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Writing for Fashion & Beauty – and as a previous editor of this section – it may come as no surprise that I love fashion. I also strongly identify as a feminist. And while people have critiqued the fashion industry for objectifying women and regarding a woman’s appearance to be her most important facet, I disagree wholeheartedly that fashion and feminism can’t go hand in hand. Especially in politics.
That is something (quite possibly the only thing) Theresa May and I have in common. That and a love for leopard print; need I mention her leopard print kitten heels? Yet, when it was revealed May would be appearing in American Vogue, the most important and famous fashion magazine on the planet, it caused quite an outcry.
Frequently chastised for reporting on female politicians wardrobes rather than their policies, the media has time and time again been accused of sexism. “You wouldn’t hear David Cameron being asked about his choice on tie colour, would you?!”
Organised by editor of the fashion bible, Anna Wintour, May is set to become the first UK Prime Minister to appear on the cover when the April edition of the magazine hits news stands in March. Shrouded in secrecy, May was photographed by the esteemed Annie Leibovitz, the pictures believed to have been taken before Donald Trump was announced as the 45th President of the United States.
Regardless of her job title, May has expressed her love of fashion on numerous occasions. Appearing on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme and asked what luxury item she’d take with her if sent to a desert island, May selected a lifetime subscription to Vogue magazine. Similarly, she has spoken out about the focus and scrutiny her clothing choices received, stating, “I like clothes and I like shoes. One of the challenges for women in the workplace is to be ourselves and I say you can be clever and like clothes. You can have a career and like clothes.”
And she is right. An interest in fashion should not be discouraged for clothing is a way to express yourself and show off your personality. It is a form of body embellishment. Why should fashion, or being yourself, be restricted in the conservative political sphere? If anything, fashion is a way to demonstrate political power, something May has done by pushing the boundaries of prime ministerial attire.
Contrary to what GMB delegate, Penny Robinson, declared, if the Prime Minister were to wear flat, comfortable shoes it would have no influence on advancing the causes of women. In wearing her heels, she is not meeting men’s expectations and neither is she suggesting all women should wear heels in the workplace. Rather, Theresa May shows a woman is capable of running the country no matter what shoes she wears. I’d like to see a man try and do the same.
Furthermore, fashion is an art form. In wearing designer names, those brands are given recognition. It is equivalent to female celebrities on the red carpet questioned, “who are you wearing?” Many of the women have been asked by a designer to showcase a piece of their creativity. Just because that creativity is a wearable and commodified art form, doesn’t make it any less of an art form. In asking the question the actresses’ or singer’s success and work isn’t diminished, but fashion deserves to be recognised too, the designers praised and their work recognised also.
As politics has become fashionable, it is not just Hollywood celebrities who are dressed for publicity, as seen in the clamour of designers refusing to dress new First Lady, Melania Trump. With Brexit and the Presidential election, the past year has seen it become trendy to form a political opinion, have your voice heard and cast your vote. Why shouldn’t this political interest be encouraged through the fashion industry? May certainly isn’t the first to think so. Both Michelle Obama, former First Lady, and Hillary Clinton, at one point the potential first female President, have both appeared on the cover of Vogue, and neither woman received as much criticism as May has in the past week alone.
While I can’t claim to support all, if any, of Theresa May’s policies, I do support her fashion choices and am excited to see the shoot in the April edition of American Vogue. Not only a fashion role model, May is a role model to any young girl wanting to be a strong, independent woman whilst also being herself. Our Prime Minister refuses to conform to the stereotype of the traditional Prime Minister, and that is a powerful lesson we can all learn from her.
In former chancellor Ken Clarke describing her as a “bloody difficult woman”, Theresa May responded “Politics could do with some bloody difficult women actually”. Fashion, and 2017, could do with some bloody difficult women too.