Frocks, power and Mrs Thatcher

She may not have been the most fashionable, but Margaret Thatcher dressed to impress.


Margaret Thatcher: She knew "men liked to check out her legs"

Good news, says Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. The V&A in London has apparently had a change of heart about Margaret Thatcher's clothes. Museum bosses initially turned down the chance to acquire some of the former PM's wardrobe not trendy enough, one imagines. "The frauds [who run the place] would do anything to feature the work of woman-hating fashion designer Alexander McQueen; they'd trip over their loafers in the scramble to display a David Bowie catsuit but the historically important outfits worn by the first woman prime minister this country has ever had? No thanks, we're too busy planning an exhibition about knickers. Undressed which starts next spring is a load of pants. I'd far rather see Mrs Thatcher's terrifying boxy pleats and silk dresses."

Like the Queen, says Moir, Mrs Thatcher was never fashionable, but she had great style and used her clothes as part of her weaponry. "Her wardrobe deserves its place in history." Indeed it does, agreed Janice Turner in The Times. I'd go to the exhibition of her clothes even though I hated her politics, marched against her and laughed at her dress sense. But her clothes tell a story of women "seeking acceptance" in public life.

The question "What should I wear?" crops up all the time in Charles Moore's biography and it's never a frivolous one, says Turner. Yes, Margaret Thatcher "dressed to transcend her sex", and "shoulder-padded her way" to power but she showed a subtle grasp of fashion in negotiating the perilous class system of the 1950s. As a grocer's girl with little money, she managed it by "stripping the tawdry trimmings' from a cheap hat" and "throwing her savings" at a plush coat, or scouring London for "head-turning but cut-price modes; by always dressing, as women are still advised, for her next job".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Mrs Thatcher was "brand-building" herself all along, emerging (as she herself put it) from "a royal blue car and wearing a royal blue dress and hat" when she was made a junior minister by Harold Macmillan. She also realised she was better off wearing colours at dinner parties because most women wore black. For women seeking power, clothes matter. A news anchorman recently wore the same navy suit for a year and no one noticed. His female co-presenter, says Turner, endured remarks about her outfit every day. Mrs Thatcher cheerfully accepted this, and dressed carefully, never wearing trouser suits. She knew "men liked to check out her legs". And why not? She was happy to use her femininity. It was her USP, her "sly weapon".

Don't let sleeping dogs lie

Imran Khan has divorced his wife, Reham, a former BBC weather girl, after just ten months. Among the things they quarrelled about was his fondness for having dogs in the bedroom. When they married the dogs were banned. "They were no longer allowed in their master's inner sanctum or even to be there during the daytime," a source told the Mail on Sunday. I'm on Reham's side on this. Dogs are wonderful companions but they don't belong in bedrooms.

Tabloid money: speed cameras really are just cash machines

"For years police have told motorists speed cameras were for their own good, that they were there to keep them safe" and had nothing to do with "raking in cash", says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "Well, it looks like they lied. Bedfordshire's police commissioner, Olly Martins, says he wants to keep cameras on the M1 permanently switched on because he needs the money to plug a £1m gap in the budget."


"Bertha Rigby and Gita Peller must be turning in their graves," says Jane Moore in The Sun. "For if the youth of today is anything to go by, then bra sales must be plunging even lower than Eva Herzigova's cleavage in that iconic Hello Boys' ad campaign. The trend for unfettered side boob' is everywhere." At the MTV awards, "just about every female star present" seemed to be "falling out of her frock... So thank goodness for we ladies of a certain age' who wouldn't be seen dead without our favourite sheepdog' (round em up and point them in the right direction) bra clamped firmly in place."

The art collection of Sotheby's late former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman, has gone under the hammer, writes Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. Taubman died in April at the age of 91, leaving £2bn. The avid collector was once asked if he had original editions of "19th-century artist John James Audubon's masterpiece The Birds of America, featuring 435 of his avian paintings". Taubman's response? "No, but I've shot everyone of them.'"