A question of style
Should female MPs make an effort with their looks? Absolutely, argues Helena Frith Powell
When Segolene Royal, the former leader of the French socialists, was standing for president I went to interview her. In front of her on the table she had a notebook, a pen and a lip gloss. She looked as polished and fashionable as the editor of a glossy magazine.
Compare and contrast that image with our dowdy female MPs who don’t look like they bother with lip gloss on a night out, let alone in an interview. Mary Portas calls them “an ugly bunch”. Slightly harsh, but they really do not do themselves any favours with their appalling lack of style.
Oh WHEN will Anglo-Saxon women get over this ridiculous notion that looking good is tantamount to being an airhead? I am endlessly depressed at the fashion faux pas and hideous outfits these women wander around in. It really is not that difficult to have a modicum of style. In fact I sometimes wonder how they achieve their endless inelegance so consistently.
Coco Chanel said, “there are no ugly women, just lazy women”. I am not suggesting that British MPs are a lazy bunch, but they are at least misguided when it comes to appearance.
The continental attitude is very much that what you are on the inside is reflected on the outside. So in other words, how can you possibly be expected to have a sound educational strategy or a sensible idea in your head if you can’t even match your skirt with your shirt or blow-dry your hair?
The Anglo-Saxon viewpoint is that if you spend too much time thinking about what you look like, you are obviously deeply superficial and not really the right kind of person to be dealing with questions of gravitas.
Tell that to the endless stream of elegant French politicians, or the new head of the IMF, who still manages to wear stylish suits and elegant shoes despite holding down one of the most powerful jobs in the world.
Segolene Royal didn’t win the French election. One French woman I spoke to said it was because her hairstyle was all wrong. I am not so sure about that, but the point is that in French politics the way you look matters, because it is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for.
Helena Frith Powell is the author of Love in a Warm Climate published by Gibson Square at £7.99
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019