It is the fate of all “political wives” (and it is always wives, sadly) to be treated like a mannequin by the press. Their wardrobes are dissected almost as thoroughly as their husband’s policies—it is now such an expected feature of media coverage that details of their outfits are sometimes sent to journalists in press releases.
As a result, there are certain rules that must be followed:
1) Whatever you wear, it must be “from the high street.” When the press provides a detailed description of what you were wearing, it is guaranteed that they will also mention the price (“The wife of the Tory leader sported a £65 dress from Marks & Spencer…”). The message this sends to voters is that you are an “ordinary” family, with ordinary concerns. Wearing an expensive designer dress would be a telltale sign that you are, in fact, not. (Sam Cam made a mistake in 2010 when she wore a dress worth £749—or, as The Guardian put it, “36.8 first-child benefit payments”). In any case, if your husband is willing to spend £1,500 on a dress, God knows what he’ll do with the economy.
2) It must be a dress (or at least a skirt) and heels. I’m yet to grasp the full reason behind this—feminine and approachable, perhaps?—but the rule nonetheless stands. It probably has to do with appearing “unthreatening,” and may also be intended to show that you are willing to make an effort; if you can’t be bothered to put on a dress and heels, and make yourself look nice for the cameras, then how can we know that your husband won’t half-arse it on the economy, or border controls, or policing? Even Miriam Clegg usually sticks to this rule, and she has a tendency to flout them—as Jan Moir wrote in The Daily Mail last week: “It is no secret that Mrs Clegg always insists on being addressed by her maiden name of Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.” Most unreasonable.
3) You should wear a bright, block colour. This is camera friendly and helps you to stand out. If you’re really cunning you’ll wear the colour of your husband’s party, which indicates your committed support and, therefore, strong family values (unless you’re Justine Miliband, in which…