Wellies, Brooches and Wispy Hair

By Barbieri, Annalisa | New Statesman (1996), June 4, 2001 | Go to article overview

Wellies, Brooches and Wispy Hair


Barbieri, Annalisa, New Statesman (1996)


Annalisa Barbieri, our election fashion correspondent, finds female politicians in a state of sartorial shock

Our first model, Margaret H, is wearing a taupe trouser suit with a delicate necklace and sensible black shoes. She could have done with losing the brooch, but no matter-- look at those eyelashes! At least three applications of mascara must have gone into making those babies.

Sharp intake of breath! Tessa J comes down the catwalk, wearing a very vibrant, cheeky pink trouser suit. But what are those on her feet? Fishmonger's wellies? I'm not sure, but they're white and big. Now it's all very well Luella Bartley showing clogs last season, but this time Tessa's gone rather out on a limb. Several members of the audience shake their heads.

The music gets louder, the curtains twitch, and it's Margaret B, resplendent in head-to-toe green, setting off the flame-red hair. Green is sooo not this season's colour, but she wears it well. Right behind her is Cherie B, dressed in leather! Who would have thought? Black, tight, unzipped to reveal a T-shirt with a rose printed on the heart ... work that jacket, Cherie!

Thank goodness for Ffion H, one of the youngest models on the runway. Ffion's not scared of a good fit and a revers collar. Hair's a bit flyaway (could do with a little product), but otherwise not bad.

Time for the finale... the lights dim. Mercy! What is it? The pinched, pointed nose is just visible, as are the tufts of teased blonde, thinning hair between swathes of bandages (which would never have been changed, under the National Health Service that she left us with). Someone starts to clap, and the clapping continues for three whole minutes. This is genius design. Oh bravo, it's Maggie T! The mummy returns indeed.

Like everyone else in this election, I have so neglected the women. Thus, this week, I decided to give them their very own fashion show. Sadly, it never happened--but the outfits really have appeared in recent weeks (save for the last get-up ... )

I'm not sure why, but most female MPs seem scared of revers collars. The regulation uniform seems to consist of a shell top (round-necked and made of silky material, as plain as plain can be) and no-collar (castrated) jacket. Only a few buck the trend. If female politicians were cautious before about standing out -- lest they be taken less seriously, I guess -- the election campaign has sent them into sartorial shock.

It need not be like this. Oona King (Lab, Bethnal Green and Bow) is almost alone in dressing like what she is: a young woman. …

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