Women in politics – Theresa May

posted in: Colour Analysis, Style advice | 20

Recently we got our second female Prime Minister, Theresa May. So far she has been doing OK, but she has a heck of a job in front of her. Sorting out a new relationship with Europe in a period of austerity and industrial decline isn’t an easy job. But as I always say this is a style and sewing blog, so what do we think of the clothes?

I have had my eye on Mrs May for a while as one of the very few politicians who seems to actually like clothes and enjoy fashion. Although she is very much a mainstream Tory MP she takes quite a lot of risks with her outfits, which I have to admire.

Theresa has a good semi-straight figure with rather wide shoulders and not much indentation at the waist. I think she may be self conscious of her shoulders as she is sometimes a bit hunched. She ought to feel proud of herself and her country and stand a little taller. Her best feature is surely her long, slim legs and her thick, grey hair.

Theresa in purple dress
Theresa May becomes PM

Let’s have a look at what she has been wearing.

Here are some hits. A clean, sharp outline; tidy hair; largish silvery jewellry, good red lipstick, authority colours – navy and black – with a splash of colour – red, lime green and khaki, sleeves which show off her arms and hands; emphasis on the legs. The first outfit is really nice – I am pretty sure it’s a Vivienne Westwood number with the skirt pulled to the side and the overlarge buttons. The second picture is a little more conservative but very elegant and “in charge”.  The shoes stop it being too much like a school speech day. And I really like the brownish-greenish suit with a black coat in the third picture. I would have found a more interesting bag and gloves to lift this outfit – mauve or emerald perhaps.

Now let’s look at Theresa in trousers. Trouser suits. Pant suits. I just don’t think these work as well. Again I am guessing we have Westwood outfits, so no shortage of wow factor. But somehow by failing to style them effectively Theresa seems to have driven the irony out of them. The first blue-grey suit has a peculiar semi-padded lapel, which just looks a bit like a life-jacket. It might have worked with a more important blouse, in a stripe or a contrasting colour, and the necklace is just too “Marks and Sparks” for the outfit. It needs a gekko or a nice antique brooch perhaps. And the light blue bag is completely wrong.

I feel if you wear an “out there” outfit you need to follow it through and really wear it with conviction. If you don’t it kind of wears you. And the same is true of the tartan pant suit. It makes a real statement (she didn’t wear this for meeting Nicola Sturgeon), but why wear a boring black belt, cream blouse and a teeny tiny pin badge? A neat black cashmere tank top and a big silver ring, or wear just trousers with a bottle green fitted blouse and leave the jacket for another day. Maybe a red belt and shoes would look better? The final outfit is much more conservative and dated. But I like the narrower trousers better than the fashionable wide legs.

Although Theresa looks good in trousers by choosing a wide leg she makes her whole body appear a bit, well, wide. The narrow navy pants show her ankles and look much better. When she shows her legs she looks slimmer and taller.  I think both these Westwood jackets would be better with a neat skirt, bare-coloured tights and cool shoes.

Sometimes Mrs May looks a bit of a mess.  In these images Theresa has made a mistake of creating too much fuss. The patchwork Westwood jacket needs a more streamlined partner. This jacket might just about be OK over say a close fitting green or purple dress, but not with the swagged skirt – she looks like a parcel. The light grey pant suit is too shiny and makes her look rather bulky. The patterned multi coloured coat is horrible and  I am sorry to say that red boots are never a good look. The accessories are poor too – beige gloves, tan bag, red boots and abstract painting coat is just weird.

In conclusion our new PM is interested in fashion and is willing to take risks. She has a sense of fun and drama and is brave and adventurous. The Daily Mail even suggested she is dressing like Cara Delevingne.

The clothes the Prime Minister chooses help to make her more accessible to women and help her stand out in a sea of men. She can look great when she obeys a few style rules. Dear Theresa, here are my suggestions:

  • Get a good hair cut! The accidental central parting, and the sometimes fluffy/messy outline is not so good. You need a hair style that looks good at all times, in all weathers
  • Stock up on a good neutral wardrobe avoiding patterns on the outerwear – navy, charcoal, khaki, dark brown, mid grey, airforce blue
  • Smart dresses in a solid colour with an interesting twist work well
  • Pencil skirts in plain fabrics or a small texture (eg tweed) are nice
  • Wear a proper blouse not a T shirt. You need more authority. If you want a round neck avoid showing the cleavage and chose silk not cotton jersey
  • Trousers suits are OK if they fit nicely and flatter your figure, Consider slim-fitting trousers or shorter lengths eg shorts, culottes, or a nice jump suit
  • Invest in some great coats that cover up everything and look very smart. Strong colours are OK eg red, shocking pink, yellow
  • Think about shoes, belts and bags as a set – not matching but working together to support the overall look. In fact get someone else to carry your bag
  • Get some better jewellery from Liberty or choose interesting vintage pieces
  • Don’t be frightened to wear a hat to church services and other formal occasions
  • Always wear red lipstick and just a little make up
  • Most of your shoes are great but the flashy boots are just a bit too theatrical
  • Wear British designers and include products from Scotland, Ireland and Wales eg knitwear, Welsh woolens, Irish linen, tweeds, tartan and Scottish cashmere
  • Smile more

20 Responses

  1. Gail

    Kate, I think it is really unfortunate that we focus more on what our female leaders are wearing than their policy competency. It was the fate of Julia Gillard the former and first female PM of Australia. I’m glad that Hillary has not yet been subjected to such scrutiny. I don’t read Die Welt but I haven’t seen it for Angela Merkel either.

  2. Thesewingmiserablist

    I love that Theresa May is adventurous with her clothing. At last, a leader with elements of real style, leaving aside that it’s a woman. Hopefully we can now accept that serious people can like fashion too without it being seen as frivolous. Really enjoyed your piece Kate.

  3. eimear

    Some of those outfits are indeed adventurous, which is nice to see as I would like to think it shows someone that is not set too set in their ways. I think the purple dress with the fun shoes is a wonderful mix. great analysis

  4. mrsmole

    It always makes me shake my head seeing women my age wearing clothes that have an over abundance of fabric folds, pleats and designs. All these add bulk and not importance. If you had to guess her weight and height using just the photos you have displayed, the second group would add 20 pounds and shorten her height by 5 inches. I agree with the good haircut, every woman should have one, and bolder jewelry and lipstick…so many women I see in my valley past 65 just forget they are creating an impression every day and it does still matter. Thanks so much for your critique! Let’s hope Theresa drops in for some tips!!

  5. Lynn

    Kate–love that you are following the styles chosen by our powerful political figures, men and women. I wonder what is your take on the white pantsuit chosen by Hilary Clinton for her speech at the Democratic Convention Thurs night.

    • fabrickated

      Hi Lynn, The main thing about Hillary’s outfit, for me, was the colour. White implies purity, truthfulness and spirituality. It worked well with the glass ceiling, reach for the stars message. It made people think of Hillary as a saviour when confronted with the reality that Trump could win. As one of the colours in the American flag it also appeared to be patriotic. Many navy and red dresses in the audience meant she looked like part of the team. Overall I would give the outfit 8/10.

      As a pant suit it is a notch up from her usual wear and it certainly fitted better. I liked the jacket, the colour, fabric and blouse she had put with it. Her hair and jewellery was great and she shone with enthusiasm and delight. I don’t like the pants myself, although by sticking to one colour and neutral shoes she made herself look taller. But I think the jacket is too long – cutting across her full thighs. A longer jacket, or a tunic with lighter weight slim trousers, or a nice fitted skirt in a darker shade with darker tights would have been more flattering, in my view.

  6. felicia

    I think the most important advice this woman needs is to stand up straight. A few of the outfits you showcased would look much much better if she were standing up tall. Posture makes or breaks clothing, in my opinion. And I take exception to your final judgements on the last image, the red boots and multi-coloured coat. Wow! Totally fantastic. And p.s. we never ask or advise a man to smile more.

  7. Stephanie

    So interesting. While I take the point of your other reader about the unfortunate judging of women in politics, I agree with your analysis here. Many of the individual ideas presented are interesting, but the outfits don’t quite hold together or make the most of the elements. I agree that the Westwood pieces would benefit from more creative styling or edgier complements (including a different hairdo). I also agree with Mrs. Mole that many of the outfits are too lumpy and bumpy and make her look (as you hilariously state) like a parcel! My favourite by far of what you have shown is the black coat with the lime green/yellow panel at the bottom. Maybe second is the photo beside it with the red jacket.

  8. Annnieloveslinen

    I was going to comment on the contrast between sets of photos when but when I read Mrs Mole’s comments she said what I was thinking, although being specific I think too much pattern going on tends to add width and shorten, I actually like a little squffy detail in one garment although too much can look messy.

  9. Sheree

    I agree the outfits in the last three photos are not that flattering, but she has lost a lot of weight in the last few years, having been diagnosed with diabetes, so I don’t think they represent how she looks now.
    I thought she looked very elegant in the outfit she chose to wear to see the Queen and make her speech outside Downing Street ( the black coat with a lime panel).
    All good advice Kate – I would also like to see a better haircut.

    • Sarah

      I agree Sheree, her style has improved recently. The visit to the Palace outfit was great (apart from the distracting bit of cleavage when she leant forward on the Downing St lectern) and she looked terrific at her first Prime Minister’s Questions: neat, sharp, unfussy, comfortable.

      With reference to the first pic (purple dress) I’d add to Kate’s advice: pay attention to your underwear. In particular make sure that the outline is not visible. Some good shapewear could smooth any lumpiness and give a more streamlined look.

      I’d also suggest that, if she is going to wear trouser suits, she stick to ones cut along traditional masculine lines. I find trousers with a fussy, feminine, matching jacket – of the Vivienne Westwood type – to be an unpleasing hybrid.

  10. Sue

    I have loved your posts on the British women politicians, they’ve given me interesting insights into their personalities. I hope you’ve got more up your sleeve!

    • fabrickated

      No! That is it, for now dear Sue. It doesn’t take very long to run out of British women politicians, unfortunately.

      I think I need to do an update on Boris (our new Foreign Secretary). Do let me know if there is anyone in the public eye – business or politics – who I can give some virtual style advice to!

  11. BMGM

    I have mixed feelings about the scrutiny that women face in public.

    “Smile more!”

    Women can’t win

    “White implies purity, truthfulness and spirituality.”
    In Buddhist countries, white is the color of mourning and white headgear and all-white outfits are worn only for funerals.

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