One of our favourite bloggers, Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style, posted on her comments in the Australian press on Australian PM Juila Gillard's image.
The Australian press pitched a fit about the new PM's ikat-print coat.
Gillard seems to have a figure like Cherie Blair's: average-width shoulders atop a generous bust. Fitting that is a challenge. But the advice to tone down the pattern, spend more on clothes and (not necessarily from Imogen) dress more "appropriately" reminds me of how much hostility women in politics draw–and the subtext of running these "advice" features.
Hillary: More coat criticism
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore a pattern-lined coat to Tokyo last winter and the admiration from women–who wanted that very coat–drowned out the critics. I suspect her classic wrap was custom-lined in Japanese fabric.
Not so many bouquets when she landed in Kabul in what the press called "a hippie coat". Hey, this is an Afghan coat worn to give recognition to women of that country. So much for diplomacy and for any kind of eye from journalists, who would not know an ethnic piece if it bit them.
Gillard was advised not to wear black because it is "ageing". (Cue Chanel, rolling in her grave.)
But (presumably before receiving this advice) she chose black for a Press Gallery Ball. Julia Gillard, 50 this fall, looked ravishing.
Isn't the observation (made for any women in anything but corporate drag) that "her appearance detracts from her message" true for any of us seen by another? But give her a break, she wasn't dressed like Lady Gaga.
Just ending her first week in office, Australia's first female PM may not have anticipated what an easy target her jacket would be. Gillard's spokesman said, "We'll let others comment about whether or not they like her choices."
Or, excuse me, somebody has a country to run.
Can image consultants help women in the public eye?
Absolutely, just as they can assist any woman coping with a changing body, little time to select a wardrobe and a tight budget. Imogen is forthright, generous with her advice and her before-and-after shots attest to her talent. If elected, I'd hire her in a second, clothing allowance or not.
A woman politician appearing in anything other than the most conservative attire will draw criticism, her spending judged excessive (Cristina Kirchner) or too little (Gillard).
Sniping at a woman's clothes or body is an obvious and cheap way of undermining her power. Politics has been called "show business for ugly people" but women are expected to serve while looking only and entirely chic.