The importance of the right trousers
THOSE leather trousers. In my view, they were a coup —Theresa May, at the age of 60, looked terrific in them. The leather was glossy, clearly comfortable, supple and a fine tobacco brown. Expensive, sure, at £995, but not a waste of money. Mrs May added a cosy brown cowl-neck sweater and sneakers, which were just right. Top marks. Also top marks for the £1,190 Vivienne Westwood Black Watch tartan ‘lucky suit’ she wore to announce both her leadership bid in June 2016 and, recently, the terms of Brexit.
Despite patronising snarls from former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that the trousers were far too extravagant in an age of austerity and that she (Morgan) preferred to dress for the market in her constituency of Loughborough (she hits that target admirably), Mrs May was right in her choice of trousers. The designer, Amanda Wakeley, is British and Mrs May is already raising the profile of our excellent fashion designers. That’s what Prime Ministers do: not go to summits looking as if wearing a £12.99 shift from Primark.
Although there are quite a few women heads of state now, none, to my mind, come up to Mrs May’s standard. Their current look seems to be a colourful jacket nipped in at the waist—when a waist is available—teamed with completely bland trousers or straight skirt, generally in a contrasting colour.
Angela Merkel has made this look her own and seems comfortable enough in it, although hardly elegant. Actually, I admire her determination not to be pushed about by the fashion press. That’s her look, she obviously likes it and, rightly, no one is going to force her into leather trousers.
Nicola Sturgeon, on the other hand, seems to have adopted this image because she has no fashion imagination. She always looks the same: neat, not a hair out of place and completely bland. Somehow, she doesn’t look like a real person. Contrast with Mrs May in old jeans going for a ramble: she looks good, she looks sensibly dressed, she looks at ease.
As for Hillary Clinton, who on earth suggested that she would look good in a white trouser suit? Like most of us, she hasn’t the hips or charisma for it.
I know that carping about their clothes is most unfair on women —men just get into a £5,000 Savile Row suit, tailored to hide the bulges, and no one complains of the cost or the styling. However, Mrs May has not only turned out to be one of the most stylish female leaders around— 61-year-old Christine Lagarde is another—but has also got the supreme fashion authority, Anna Wintour, on her side.
Miss Wintour, daughter of Charles Wintour, a past editor of the Evening Standard, has been in charge of American Vogue, the most important fashion magazine in the world, for nearly 30 years. She is 67 and hasn’t lost her edge for a moment. At last, at last, she has been made a dame.
The American edition of Vogue will feature Mrs May in its April issue, photographed by none other than Annie Liebovitz, who shot The Queen for her 90th birthday last year. It’s another coup for Mrs May, right on her home ground, and a welcome boost for Britain’s fashion designers.
I’m looking forward to that Vogue shoot to see what our Prime Minister comes up with. Her character indicates that she won’t step down from the leather or the leopardskin kitten heels that have become her signature. Perhaps, too, her determination to dress exactly how she wants will rub off on other female world leaders.
There’s plenty of inspiration out there: look at Samantha Cameron, who never put a high heel wrong, or Michelle Obama, who is not only stylish, but somehow approachable and friendly as well.
It’s easier for these wives of the great, of course, but the inspiration for Prime Ministersto-be is there for all.
‘Theresa May looks good, she looks sensibly dressed, she looks at ease