Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

If I were a more easily influenced consumer then I might be wearing a twee M & S suit and pussy bow blouse to bring you this blog post. Fortunately, I have thus far managed not to succumb to all the press releases and media stories (newspaper fashion journalists, you know who you are) which insist that, to coincide with the release of Phylidda Lloyd's Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady, we should all be forming an orderly queue to buy a blue skirt suit and asking our hairdresser for helmet hair.

Thatcher enters office in 1979 (image from guardian.co.uk)
Last Thursday, The Guardian (admitedly not a likely source of Thatcher loving) asked a number of high profile women that terribly uncomfortable question, Is Margaret Thatcher a feminist icon?  To my mind, she showed girls they can achieve anything they want, but that does not make her a feminist icon.

I was far more interested in what feminist columnist Bidisha had to say:

'Her stiff serge tailoring, boxy croc handbags, patent court shoes, pussycat bow blouses and set hair have been fetishised by a moronic, apolitical fashion industry'

Those words MORONIC and APOLITICAL have stuck in my mind since, and snaps back into focus every time one of those aforemetioned "How To Get The Margaret Thatcher Look!" PR emails pings into my inbox.

I don't want to look like Margaret Thatcher, and I know my friends don't either. Since when has 1980s Tory chic been cool?  I checked with the FashEd, to make sure I hadn't got it all terribly wrong, and she assures me that in no point in the history of time has the Thatcher 'look' been even close to fashionable. Even in the 80s, she looked about thirty years out of date compared to mega glam supermodels, and Comme des Garcons clad trendies or power-shouldered yuppies.  So why should we start 'getting her look' now just because we're seeing the film, in our droves allegedly?

Thatcher speaks  at conference (image from guardian.co.uk)
One of the brands to home in on the hype is Anya Hindmarch. They have dedicated the windows at their Pont Street Store to mannequins trussed up in Thatcher-ish outfits and carrying the brand's Ebury bag (which Meryl Streep and Margaret Thatcher both own). Hindmarch said:
'The cleverest thing about Thatcher’s image was how her clothes never detracted from her character. That was quite a feat, I suspect, to look good and still not be talked about for your clothes.’

Anya Hindmarch's window tributes
The irony of this comment is blatant. If we admire someone for the fact that their clothes are not the first thing we think about in relation to them then putting faceless mannequins in said clothes flys in the face of your theory doesn't it?

Launer, whose bags are carried by the Queen, suspect their 59% sales increase over Christmas is down to The Iron Lady effect. Well, I beg to differ. My predecessor wrote last year about the revived interest in Launers, mostly down to a prevailing fashion mood which values ladylike elegance and is not in any way confined to Maggie fever.
Meryl Streep as Britain's first and only female Prime Minister
Given that Thatcher owns Launer and Anya Hindmarch bags, the brands can almost be forgiven for taking the opportunity to underline the link. Bizarre, however, is Peacocks, purveyor of cheap and barely cheerful fashion for 30-40 year old women who are suggesting that we go to them to for our Maggie makeover.

Why any woman of that age would want to frump up Thatcher style is beyond us. Oh and before you go believing the Evening Standard's theory that the reemergence of cobalt blue is down to the Tory associations, may we just say Yves Klein to you and suggest that the roots of that colour trend are a result of a deeper exploration with colour referencing which fashion has embraced for several seasons now. You only need to watch Miranda Priestley (also played by Streep) give her monologue on the emergence of cerulean blue in that fictional fashion world in The Devil Wears Prada to know that it is far more complex than a designer googling a picture of Thatcher entering Downing Street.

So, a FEAL warning... Thatcher style is not to be copied. In fact, it is shit and the sooner it disappears from our inboxes and magazines the better.

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