From the suffragettes to Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel, women through the centuries have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world. Hayley Platt speaks to the curator of a new exhibition in London to find out what the clothes reveal about the women wearing them.
She wore it when she became leader of Britain's Conservative Party in 1975. Now Margaret Thatcher's wool suit by British design house Mansfield is being featured in an exhibition called 'Women Fashion Power'. It looks at how women use fashion to define their place in the world. Donna Loveday is curator of the Design Museum. SOUNDBITE: Donna Loveday, curator, Design Museum, saying (English): " What's interesting is the suit is before she became Prime Minister so it's a much softer look, less of the very masculine perhaps, slightly more of the padded shoulder look that became associated with her after she became Prime Minister." They say Thatcher changed her style to fit into the boys' club of politics. She reportedly slammed her handbag on a table while demanding a rebate from Europe. Nowadays most women prefer comfort and convenience. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has certainly found her fashion formula. Many of her signature three-button blazers are made by German designer Bettina Schoenback. She has one in almost every colour, for every occasion. Eric Musgrave is Editor of Fashion Magazine Drapers. SOUNDBITE: Eric Musgrave, Editor of Drapers, saying (English): "It's virtually a uniform she wears and it's not really masculine but it's not particularly feminine either. She looks very practical and no nonsense and she's a formidable lady and in a way there's a similarity with Mrs Thatcher." It's not only politicians who use clothes to convey a message. Samantha Cameron, wife of Britain's Prime Minister, made headlines wearing a 65 pound dress from high street favourite Marks & Spencers. Michele Obama has made wearing key US designers one of her priorities. And former Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts appreciated there's no better way to promote the fashion your selling than wearing it. She now has a big job at Apple and many are watching her new wardrobe. SOUNDBITE: Eric Musgrave, Drapers, saying (English): "In the tech area it's all meant to be no ties, chinos and schlepping around in sneakers for the boys. I'd be very interested to see how Mrs Ahrendts gets on and how she projects herself in that environment." The days when you needed a hat to get ahead are of course long gone But whether you're a pop star, a politician or a high-profile business executive, it seems clothes do matter.