Anastasia Rolland dives into how politics and people’s perceptions of others in politics are affected by their fashion.
As I am sure you are all aware, we temporarily had a new Prime Minister in the form of Liz Truss. Now, whatever your view of her may be, it is undeniable that she made a statement with her choice of clothing. She set herself apart from the rest of her notorious and – ironically – conservatively dressed Conservative Party, with her bold colour-blocking outfits.
Much like Queen Elizabeth II, she is easily spotted in the crowd through her bold choices from head to toe and normally being of a much brighter nature. Or is Liz Truss taking a leaf out of Margaret Thatcher’s power dressing wardrobe, as Twitter has been keen to voice?
Social media is aflame with memes comparing the new PM’s clothing to rubbish bins. Twitter users in the first instance found it amusing to compare her outfits to the different bin colour combinations we have in the UK. This feedback approach is of the new era we live in but does show the instantaneous criticism politicians can face. The appearance of our politicians is a topical conversation not only in the traditional media but with all communication outlets and is no doubt overwhelming for some.
We also saw former Prime Minister Theresa May exhibit a bold shoe collection and jewellery statement pieces, indicating women in politics assert their authority through their image. This may be necessary in a male-dominated world, whereby men don’t need to use all the tools at their disposal to get noticed. There is nothing like a bright red dress to scream power!
Margaret Thatcher definitely showed up Liz Truss in the power suit department when she wowed the public with her ’80s fashion. The woman spoke volumes through her clothes. For the first female PM in the UK, she had to make her mark in parliament, which she did. Although some may remember her in a somewhat distasteful light, I believe her choice of clothes could not be more iconic.
Her bold balloon sleeve shirts drew attention to her hand gestures when addressing chambers. The oversized bows on her blouses practically shouted, I’ve arrived!Even the cobalt blue power suits, highlighting her allegiance to the party, are so bold that they are imprinted on fashion history forever.
The woman was definitely not known for her sentimentality, but she did always wear her two-layered pearl necklace. Her loyal husband, Denis, gifted her the necklace after the birth of her twins. This provided a personal and caring touch to her aesthetic, which gave the public a glimpse of her private life. This side of her was rarely seen but there were subtle hints, which people may have related to subconsciously.
Most politicians, being men, sport their party colours through their choice of tie. Jeremy Corbyn, known for his red tie and scruffy guise, projected an image of what he stood for. The everyday relatable look attaches him to the general Labour message: “for the many and not the few”. This ties him neatly to the party’s agenda by making him appear more approachable and relatable to the general public.
Not to mention the infamous baker cap that he frequently sports, which many have called his “comrade” cap. Again validating his sentiment of Labour ethics. I think we can all agree that Jezza Corbyn is a complete style icon.
Maybe men are at a disadvantage where fashion is concerned in politics. Being limited to only a tie to exhibit a message can be described as dull, but women can go all out with their choice of clothes, shoes, and jewellery.
Yet, tie colour matters more than you may think. The classic Labour red is a tie that signifies “power”; it shows strength and creativity. The Labour colour also shows unity with many, especially women. Thus, tying their general message of strength to the collective general public.
On the other hand, the opposing party’s blue tie colour imposes feelings of calmness and stability. This probably has strong links to why so many of our older generation consistently vote Conservative, as it is statistically a colour strongly linked with reliability. As a whole, most elderly people are opposed to change as they are usually routine-driven and prefer the normality of the everyday.
The rich cobalt blue that is associated with politicians such as Boris Johnson usually gives the public a sense of softness and relatability. Boris’ scruffy and relatable branding links to this calming and relatable blue colour that many politicians use as a safe colour of clothing. Ironic due to the current fluctuations and inconsistency in the Conservative party.
Women asserting themselves in politics can always be challenging, with their choice of clothing being more topical than their male counterparts. Statistics show that women’s clothes drastically affect how they are perceived. Although the colour red is associated with power and aggression, it has also been seen to sexualise women in multiple studies in comparison to the colour white which is seen as pure and innocent.
Angela Rayner was dammed for wearing her party colour in the form of a red coat when representing Labour on Remembrance Day. She was portrayed negatively in the press for wearing a red coat with stripper heels. Had the heels been worn with a black coat, I’m not sure she would have been so critically sexualised.
Theresa May has also fallen victim to being sexualised by her clothing, with the press reporting she had strolled the red carpet in a slinky red dress and kitten heels. Yet, on another occasion, her choice of a red dress was seen as savvy and glamorous. It really does appear women in politics need to take their choice of clothing as seriously as what they say, as clothes speak volumes.
Understanding how much our clothing, in particular, colour can affect our power and influence on people shouldn’t be underestimated. It could be argued, women’s clothing is judged and analysed more than men’s clothing but is this due to society’s bad side or do men just have fewer clothing options than women, resulting in less controversy? Politics is, at its simplest, a game of influence – and our politician’s choice in clothing matters more than you may think.
Read more of Anastasia’s work at @Anastasiaroll11 on Twitter