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Thatcher: A Style Icon?

Illustration by Tennessee Williams

Margaret Thatcher's (1925-2013) are due to be sold as a collection in an auction held by Christie's. Allegedly, the Victoria and Albert Museum was offered the collection first and rejected it. Despite the museum denying these rumours, stating that they may take pieces in the future, they have received a lot of media backlash for their supposed decision. Writers have been arguing that Thatcher “invented power dressing” and that she should be heralded as a “style icon.” Previous fashion exhibitions held by the V&A include the recent blockbuster retrospective of the work of the late Alexander McQueen, “Wedding Dresses 1775-2014” and display of outfits worn by Grace Kelly.

Thatcher certainly had a defined style. Being a woman in the public eye her wardrobe is inevitably a subject of discussion. She certainly didn't ‘invent power dressing’, and if the V&A had chosen to display her entire wardrobe, it would have been at least questionable on a political level and without a doubt controversial. It goes without saying that Thatcher isn't as widely adored by the public as Kelly. Furthermore, it would be very problematic to view the entire wardrobe of Thatcher in the same context as gowns worn by Princess Grace. Grace Kelly was without a doubt style icon. In her films she championed the most elegant designs of the time and looked incredible in them. She was an actress, married the Prince of Monaco and famed largely for her image.

Although the woollen suits, quaffed hair and massive pearls that Thatcher was so partial to constitute a highly recognisable image too, I doubt that the politician would want to be remembered for her dress sense. In my opinion, it would be wrong to do so. Shouldn't the breakthrough for gender equality that was Thatcher's election go hand in hand with people being less critical of women's choice of clothing? Would this have played out differently if it were in fact the wardrobe of a male politician? Or would the wardrobe be offered at all? Of course fashion important and women should be allowed to dress in a feminine way, but to view Thatcher in terms of her wardrobe is to undermine her role as a politician, which should be analysed in terms of her leadership decisions, not by criticising or celebrating her royal blue jackets.


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