Which of these editors would rather wear the trousers?

The 'Daily Mail' spread on the outfits of female politicians prompted much mockery. But not all men are happiest in a suit, and not all women reject them, as our unscientific poll shows


Strictly speaking, I'm not meant to reveal this. But it just so happens that last week I was on the Downing Street catwalk for a meeting with a most important person. And I must tell you that the dominant thought in my mind wasn't "I hope I make a good impression", or "I'd better remember that third-quarter productivity slowed marginally", but "bloody hell, I look like a chump!"

I was wearing precisely the outfit I sported on my wedding day, a navy three-piece suit, double-breasted, white shirt, orange tie, and my brown brogues. Even on my wedding day people said I must be the only groom who turned up for his big day as if dressed for work at easyJet. The trouble is, no matter how fancypants the suit, no matter how well fitted, snug and beautifully woven, it ought to be kept well away from me. I don't like wearing clothes at the best of times, but suits I can't bear.

Suits are: hot, quick to deteriorate, expensive, badly fitting, and the enemy of comfort. Yes, you can have them tailored. But that costs dosh. And even a tailored suit isn't worn; it is endured.

This need for endurance finds its truest expression for black-tie events, of course. I'm not one of life's haters, but I hate black tie and everything it represents so much with an enmity I only rarely muster. I hate the ritual of it, the association with pompous Establishment idiots, the uniformity it imposes. Generally speaking, I defy black-tie, either by wearing a different colour bow-tie, or just wearing my best suit with a waistcoat.

But frankly even that is close to unbearable. I dream of a day when instead of wearing a hot, clingy, itchy two-piece that makes me look like an accountant, I can wander into Downing Street in Hawaiian shorts, flip-flops and T-shirt. I dream of a day when men everywhere were liberated from the false consolations of blazer and trousers, and made comfort rather than fashion the main aim of their sartorial style. Judging by last week, I'll be dreaming for some time to come.

Dressed down: The Daily Mail’s coverage of the reshuffle and the backlash it created Dressed down: The Daily Mail’s coverage of the reshuffle and the backlash it created Amol Rajan is editor of 'The Independent'

"You don't dress like an editor." This was the rather stark verdict an acquaintance delivered when I bumped into her on the street not long after I'd been appointed to this job. I was too stunned to respond with "What should I wear – a suit, tie and penis?"

Rather like the female MPs who were promoted in last week's reshuffle and infamously critiqued in the popular press for their attire, sometimes as a woman in the world of work, you can't win.

In discussion with the political team here about the furore, I wondered what I'd have done. The answer: worn a suit. A plain, navy or grey skirt suit with a shirt. Not sexy, not frumpy, not remarkable in any way other than very well cut (although the tabloid pundits can't be expected to spot the difference between a Saint Michael and a Saint Laurent label, can they?).

I have long longed to be that woman: the female equivalent of Richard Gere in American Gigolo – only without the gigolo bit – who has identically perfect suits, shirts and sweaters to hand. The speed with which one could dress in the morning. The ruthless efficiency of the wardrobe rails.

But I have a rather scatty life: I bounce from the gym to the office to the back of a motorbike to a restaurant, or to a festival with my teenagers. I'm not sure a suit would withstand the pace or that I'd look quite at home with a skirt scooted up to ride, dance, run. The answer, I feel sure, is to keep a "work wardrobe" in the office; two suits and a handful of tops – to change into and out of at the start and finish of the working day. Might that make me look more like an editor?

I'm currently trialling the same J Crew trousers in four colours and the same Cos dress in two colours – it's a half-uniform that is improving the quality (ie the speed) of my life.

Ironically, during a short tenure at the Daily Mail (admittedly many years ago), I was quietly advised to stop wearing the smart trouser suits. "A skirt is better", was the advice. I guess it's a case of "suits you Sir, but not Madam."

Lisa Markwell is editor of 'The Independent on Sunday'

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