Bishop did well to get the ball rolling for Australian fashion
WAS Foreign Minister Julie Bishop overreaching at the parliamentary Mid Winter Ball in Canberra last week in choosing a $35,000 couture gown, a price tag on par with the national minimum wage?
Bishop’s love of fashion has always separated her from the rumpled pack in politics.
Whereas political WAPs (women and partners) seem by and large happiest in low-risk tailored two-piece ensembles and outfits that whimper “nothing to see here”, Bishop is inclined to grab the limelight in much the same way that Kevin Spacey dominated last week’s Tony Awards. For the ball she opted for MET Ball-worthy extreme glamour in a jewel-encrusted and feathertrimmed couture gown by Rachel Gilbert.
With that one choice, Bishop guaranteed she would dominate all media coverage following the event, eclipsing the wives of both major party leaders — Lucy Turnbull and Chloe Shorten — while also seizing the opportunity to promote the Australian fashion industry, an industry that in recent years has grown as thin as the wine list at a fashion week soiree.
She also drew an unfair amount of criticism for making a supreme effort.
Australian politicians will probably never succeed in out-glamming their American counterparts who attend the US White House Correspondents gala dinner upon which the Mid Winter Ball is modelled.
We simply aren’t as showy as Americans, but that isn’t to say they can’t teach us something about promoting creative design as an industry. Fashion is as much about wow factor as it is about supporting production of Australian-made textiles and the creation of jobs. So while it may be easy to dismiss Bishop’s efforts, the Mid Winter Ball committee could take a leaf from the Foreign Minister’s book and elevate the event by inviting other Australian designers to dress our pollies and their WAPs at future balls. This would ensure, if nothing else, Gilbert’s creative peers also get to enjoy the party.