Margaret Thatcher, Dress and the Politics of Fashion

Conway, D. 2016. Margaret Thatcher, Dress and the Politics of Fashion. in: Behnke, A. (ed.) The International Politics of Fashion: Being Fab in a Dangerous World London Routledge. pp. 161-185

Chapter titleMargaret Thatcher, Dress and the Politics of Fashion
AuthorsConway, D.
EditorsBehnke, A.
Abstract

Through Margaret Thatcher’s private and public performances, the micro-politics of dress translated into the macro-politics of power. Thatcher’s changing career can be traced through her dress (see Young 1991: 416-417); analysis of her dress leading up to and during her Premiership reveals both her aspirations and increasing power. Understanding of Thatcher’s agency in her embodied, dressed performances can be informed and developed through Butler’s (1999) conceptualization of performativity. Through adaptation, repetition and divergent dress, Thatcher constructed different identities, some of which became iconic symbols of her self and her politics. Examination of Thatcher’s dress refines the understanding of the relationship between constraints and agency experienced by actors in the public realm. Upon becoming party leader, Margaret Thatcher’s gender, class and ideological viewpoints were incongruent with her unprecedented political status and she faced many challenges in attempting to overcome this. Dress became a potentially destabilising focus for her critics and symbolic of her “outsider” status. Yet in the face of these challenges she recognized and learned from the expectations of others, adapting and changing her dress. However, this was not an instantaneous, complete or permanent transformation. What Thatcher achieved, as she crafted her dressed performances, was agency over a further aspect of her life and her politics. There was also an evolving alignment of her dress with her political ideology and domestic and international roles over time.

KeywordsMargaret Thatcher; gender; women in politics; dress; fashion; habitus; performativity
Book titleThe International Politics of Fashion: Being Fab in a Dangerous World
Page range161-185
Year2016
PublisherRoutledge
FileConway Margaret_Thatcher_Dress_and_the_Politics.pdf
Publication dates
Published19 Jul 2016
Place of publicationLondon
ISBN9781138788985

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