Power dressing with a female touch
MELİS ALPHAN/Hürriyet Daily News
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s handbag (above) was sold for 25,000 pounds at Christie’s auction last June. Actress Merly Streep shows all the phases of her style evolutpon in the film ‘The Iron Lady.’A handbag belonging to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sold for 25,000 pounds at a charity auction at Christie’s last June.
“I hope that the highest bidder knows that … he’s got a weapon with quite a track record. After all, my mother invented the verb ‘to handbag,’” Thatcher’s daughter said.
The verb was used to describe the tough manner in which the Iron Lady dealt with her adversaries. The word has since been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Handbags were part of Lady Thatcher’s signature style. She had joked in 1990 that she kept top government secrets in her bag because it was the most leak-proof place possible.
The hat was as essential to Thatcher’s style in the beginning of her career as the handbag.
Thatcher replies: “I may be persuaded to surrender the hat. But the pearls, they’re a gift from my husband on the birth of our twins. And they’re absolutely non-negotiable.”
And the Iron Lady does what she says.
Because the blue-and-white hat she wore as education secretary opened her up to lampooning by cartoonists, Thatcher later confessed that she regretted wearing it. She said it would have done for an actress, but was not quite right for a politician. As such, she never wore one like it again.
Iron Lady’s style evolution
Throughout the movie, we see all the phases of the Iron Lady’s style evolution.
First of all, she was the daughter of a dressmaker mother, so her clothes were home-sewn. In Patricia Murray’s biography of the Iron Lady, Thatcher said: “My mother was a very good dressmaker. But my sister and I often felt that our things were different from others.”
When she met her husband, Denis, more showy dresses came into her wardrobe.
Her style in her prime ministerial years was composed of power dressing with a feminine touch.
“The shoulders – she was very particular about them,” Marianne Abrahams, the creative director of Aquascutum, said at the time.
Thatcher piled on the pads to be taken seriously in a masculine world.
Consolata Boyle, the costume designer for “The Iron Lady” did a great job at designing costumes for Meryl Streep, who portrayed Thatcher in the movie. Boyle looked into the brands Aquascutum and Jean Muir – favorites of the Iron Lady – and studied hundreds of photographs of Thatcher. Boyle described Thatcher’s politics as “the polar opposite of mine,” but said that she found her image “fascinating.”
As seen in the movie, Britain’s first female prime minister was also very fond of pussy bow blouses. Pussy bows were a contrast to her power dressing, but maybe that was intentional, too. She most probably used the bows to add a feminine touch and to soften the look.
Cartoonists frequently mocked the bows, prompting Thatcher to once say: “I am now always caricatured with rather large bows. I often wear bows; they are rather softening, they are rather pretty. So do a lot of other people wear bows.”
Clothes have been important to the Iron Lady since the beginning. She might have had to ditch the hat and change her style a bit, but as Abi Morgan, the film’s scriptwriter, said: “The star-makers may have told Thatcher what to wear. But she already knew how to dress – she was of that generation of women trained to appear in a certain way [with a] hair set, … proper hat, gloves, bag and shoes.”