Alexander Fury: Margaret Thatcher was no style icon, she just dressed well
Wear, what, why, when?
Alexander Fury is a fashion journalist, author and critic. He is fashion editor of the Independent, i and the Independent on Sunday newspapers and was awarded the inaugural Editorial Intelligence Award for Fashion Commentator of the Year 2014-15. He was named one of InStyle magazine's 20 most powerful people in fashion in 2015.
Monday 15 April 2013
Fashion has never had any difficulty in divorcing ideology from aesthetics. Despite the dodgier depths of her politics, Eva Perón is still wheeled out as cinch-waisted style icon, and we turn a blind eye to Coco Chanel's dalliances with the Nazis.
What brings me to this observation is the avalanche of commentary that has deified Baroness Thatcher into a post-mortem, post-modern fashion icon. Which I protest, and contest. In truth, Thatcher wasn't about fashion. She was about style. Her style, like her politics, was relentlessly Conservative and starchily buttoned-up. It was also very British. Her suits were Aquascutum, her handbags – like the Queen's – Asprey. She shirked the hats early on. The Queen's hats function as a representation of the crown. Maybe Thatcher didn't fancy the competition.
I'm saying all this with a pinch of salt because Thatcher was not a fashion icon – nor a style icon. She was simply a woman dressed for a role with propriety and consideration. To single out her clothes for special consideration is as questionable as Obama commenting on Kamala Harris's physical appearance rather than her professional prowess. Although, with Thatcher, maybe talking about the artifice is easier to stomach than probing the depths of her political motives.
It's also much more fashionable – after all, fashion loves a dose of irony. So, when we were faced, say, with the dowdy pussycat-bows and pleated skirts of Miuccia Prada's spring 2000 “Sincere Chic” collection, or the bishop-sleeve taffeta blouses of Giles Deacon's first collection back in 2004, Margaret Thatcher was a funny, punny “style icon” to erect.
But, on the flip side, Thatcher snatched her first fashion magazine cover back in 1989 – kind of. Tatler's cover depicted Thatcher above the headline “This Woman Was Once A Punk”. But the “Thatcher” it depicted was played by Vivienne Westwood, for their “April Fool” edition – a designer whose politic, rhetoric and outlook stands in direct opposition to Thatcherism. I suppose that makes her the Shadow Iron Lady. Incidentally, the day of Baroness Thatcher's death shadowed Dame Westwood's 72nd birthday – and that lady is still inventing, and reinventing. To me, she's much more worthy of this fashionable attention.
Alexander Fury is editor of LOVE magazine
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