Why We’re Still Talking About Theresa May’s Leather Trousers

It's got nothing to do with how much they cost

Why We're Still Talking About Theresa May's Leather Trousers

by Vicky Spratt |

A couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister gave an interview to the Sunday Times. She spoke about her childhood and openly admitted that Brexit keeps her awake at night (how could it not). However, it’s not what she said that we’re still talking about. It’s what she wore. A £995 pair of Amanda Wakeley leather trousers to be precise.

Shortly after the price of May’s trousers emerged Nicky Morgan made what has widely been interpreted as a snide comment about their price tag: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on anything apart from my wedding dress.’ In an attempt to really assert her status as a woman of the people she then said ‘my barometer is always: “how am I going to express this in Loughborough market?”’

Morgan, who was sacked from her post as Secretary of State for Education shortly after Brexit, then went on to say that May’s trousers had been ‘noticed and discussed’ in Tory circles.

Fiona Hill, May’s aide, has reportedly since banned Morgan from Downing Street. Ouch. Zing, Burn. And, of course, now pictures of Morgan carrying a £950 handbag have emerged and people have lost their shit. People who own Mulberry Bayswater bags shouldn’t throw stones etc. So far, so tedious.

Nadine Dorries, who isn’t usually my common sense barometer, has cut right to the heart of the designer debacle. Speaking to the Daily Mail she said,

‘I think it shows Nicky Morgan’s comments were sexist, because she never criticised David Cameron’s extremely expensive suits’.

Former cabinet minister Ken Clarke, has sagely said that he thinks it is ‘tedious’ that newspapers report on what women politicians are wearing. Speaking on Sunday Politics he said ‘I feel sorry for women in politics’ he said, ‘Nicky and Theresa, I hope, will have some serious political discussions. If they want to have an argument about what they are wearing I think all their closest friends would advise them to keep that private.’

Ah, Ken. Entertaining as it all might be, handbags and expensive trousers in this sorry story are really metaphors for authority, pawns in a political power game in which Theresa May has been forced to demonstrate that she wears the £995 trousers.

What’s being reported on as a catty ‘spat’ about clothing choices between some of the most powerful women in the country isn’t really about leather trousers, nor is it about an expensive handbag. It’s about Europe. May is now Prime Minister and she must steer the good ship Brexit, Morgan is a remainer who’s (understandably) worried about leaving the single market and sees it as her duty to scrutinise the government. She has also criticised the government over plans to expand grammar schools, saying it risked ‘undermining’ the progress that has been made in our schools. Let’s not forget that Morgan also briefly considered running for the Conservative leadership after Cameron resigned but, instead, decided to support the now excommunicated Iago-like villain of the referendum Michael Gove.

Nicky Morgan you’ve let yourself down and you’ve let the sisterhood down. Like the Daily Mail you’ve let yourself get riled up about how much money Theresa may spends on clothing despite the glaringly obvious fact that men’s suits don’t exactly come cheap. In fact, Theresa May (almost definitely) works bloody hard so do we really care if she buys herself some posh leather trousers? Are we really so naïve as to think it somehow precludes her from making important decisions? Actually, now you mention it, wasn’t May wearing those trousers in a magazine shoot? Is it possible they aren’t even hers but, rather, were borrowed plonked on her by a stylist?

Whether May bought the trousers herself or not we’ll never know (or care) but three things in this Shakespearian saga should be noted:

  1. The Mulberry Bayswater is perhaps the most boring (and heavy) luxury bag of all time

  2. Someone needs to tell Theresa May that if she’s going to drop a grand on leather trousers she should probably go to Joseph (if she hits the outlet in East London’s Homerton she can score bargain hunter brownie points).

  3. It seems that Nicky Morgan has let her temper get the better of her and has, unfortunately, internalised some of the toxic misogyny that female politicians are subjected to. In doing so she’s actually detracted from what is a serious and legitimate policy disagreement.

  4. If you don’t agree with your boss (who just happens to be Prime Minister), their way of doing things and you kind of wish you had their job don’t make snide remarks about their wardrobe to the national press just make your point. Maybe Morgan was worried that repeatedy criticising May's Brexit strategy will be seen as a power play, she shouldn't have been. She's a politician, that goes with the territory. In making a dig about a pair of leather pants she undermined herself and turned the conversation about Brexit into the most mundane and middle class discussion ever: Amanda Wakely trousers versus Mulberry bags.

At the end of the day, when it comes to clothes May is damned if she splashes out and damned if she doesn’t. If she shopped in budget high street stores she’d be accused endorsing unethical fast fashion but when she wears expensive clothing she’s out of touch. Therein lies the double bind that women in politics still face in 2016. They’re expected to invest in their appearance and look as though they’ve put effort into it, but not too much. God forbid they look as though they’ve actively enjoyed getting dressed. What we really don’t need is for female politicians to be turning this hypocritical sexism on one another. All it does it give those who still hold sexist views the ammo they crave to be able to say: ‘see, I told you. Women can’t do the job because they’re too busy thinking about clothes.’

You might also be interested in:

Why Is Fashion So Incompatible With Politics?** **

Where Have All The Pockets Gone On Women's Clothing?

Having 'Non-Visible Cleavage Isn't Always A Choice' How My Relationship With My Boobs Has Been Influenced By Others

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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