Margaret Thatcher's Style Got Dissed
Recently, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London declined a collection of Margaret Thatcher’s clothing. Proverbially steaming the Iron Lady, if you will (couldn’t resist). They claim her clothes had no real sartorial value. Ouch…made worse by a fact the article’s author points out, which is that the museum chose to include Kylie Minogue’s gold hot pants in 2007.
Certainly, Thatcher’s political divisiveness and her lack of support for museums in her time as Prime Minister figured in the decision. But politics notwithstanding, this got me thinking about the linkages between our style, our selves, and what we stand for. What does this juicy-by-British-museum-standards situation say about the relationship between our clothes and our identity? I think it says a lot.
It seems to me that we can draw two different conclusions from museum’s decision. One conclusion is that our clothes stand alone, representing us and what we believe in even decades after we stop wearing them. In this case, our clothes matter because they intimately reflect who we are. The second is that, rather than standing alone, our clothes are so inextricably linked to our identities that they are simply an extension of us. In this case, our clothes matter because they are literally part of who we are. In either case, the museum’s decision makes a clear statement: our clothes matter.
If the decision says something about our clothes, does it also say anything about our style?
Consider this. Say, for example, that rather than rejecting her clothes, the museum had rejected a collection of her personal letters. The reflection of Baroness Thatcher’s identity in these letters might be more immediately clear: letters contain words, which result from thoughts, which in addition to feelings, are some of the most personal dimensions of our human experience. By rejecting her clothes, perhaps the museum is making quite an important statement on style: namely, that style is a form of human expression, equal to a letter or speech, equivalent to a thought or feeling.
Of course the real question here is whether the museum was really rejecting the Baroness or her clothes. What do you think?