Hillary Clinton socks

The Lion, The Witch and The Fashion Wardrobe: How Politics Went Mainstream

The Lion, The Witch and The Fashion Wardrobe: How Politics Went Mainstream

It’s pretty clear that the world of politics has been, ahem, interesting recently. From Theresa May wearing leather trousers worth around a thousand pounds; to Saturday Night Live hosting regular satirical sketches mocking the presidential candidates, it’s clear that politics is no longer exclusively in the realm of men in suits. It seems that after Brexit and Trump, politics is increasingly unavoidable nowadays. And what’s more, it’s entering the fashion mainstream.

Whilst politics has always been important, more recently it has become fodder not just for TV shows and pop culture, but anyone and everyone. We’re all talking about it and have an opinion on the madness. Just think of your regular Saturday night – no longer is it a repulsive and boring topic to be avoided when out for drinks. Quite the opposite in fact. This is a positive development, should it reflect in protests, action and the creation of safe spaces for discussion. Furthermore, the entertainment, media and fashion industries have all become embroiled in debates in one sense or another. Vogue, for the first time ever, adopted a political stance when they came out in support of Hillary Clinton in October last year.

Hillary Clinton socks

This week Theresa May made her long-awaited Brexit speech confirming that parliament will get a vote upon the final deal. Britain will leave the single market and, flexing her muscles as “the new Iron Lady” (to quote the Thatcher-loving Daily Mail), “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Following her previous stance of a ‘hard Brexit’, it seems clear that May is becoming well-versed in the use of takeaway phrases. However, it’s her relationship with fashion that has garnered increased interest recently.

From the flamboyant leopard print kitten heels she wore on her inaugural address as PM to the pair of aforementioned leather trousers for which she was heavily criticised (making cuts to the NHS but spending more than an average month’s rent on something to wear seems at worst insensitive, at best insulting), it has now been announced that May will be on the cover of April’s US Vogue.

It’s difficult to decipher this decision, as there are many ways to understand it. It could be an acknowledgment of the trend towards celebrity that politics seems to be taking, or perhaps self-indulgence (I mean who would actually turn down the opportunity if you love fashion?). Or it could be a demonstration that at the intersection of a typically frivolous industry, and one focused on power, there lies a photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz?

Is the appearance of a current Prime Minister in a fashion magazine an indication of the demise of politics as a serious arena, or perhaps indicative of the elevation of fashion? It’s not just female politicians’ fashion choices that are coming under scrutiny either, as GQ has featured several articles on Trump’s suits. But in the US, it does seem like a race to the cultural bottom.

The American campaign trail looked more like auditions for a reality television show than the dignified leadership race it should have been. The said Saturday Night Live sketches (to name but one example) made a mockery of the candidates, one of which was to be running their country very shortly after. But you cannot really blame the American people for having a campaign that looked like pseudo-reality television. The man waiting for his inauguration was a reality star. When given the choice of facing Trump’s behaviour seriously, one is reminded of the option of laughing or crying. Many people chose the former – and it’s understandable.

Yet regardless of her personal politics, May’s unflinching commitment to prove that a woman can be both powerful and significant, and enjoy the multi-million-pound industry that is fashion, is admirable. I just wish it didn’t seem so meaningless in a world where political developments are taken in much the same way as Game of Thrones spoilers.

 

Written by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins,

Contributor

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