STYLE POLITICS – leading with style

merkelMy daughter-in-law texted me just after Theresa May had disappeared with husband, Phillip, into number 10 …

“What is T.M. wearing???!”

The simple answer… “Clothes”.

Of course, the simple answer is no answer and the question asked is not a cat scratch from one woman to another but a genuine appeal to understand why a woman who has just become the leading politician in Britain seems not to understand what that means.

And no, this is not about bad taste or good taste.

And yes, I know that the woman above is not Theresa May BUT it could be. Read on dear reader!

It is about no taste at all.

Is this important?

Should our politicians (male & female) sort their clothes out before they change the world? (Lisa Armstrong. The Daily Telegraph. 9.07.16)

The simple answer … “Yes”.

That is not to say that what is required from our female politicians is to look like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character in The Honourable Woman (glorious though she was) but it is to say that they should be conveying the same message. They should be studies in of female empowerment.

Clothes that fit their body, their personality, their aims . The shapes and silhouettes should move seamlessly and in sync with them and, at the very best, be an extension of themselves.

If nothing else they should present a positive image to the world and certainly an image that projects who they are and what is important to them.

If this acts as a shell to protect them from the trials and tribulations of leadership – even better.

Some have already achieved this (I am quite serious here) –Jeremy Corbyn .. Michelle Obama .. Geoffrey Archer .. Christine Lagarde.

If anyone thought that Theresa May’s outfit when visiting the Queen and pro-offering her talk to the nation was “fashion with authority” I beg to differ.

The collar of the jacket fought with the necklace. The necklace was too heavy for the cloth of the jacket and dress and the wrong colour for her own colouring and was at variance with the dress neckline. What a yellow piece of chiffon sown onto the three quarter length jacket was supposed to do I am not sure. It certainly didn’t create anything other than an annoying diversion to the line of both dress and jacket.

Even the shoes – and Theresa May does make some very good shoe choices – were drab.

On the bright side they did fit her feet quite perfectly and show off a well-shaped ankle and calf. And, the hem of her skirt fell just at the right pace to show off a damn fine pair of legs.

So, to answer my daughter-in-law … Theresa May was wearing an outfit that made her look dull and old-fashioned not a professional, approachable and new-thinking leader.

At times of such political excitement and turmoil it is ENORMOUSLY important that our leaders wear clothes with which the led can connect, identify and be assured by.

Nicola Sturgeon has a really good go – she often works with colour really well but her clothes are often too tight making her movements less fluid and expressive than they should be.

Angela Merkel wear suits that work with both her body and personality – strong in line & tight in weave of cloth. The look is marred by the choice of a baby blue or blurry beige and the addition of a fiddly out of scale necklace in an effort, I imagine, to feminise the look.

There is no need for them to make themselves look womanly by wearing a masculine cut navy suit and white blouse with soft frill – unless it suits them of course.

These women do not have to enter into the world of power dressing – women who want to be on a par with men. They are above these men already.

What they need to do is dress like the leader they want us to believe that they are.

Which is why Jeremy Corbyn, Michelle Obama, Geoffrey Archer & Christine Lagarde have got it so right:

Jeremy Corbyn – a man of the people. Anti-establishment. Serious and of few words.
Michelle Obama – energetic & contemporary. Intelligent and forward thinking.
Geoffrey Archer – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His dress & demeanour conned us all, which is just what it was meant to do.
Christine Lagarde – sharp, chic, expensive. A banker to her beautifully manicured toes.

Amal Alamuddin (Mrs Clooney) knows how to do it. Joe Cox knew how to do it. Mrs May can learn how to do it.

What we need from Theresa May is the appearance of one who is thoughtful & aware & subtly powerful. Who is incisive, persuasive, approachable. In touch!

A sizable majority of the British people have just let politicians know that they neither like nor trust them. Dressing in the blobby, dull, shapeless garb of a middle aged, well-off and conservative woman is not going to work.

Her clothes need to instil confidence not create barriers between those within the political circles and those who aren’t.

Her clothes should speak of just that. Their shape should help her to stand and move and sit flawlessly.

The scale of patterns & accessories she wears should make the very best of her own physicality.

She should use colour to energise & engage so that even on “bad days” she looks the best that she possibly can.

To be taken seriously she needs to dress seriously. Those animal print court shoes are a great start!


queen-2The Queen at 90 has a thing or two to teach even the most nubile and youngest of the crowd. Talking of which, I suspect that the former Kate Middleton has been taking a lesson or two both pre and post her becoming a Duchess.

So often those who do not know how colour works and thus how they can make colour work best for them make the mistake of reaching for beige or taupe to make sure that they blend into the background or black which, the older we get becomes less chic and more the uniform of the Alpha Mater. The past it, sexless, post menopausal woman. (Heaven help the early menopausers!)

Not so for the Queen. She has been perfecting the art of colour over many decades now – and quite simply the more practice she gets the better she looks. She knows that the better the colour – the healthier and more dynamic she will look. She will draw people to her. So very different from Queen Victoria who used dour colours to push her subjects away.

Take the lime green coat and hat resplendant with a white and yellow flower at its brim that she wore to cut the birthday cake baked for her by Nadiya Hussain. The cake itself had three layers: the bottom – soft purple, the middle –broad stripes of lilac, mauve and gold and the top layer – pure gold. Nadiya is a fine looking young woman but her outfit of black and khaki though chic did not enhance her cake nor enhance her own colouring. The Queen? Well, POW! Lime green and purple!!

For Trooping the Colour, she did it again. A neon green outfit this time that just sang out against the red and gold uniforms. The hat accessory of purple-pink and lime green feathers was a triumph too. As were the silver buttons and brooch and the white pearls at throat and ears and the rose-pink lipstick.

By contrast, the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice looked autumnal rather than spring like and the Countess of Wessex looked positively bridal.

She did it again on Ascot Ladies Day ….. tipped to wear purple she turned up in orange and blue. As a cool undertone most oranges would be a disaster, particularly worn so close to the face BUT – experience and knowledge is power.

The orange was soft both in shade and because the fabric of the hat made it less intense too. Put together with a bright blue and she had another winner.

As Coco Chanel said, “The best colour in the whole world, is the one that looks good, on you!”

The Queen has taken heed. She knows that “I have to be seen to be believed.” And she works it magnificently.

In 2012 Vogue tracked the bold spectrum of colour that she wore over the year. The results? 29% blue, 13% pink and 11% green. None of it deep and dark, none of it pale all of it working for her as a COOL undertone, SOFT/MUTED clarity and MEDIUM to light in depth.

The Queen THINKS about what colours she is wearing …. if she is to be photographed against a lawn or woodland she won’t wear green but it is the colour she wore when she visited Ireland. All the time she is aware of the effect that colour has on both her self and those she meets. Visiting Ireland in green made sure that she started on the right foot despite the shaky ground she was treading upon.

She displays a highly logical and very formulaic attitude towards her public clothing (deeply coloured tweeds etc are kept for her private life in the country).

More than that it is a sophisticated understanding of the power of colour.

queen-1There aren’t many people who will take time out to develop such an understanding – but they should.

You don’t need to be the main attraction at a Royal Performance or appear on the Palace Balcony to benefit from knowing how to use colour well. You just need to be interested enough in your own effectiveness and the response of those around you.

The Queen isn’t interested in fashion. If she were she would ditch the black handbag and shoes and the white gloves. If she wanted to be chic she would ditch wearing quite so many accessories a la Audrey Hepburn.

The Queen appears though to be interested in the pleasure of being effective, shaping her look to be so – and to speak without saying a word – about her vibrancy and positivity and strength. It’s catching! Enormously liberating!! And you don’t have to be a Queen to achieve it……..

UNDERCOVER STYLE – a brief peek at underwear

peepI took myself off to York recently to see the exhibition at their Castle Museum “ Shaping the Body – 400 years of fashion, food & life”. Not a huge exhibition but an interesting look at how body shape has changed over the past 40 decades … bum rolls, hour glass figures, punks of the 60s & perms of the 70s … a look at how our bodies are shaped and designed through the choices that we make and the consequences of our lifestyles from the people who push themselves to the limits to gain the look they desire with extra tight corsets, high heels and a poisonous dress or two.

I just loved to see that Queen Victoria was almost as round as she was high (even with corsets!) and that there were a pair of shoes soooooo big that two newborns could sleep in one each. Ideal for twins!

Best of all, the exhibition challenges the notion of the perfect body because we all know that the perfect body just doesn’t exist.

In 1876, Monet took time out from his painting to declare that: “ … the satin corset is perhaps the nude of our time.” Is today’s equivalent is a pair of Spanx.

Whatever, underwear falls into two categories;

1. The PROVOCATIVE -made to be seen
2. The PRACTICAL – made to be unseen

You will note here that I make no mention of old, baggy, gone grey garments.They are neither provocative or practical. If you have any of those – put them into the cloth/duster bag instantly!

The provocative is the exposed sort, spangled, lacy, satin and boned aka Dita van Teese who whittles her waist down to 16.5 by the wearing of such a confection. Rigby & Peller make such gorgeous garments as do Agent Provocateur. Both the Queen and Lady Gaga are clients.

The practical is an entirely different thing. Worn for modesty and to create a smooth, sleek silhouette instantly without long hours in the gym or a million press ups day. Bliss.

Let us return to the practical. The desired fashionable body shape of today is pretty well Victorian in its exaggeration of curves – there is shape wear to waist train, butt lift, knead, squeeze and transform. So that you too can have a JLo or a Kim K derriere or the bosom of Katie Price. You can even move your waist in an inch or two and look a little more like Dita van Teese.

An alternative is to bring your style know how to your under garments just as carefully as your outer clothing.

In brief … underwear can be as provocative or practical as you like and as expensive as your bank balance allows. You can buy designer tights for £600.00 + a pair if you so desire.

But whatever your preference it is undeniably an essential, and important, part of your wardrobe from a flash of slip peeking below a skirt to a bra that fits well and keeps those breasts just where they need to be as comfortably as possible.

Make no mistake – Neither Helen Mirren or Kate Middleton would look as good on the outside if their underwear hadn’t been chosen to perfection.

Great fitting underwear will make a dress look sublime, trousers look their best ….. so choose wisely and well and follow the Jenny B style principles as much for your undergarments as your over garments:

✓ SAY (provocative or practical)
✓ STYLE PERSONALITY (natural through to dramatic)
✓ SHAPE (curvy, straight, slightly curvy or fuller figure)
✓ SCALE (small, medium or large)
✓ SHADE ( do you want the colour to shine through what you wear on top of blend seamlessly)

There is absolutely no point in buying the size that you want to be. Skin will spill most unappealingly in every direction it can. This will make you feel lumpy, unattractive and, possibly, old. You will believe that you have seen better days and that there may well be no point at all in trying, even if you are only eighteen

The best policy is to wear a bra that fits and helps gravity to reassert itself as naturally as possible. It is a good idea to go for professional help on this but do choose someone who knows what they are doing rather than someone who thinks they know what they are doing. It is sometimes difficult to know the difference here. Those that lack knowledge are often those who are very good at sounding as if they know. Taking advice from them will leave you doubly deflated because you will believe that you are in such an unfixable style state that even having gone to see an expert you still cannot be sorted. When you need advice get it from someone who really knows. The best way to do this is to seek out those who come with recommendations from people you trust. These aren’t going necessarily to be friends or family.

I am sorry, I can’t resist this …. moving on from knockers to knickers.

Go up two sizes. They won’t fall down. Gone are the days when we depended on knicker elastic to keep modesty modest. Nowadays the fabrics to hand have lightened the load of the old style bloomer fabric and provided a stretch that encompasses more than just your waist. Use it to good advantage. A couple of sizes larger will mean no VPL ,waist or thigh lumps. You will look smooth and youthful.

As far as magic underwear/shape shifters go – there is no magic and if you shift too much it will need to somewhere else and spill most unalluringly. Yes, you may have given yourself the 20″ waist of Audrey Hepburn but this will be counteracted by mounds that would put a camel to shame. Use the contour garments to give you definition, to give your shape a youthfulness that it may not have when left to its own devices and, to make it most successful only buy what will work with your body shape and proportions.

For instance:

If you are a curvy body shape you will work better with a long line leg. If you have lycra cutting through your rounded bottom, however thin it is, you will slice a line. It will do it for the curvily body shaped but exceedingly thin Kate Moss and it will do it for you.

On the other hand, if you are a straight body shape, a la Sally Gunnell, lycra that ends at your waist will fight against the fact that you have no waist. Go for a shape that ends up closer to your bust.

There is so much choice out there that you will have to think before you choose. If you try on one, two, three or more that are not working for you don’t blame you. You just haven’t found the right one yet. When you do you will be enormously impressed with yourself for not giving in and you will have a body shape that will light up your clothes and do wonders for your posture. And … why not buy another one while you are at it. It’ll save on time and the disappointment of not being able to find another that fits so well in the future.

So …. to be or not to be sexy undies? Sexy undies …the stuff of legends, wry smiles and many a romp are only half of the undercover story.

Do, by all means keep a set or two of something frivolous & frilly, sparse & sparkly, luxurious & lacy, boldly coloured or softly coloured, wild and exciting, pretty and demure … maybe even with bits missing in places where they are not usually. You never know when Prince Charming or Cap’n Jack Sparrow is going to call.

But, in my book, the sexiest underwear is underwear that is comfortable to wear and makes you look from the underside – fabulous on the topside!