Theresa May is set to grace the cover of American Vogue‘s April 2017 issue. Cue internet chaos. Downing Street has confirmed that Mrs. May was photographed last year at her country home by renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz.
Undeniably the most coveted modelling opportunity of them all, Mrs. May will be the first Prime Minister to have ever been granted such an honour. Because whether you’re interested in the fashion industry or not, bagging a Vogue cover is, arguably, the highest acclaim there is within the realm of fashion. But therein lies the controversy.
Theresa May is not a model. Nor is she an actress or a musician or the First Lady. Nor is she even American. No, Theresa May is the UK’s second female Prime Minister and thus far, probably our preferred one. She is, however, a woman interested in fashion and that is why her cover is significant.
It is worth noting that the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, all-year-round wearer of sunglasses and owner of the most iconic and austere bob, Anna Wintour, holds both a British and American citizenship. Furthermore, as the most high-profile fashion editor in the United States, Wintour also very publicly supported Hillary Clinton, even reportedly working as her private ‘Style Consultant’ during the campaign. Is it a coincidence that May will be starring in American Vogue the same month that she flies to the US for her first official visit during Trump’s presidency? Downing Street denies it. But I like to think that the fashion stars are aligning to combat what one can only expect to be a President who will take steps backwards in the fight for gender equality.
I can’t say whether I would have voted for May in a General Election. If I had to guess, I’d say probably not. Although she has a career spanning over thirty years, I confess that I do not know all the ins and outs of her policies. What I do know is that for the first time in our nation’s history, we have a Prime Minister who recognises and values the work of designers and high street retailers on a personal level. In the often drab, male-dominated world of politics, this is all too refreshing.
This isn’t the first time the PM has made headlines for her fashion choices. In 2013, Debenhams coined the ‘Theresa May effect’ to explain the sudden resurgence of sales of the classic kitten heel. Just last year, the PM also hosted a reception for British designers to celebrate the start of London Fashion Week, thereby acknowledging this often misunderstood industry as having importance within our culture.
However, May also made headlines for the wrong reasons last year when she donned a pair of £995 leather trousers for a photo-shoot with The Sunday Times. Once again, cue internet chaos. What irritated me most about the uproar surrounding these trousers (not to mention, no one thought to acknowledge just how well she was pulling them off – I’m 21 and afraid to try that trend!), was the inherently sexist double standard. No one ever targeted David Cameron for the bespoke suits he wore on a daily basis – each reportedly costing £3,500 – when he was in office. Not only this, but May was using this platform to openly support the British fashion industry, wearing trousers by British designer, Amanda Wakeley, as well as Burberry trainers. Of course £995 is an obscene amount of money but I’ll defend to the death anyone’s right to enjoy fashion in whatever way they please.
Which brings us to the present. Another Theresa May fashion furore. A quick glance through Twitter says it all.
I personally can’t see the link between May being heralded something of a fashion icon by a magazine and how this affects her ability to address the issues facing the NHS. Furthermore, I would not have included the illogical slurs of the ‘Sleaford Mods’ Twitter account if it was not for their alarming total of 32,500 followers. The people of the internet really feel quite passionately about Theresa May’s fashion status, who knew?
I acknowledge that Theresa May is a politician and, naturally, politicians don’t often exist outside of the 24-hour news channels or the papers. I’m by no means defending Theresa May as a politician. In fact, there are plenty of ways in which I could criticise the Conservative party. Instead, I am defending Theresa May the woman who also loves clothes and who uses her over-exposed wardrobe to promote the British fashion industry. Although it can be hard to separate a politician from their politics, I have to say that this strikes me as a feminist issue more than anything. As the Telegraph put it best, Theresa May hereby continues ‘her mission to prove women can have careers and like clothes’. She has my support on this one.