

  51. Women should and MUST wear sheer pantyhose and skirts at all times!! Pants are discussting on women and are for men, it would be more appropriate if the men started wearing pantyhose then women wearing pants ill even wear pantyhose over pants and I’m a 24year male in Victoria australia

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