Imagine if your work outfits would be everybody’s business, every day. For women politicians, especially at the top, this is the case.
What people in power wear has always been and will forever be of significance. Clothes do matter and they are, more often than we realise, chosen also to pass quiet messages. If you don’t believe me, consider for a moment all those who have worn yellow and blue clothing and accessories lately.
For sure, a Prime Minister’s outfits should never be the main show in town. But social media and the vastly visualised world have turned every single public outing into overdrive – politicians depend on the instagrams of this world as much as any other influencers. And not just women politicians, mind you: I shall remind you of President Macron’s sartorial adventures during the election campaign this spring.
The days of Angela Merkel’s jacket being the only thing providing a pop of colour in a sea of black suits are officially over. There are so many prominent women politicians with individual styles around, that one can start spotting different signature looks. Women in power are no longer attempting to command respect by wearing uniforms inspired by men’s suiting, but are rather going for clothes that reflect their personalities. They are, at the same time, rewriting many a stale office dress code (for which I thank them very much, especially as regards making trainers suitable footwear for office).
Herewith a few favourites.
Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin usually wears head to toe black. It’s not an easy look, but she pulls it off very well without looking like a Nordic version of Morticia Addams. Her style has become edgier and bolder lately, which is commendable for a head of government of a country that has the most heavy metal bands per capita in the world. Her sartorial choices frequently make headlines, but my favourite must be when she was criticised as being a control freak for saying she applies the same makeup every morning as part of a work uniform. If you put on a different kind of makeup every morning, can I just ask if you’re quite well?
Danish Vice-President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager has an eclectic style with often very interesting and unconventional choices (bomber jacket for a press conference, trainers with chiffon dresses, bold sleeves, textures and patterns). Of the Nordic five, the Danes usually tend to dress in the most informal and colourful manner while still managing to look stylish. (The combination of informal and colourful in the hands of most women often goes horribly wrong.) Vestager clearly has a very strong sense of style and a keen eye for details (she often uses a neon pink pen for her press conferences). She’s never matchy-matchy or boring, but also never too off the wall. Her salt and pepper pixie guarantees that an outfit of big energy patterned dress, red nails and trainers is never frumpy or fussy, but next-level power-dressing, Nordic style.
The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola from Malta has a signature style of classic trouser suits. With her impeccable blow-dry she’s mastered a well honed look that photographs really well, which is good given she’s on camera chairing the plenary or shaking people’s hands almost constantly. Metsola accessorises with belts and scarves, and has worn some interesting footwear (bejewelled ballerinas, trainers). She often wears tops in bold colours and mixes and matches jackets and trousers for a more interesting, but always super pulled together look.
Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas is another extremely confident dresser. What I like most about her style is that it is unashamedly feminine. I’ve rarely seen her in trousers, in fact. Her signature look is a well-tailored dress, often with 3/4 sleeves and a hemline that falls just below the knee.
In the main photo with President Macron, Kallas looks a combination of confidence, playfulness and business. Small (but important) details such as rolled-up sleeves and a striped shirt with the top button undone give the look a bit of je ne sais quoi. And of course the colours of her outfit are hardly a coincidence.
I also like the almost girly vibe when Kallas wears her hair up: combined with a classic dress it’s an iconic look for a 21st century woman prime minister.
We will finish today’s episode with the veritable silver fox, French Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank, whose signature style can be best described as prohibitively expensive. Lagarde dresses almost exclusively in Chanel and Hermès and is almost never seen without her nude Louboutins (see photo). She accessorises with all of the diamonds of the world not set in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation crown. As I said, something for everybody.
In the CNBC interview (below) Lagarde said “As (the former South African Central Banker Gill Marcus) used to say: Men go to war. And women clean up the mess. I think it will be the same again.“
It might well be so, which is why I’m almost elated by the amount of European women politicians in top positions. Nothing to write home about, really: we can, and must keep doing better, election after election. But what we have going at the moment is really not that bad at all – the current situation in the Baltics and Nordics, for example, is exceptionally satisfactory!
All photos are from the respective politician’s twitter-feeds.