Power dressing

I can't help noticing what women in the realm of politics choose to wear. Consider Samantha Cameron of my native Britain. In the pictures I've seen, Mrs Cameron seems to have a fondness for solid-coloured dresses, with the occasional stripes for a change. But on special occasions, she opts for a peculiar style that is best described as a distinct colour change from top to bottom, with a complex geometric pattern printed on most of the fabric. This dress, worn just a few days ago, is a good example of what I mean:

Photo: Frankfurter Allgemeine

Photo: Frankfurter Allgemeine

The colours have an odd discordancy, and the pattern is not designed to flatter or otherwise make suggestions about the figure beneath. It's almost like a poster, like two-dimensional art. This impression is not altered by the strange blotches that in places obscure the pattern. On such a very slim person, it looks flat.

Here's a closer and more detailed view:

 

Photo: Andrew Parsons, I-Images

In the blue-and-black dress Mrs Cameron wore during the Scottish referendum, this blotches-on-diamonds-with-colour-change was even more pronounced:

Photo: The Daily Telegraph

Photo: The Daily Telegraph

It's as if someone has chucked a can of black paint over a more normal dress.

Less severely, below we have the smoky grey-blue-and-black blotch dress: this time, the colour is fairly uniform and only the 'dye-drips' and blotches are variable as we move from top to bottom, in strange bib-like layers:

Photo: Alan Davidson

Photo: Alan Davidson

Remarkably, the folds of the dress do their best to de-emphasize her bust. The shoes, which seem to be her favourite style, have extremely sharp points. Apart from looking very uncomfortable for the toes, they add to the 'edginess' of her look. I don't know who provides Mrs Cameron with her clothes, but she clearly wants a style that's all her own. 

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Even in this example, where Mrs Cameron looks softer and more summery, the dress is a mash of contrasting colour blocks, made complex with stripes and indeterminate patches, with what looks like imitation scales to complete the view. The belt that insists she has a tiny waist -- perhaps desirable on someone with very narrow hips -- is again present. Rings, bracelets, or a necklace are not part of the ensemble, perhaps naturally, since they might be too much against the dress, or alternatively they might be drowned out by it. In any case, there are no florals for Mrs Cameron. Hers is a style particularly and idiosyncratically self-assertive. Its distinctive busy-ness suggests that she wants to project an image of non-traditionalism, of modernity and of colours and patterns that include everything and exclude very little.

We now turn to the head of the Scottish National Party, The Right Honourable Nicola Sturgeon. Ms Sturgeon is notable for her lack of ornament -- and it works. I'm not a student of her wardrobe, but whenever her picture appears in the news, she is dressed much like this:

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Photo: Spectator.co.uk

Photo: Spectator.co.uk

She wears a simple dress, with or without a jacket over, each in solid colours, without even a belt (as Mrs Cameron seems always to wear). In this photo she appears to have a watch at her wrist, but no bangles, and she wears pumps that complement but do not exactly match her dress. She eschews entirely the 'power woman' choker of thick beads (one always wonders: if they aren't plastic, what are they?). The fabric is modern: it clings to her feminine form but is stretchy rather than sculpting: she may or may not be wearing a push-up bra, and there's no need for a slip. The dress says: 'I'm a gal on the go'. There is no need, either, for the pantsuit favoured by so many American woman politicians. This woman has power as a woman -- and a nice figure to go with it. There is nothing, dress-wise, to hide or apologize for. That is the meaning or the statement of her dress choices.