Nicola Sturgeon: Success in scarlet

Any woman who appears before an audience whom she wishes to influence, as women in politics inevitably must, faces the Image Issue. 

The New York Times (paywalled article here) ran a piece recently on Nicola Sturgeon, the newly-elected first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party. She is now subjected the style scrutiny faced by not only well-known women like Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Dilma Rousseff and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but also by every female currently serving in electoral politics.    

The Times article says, "...Ms. Sturgeon... has been upfront about the role that fashion plays in politics. In April, for example, she gave an interview to ITV’s “Tonight” show, in which she said, 'You have to be thinking about what you’re wearing, but you don’t want to be thinking about it at the expense of what you really need to be thinking about.' ".

Exactly. Women politicians tend to find their look and stick to it; once a few fashion-police tomatoes are tossed, how many outfit jibes are left to make?

The articulate Ms. Sturgeon also speaks though her wardrobe. Look at her last year, before the campaign began:

and after her victory:

Red is operatically emphatic, beige murmurs. (She has also lost weight and brightened her hair colour.) 

I'm not suggesting a woman who wishes to be memorable, whether personally or professionally, has only red for her flash card—however, vitality is communicated through colour, and anyone on view for long days can benefit from the boost, which she will not get from beige.

If the solid version seems too intense, think about bouclés and similar fabrics that introduce colour without overpowering. (Because the bright-jacket-black-bottom formula cuts most women at the beam, I rarely admire that "split the difference" outfit.)

The NYT article says her transformation was not the work of image consultants and that she favours dresses from the Edinburgh boutique Totty Rocks. If you've ever wanted adopt the retro charm of Nurse Jenny Lee in "Call the Midwife" or yearn for an Edwardian tweed jacket, Totty Rocks will make your day.

Doesn't she wear red beautifully? Another dress, with an insouciant shoulder detail and tailored sleeve (and believe me, a sleeve like this is hard to find):

In a coral suit with fitted jacket, also from Totty Rocks:

The First Minister of course wears other hues, but she's a leading example of the power of a perfectly-fitted burst of colour, when you want to stand up and be counted.


Susan B said…
She does look stunning in red. I notice that the tailoring is also impeccable.
LauraH said…
So great to see bursts of colour on a public woman, she looks dynamic. There's a world of colour beyond black and beige.
diverchic said…
She did a great renovation! The red is vibrant on her and the beige was really drab. I used to wear a lot of taupe but as I got older, I lost colour and now wear bright colours most of the time. She also has to cope with the same volume of straight Scottish hair as I do. If I were advising her.. I would suggest product and thinning shears. The haystack look is always lurking nearby me waiting for an unguarded moment to appear. And that is my projection on her. Don't you think this is what the fashion police are all about -projection?
Madame Là-bas said…
The red made such a difference to her look. In the first photo, she looks boxy. The hair and the fit of her pant suit are not flattering.
JennyC said…
Also the emphasis on the shoulders removed the sloping shoulders look and gives her a more substantial appearance. Suited her.
Bunny said…
She does look "new and improved" but I like to think her weight was not the issue. The first pantsuit, as dull as it may be, just fits horribly. She could be wearing Chanel and if it fit like that, well quelle horeur! ( hope I spelled that right!)
Susan said…
Quite a transformation--brought on by three things: fit, weight loss, and great color.
She certainly looks dynamic, positive and competent. And I love the work done by Totty Rocks, especially that lovely long jacket (though I think one would have to be tall to carry it off). Good to see locally-produced sartorial work of that quality.

However, this is once again an expression of the unfair and unequal burden on women in public life. Just look at Alex Salmond, the rather doughy fellow who was her predecessor as First Minister of Scotland and head of the SNP. Nobody suggested relooking him.

And we were laughing (along with a friend originally from Scotland) at the time of the Referendum, saying SNP leaders had to be named for fish.
Duchesse said…
une femme: NYT article says the Totty dresses are made for her, and it shows.

LauraH: I still remember a red dress I had, and wish I had it still!

diverchic: I suppose thinning shears work to de-bulk straight hair, but on curls (like mine) they just create frizz. You look fantastic in turquoise, etc.- but we can also wear neutral bottoms.

Mme: She ditched to boxy jackets which some women still think (hope?) will hide a bit of bulk.

Jenny Campos: Well-observed; those jackets are bespoke.

Bunny: Funny you say that; I at first included a photo Christine Lagarde in a beige trouser suit, which probably IS Chanel, and she looks entirely chic. But I thought it an unfair comparison, as Totty Rocks is priced in the hundreds, not thousands (and thousands.)

Susan: Fit will even lift a less-dramatic colour, but when you have the two together, wow! The weight loss helps some but so would better posture.

lagatta: I am willing to bet that women, in any public role, get looked at more than their male colleagues. The NYT article makes the same point: rarely is even a tie criticized on a male politician.

frugalscholar said…
Hmmmm..I "split the difference" all the time. Should I reconsider?
Leslie Yu said…
I think you might have a career advising political women on their best foot forward. Color, style and edge for the femme politic.
Duchesse said…
frugal: The black bottom and coloured jacket is a reliable professional look, one that is acceptable anywhere in a skirted version and in most places paired with trousers. It does, however, lack the formality and drama of an entire ensemble of saturated colour, and if both pieces do not fit well, can look frumpy. (But then, so can anything that doesn't fit.)

Leslie Yu: For years, I taught executives, including many women, how to make the most of their leadership skills. Because image is part of that, we sometimes discussed attire- but I am not an image consultant.

No amount of 'image' can alleviate the grueling work of withstanding political life. I know you're not implying that, just wanted to say it.

Tiffany said…
Love the red on her, but also wish she'd do something about her hair ...
What on earth is "wrong" with her hair? It's what it is...
(Mark Knopfler song about a winter night in Edinburgh)
Sisty said…
I'm thinking that red is a flattering color on everybody. I've never seen someone look bad in red, and she certainly defies the rule that redheads shouldn't wear red.

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