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Does Fashion Have a Place in Politics?

07/05/2015 11:40 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

Whilst some may argue that fashion and politics have no business being mentioned in the same sentence- I disagree.

My interest in fashion from a young age stemmed from a fascination in clothing's purpose beyond the practical. I've always been intrigued by the way personal style acts as a non-verbal rhetoric that we use to communicate who we are with each other.

Psychologist have deduced that it takes us just 3 seconds to make a judgment about someone based on their appearance. That's a snap judgment, but a judgment nonetheless. And whilst it may seem depressingly shallow, humans are intrinsically wired to decipher things like gender, social class and status symbols from each other's appearance- and clothes play a large part in this.

Much like politics, fashion is paradoxically elitist whilst also being democratic. Sure, the fashion industry may appear to be an exclusive club shrouded in mystique and glamour, but at the end of the day, or rather the beginning, everyone gets up and puts on clothes (unless you're a naturist, obviously).

And whether you're a front row fixture, or couldn't give two hoots whether the seventies are making a resurgence for SS15; (FYI: they are) you probably consider what the outfit you pick to wear each day conveys to the world to some degree- be that donning a suit to look smart and professional for a job interview, or wearing a particular brand to signal your allegiance to a style tribe.

But whilst our personal style decisions can be quite subtle and even subconscious, politician's sartorial choices are often much more considered than it appears. After all, it's imperative that politicians (and their spin doctors) use everything in their power to convey and solidify who they are and what they stand for.

Over the years political figures have done this in various ways to varying degrees of success. Here's a few of my favourite political fashion statements from the past and present, call it the alternative 'Downing Street Catwalk' if you will.

Michelle Obama: The Sartorial Diplomat

Whilst I wanted to focus on British political figures, I couldn't leave out Michelle Obama who is a pro when it comes to sartorial diplomacy. At international State dinners the first lady has developed a tradition of wearing designers from the country being honoured. Highlights include the first state dinner with the prime minister of India in 2009, for which she chose a golden gown by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan, as well as the asymmetric purple dress by Korean-American designer Doo-Ri that she wore to the South Korean State dinner in 2011. And most recently, the Japanese state dinner just last week for which she donned a sapphire tulle gown created by Japanese-American designer Tadashi Shoji.

David Cameron: Austerity in Action

Whilst Sam Cam is often heralded as some sort of fashion martyr for deigning to shop on the high street, the same hasn't always been true for her husband David Cameron. When he came into office, the leader of the Conservative party was criticised for wearing a £3,500 Richard James suit from Savile Row. But since becoming Prime Minister he has reportedly made some cuts to his clothing budget. Cameron claimed earlier this year that he now only wears Marks & Spencer suits at £400 a pop, though some experts believe that these have been carefully tailored to improve their fit.

Nicola Sturgeon: The Nationalist Fashionista

Scotland's First Minister and leader of The Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon is devoted to representing Scotland, which is something that's also evident in her wardrobe. Sturgeon often chooses to wear designs by small Scottish brands like Totty Rocks for public appearances.

Tony Blair: The Flaky Patriot

When you're the Prime Minister, endorsing British industries is a good PR move. Tony Blair championed British designers like Paul Smith, as well as high street shops like Marks & Spencer when he was in office. Since leaving he has shopped nearly exclusively at the Italian brand Armani.

Margret Thatcher: The Handbag Hero

Much like Churchill's cigar, ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's boxy black handbag became so synonymous with her that the term 'Handbagging' became a byword for the way Thatcher dealt with her political opponents. Thatcher's iconic handbag sold for £25,000 at a charity auction in 2011.