JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Fifty shades of parliament

Julia Gillard on the fashion attack.

Julia Gillard on the fashion attack. Photo: Andrew Meares

How does a “badass motherf..ker” decide on an outfit?

Are cobalt and coral now the colours one wears to serve up a supersize smackdown?

How does a “badass motherf..ker” decide on an outfit? 

In recent times, the leaders of our land girt by sea would been forgiven for wearing hazmat suits up on Capital Hill, given the fireworks that have erupted and venom that’s flown around the House of Representatives, but instead they continue to show their true colours (think Cyndi Lauper not outlaw motor cycle gang). 

A cool, calm collected Coalition front bench during Question Time. Click for more photos

The colour and characters inside the House

All the colour, fashion and style spotted during Question Time during the past year. 

Rather than black and other colours traditionally associated with power, shades of turquoise, dusty rose and even some grey (insert winky face) dominated the front bench last week as Julia Gillard presented one of her most rousing performances as PM.  

This look into Question Time style isn’t a “who wore it best” fashion attack, it’s about an alternative therapy called “colour psychology” and investigating what sartorial choices say about the state of our politicians rather than their policies.  

Image consultants adhere to the psychological responses stimulated by colour. Many say being strategic when selecting a shirt/tie/dress in the morning can strongly influence perception and there are big advantages to gain if certain rules of colour are applied correctly.

Dr Zena O’Connor, who is a colour theory lecturer at the University of New South Wales and College of Fine Arts, says the psychology behind colour choices can be subtle nuances that make a big impact.

“Colour associations, which are learned rather than hard-wired, can be used quite effectively in certain contexts,” she said.

“Notions about colour “psychology” have often been branded trivial but some statesmen have used colour and colour branding to great effect such as Napoleon.”

Closer to home and Gillard’s royal blue blazer, which she donned on the day of reckoning, as well as Tony Abbott’s tie and beige bouclé as seen on Julie Bishop, all caught the attention of colour, style and image experts.

Dr O’Connor suggested Gillard’s blue hue helped her align with profitable companies as well as US President Barack Obama.

“Blue is a colour that often features in the corporate identities and logos of some of the largest and most profitable companies of the 21st century like Facebook and Google. Cobalt blue is also a colour worn by Barack Obama on his neckties. It was a clever choice,” she added.

“Gillard often wears red jackets, however this colour would have come across as too aggressive given the nature of the debate in parliament. She often tends to wear colours that are strong like red, cobalt and emerald green and she rarely wears pastel colours. My thoughts are that these stronger colours help to convey the strength of her character and her resolve as a politician.”

Founding director of image management consultancy EGAMI, Natasha Di Ciano, says there was a lot of strategy at play when Gillard clashed red and blue last week.

“Red portrays courage and strength and is considered a more masculine colour while blue projects professionalism and trust. In parliament, her colour choices are designed to position her with influence,” Ms Di Ciano said.

She added Ms Gillard’s front bench buddies including Jenny Macklin who rocked a similar coral-cobalt combo, Wayne Swan’s stripy blue tie and Tanya Plibersek who worked in some blue to offset her “neutral” grey pant suit presented more of a personable look.

“They presented an image that is less traditional and more personalised with regards to style. The use of warm based colours also suggests approachability.”

Abbott’s ties spoke louder than he did according to Di Ciano.

“It was the cool temperature of his tie that projected the strongest message. The icy-blue drew on the more insensitive side associated with blue and created perceptions such as logic, coldness and lack of emotion.”

Strictly sartorially speaking stylist and e-retailer, Zara Bryson, has noticed a “race for the White House” type approach is taking place by the ladies of the lower House.

While Gillard, with her ill-fitting blazers projects an Ann Romney style look (although I’m yet to see her shop at Costco), Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop is the fashion front runner.

“She appears to be channeling a ‘First Lady’ look a la Michelle Obama, as opposed to fostering a fierce leader vibe like Julia,” Ms Bryson said.

“Whether it echoes her, or lack of, leadership ambitions or not is yet to be seen, but she is definitely dressing like a deputy in a supporting role. She goes for flattering tones of cream and beige in bouclé Chanel-esque skirt suits with a nipped in waist. This is a classic, chic look for an upper class woman and she wears it well.”

Unlike the image specialists, Bryson argues Abbott’s baby blue tie was a “nod to his feminine side” and when it comes to dressing he’s snappier than a crocodile.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tony have a fashion fail, aside from the Speedos, but he does have a very easy figure to dress and likes his suits well tailored.”

Imagine if AC Nielson had a fashion poll? Call it trash, call it trite but at least there would be more employment for creative types.

35 comments so far

  • You have GOT to be kidding me! Just days after her brilliant speech on sexism and you are writing an article about what she is wearing?? Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister! Where were all the articles about clothing when John Howard was galavanting around in his ridiculous track suit. Whether or not you consider your article to be of interest, or balanced because you've mentioned male policicians further down the article is irrelevant. The focus of your article is the PM. And your timing with respect to what is actually being DISCUSSED in Parliament is outrageous. I may actually stop reading The Age now.

    Commenter
    Angela
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 1:58PM
    • Oh God here we go. The ever vigilant Misogynists-under-the-Bed stormtroopers have arrived on the scene, quick to expose the misogyny lurking in the hearts of those who dare comment on St Julia, patron saint of tertiary educated middle-class women with Twitter accounts. How dare Jenna refer to Julia's jackets? Well here's the thing: people did comment on John Howard's daggy track suits and spectacles, just as they commented on Kim Beazley's weight and Malcolm Fraser's patrician accent. Bronwyn Bishop's beehive has been commented on for years. Therese Rein copped it over her dress sense and Jeanette Howard's nickname was Hyacinth - after Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances. They don't/didn't whinge. Get real. If you go into politics, your appearance is going to be deconstructed. Fact of life. This is a positive article about the psychology of colour and dress in politics. Jenna writes about fashion - or have we arrived at the point where any discussion and/or commentary on Julia Gillard is off-limits, reviled as part of an overarching misogynist plot?

      Commenter
      Petroleuse
      Location
      Brindabella
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 3:40PM
    • @Petroleuse And you read this article because you were interested in "fashion" did you? Or perhaps because you were interested in an anti-Gillard sentiment to feel at one with - in which case you'll stoop to subjective fashion fauxpar-ism in order to have your negative sentiments validated. Grow up.

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 8:29PM
    • Seriously! Even before all of this the media has been frequently criticised for it's focus on the appearance of female politicians in a way they never subject male politicians to. It was inappropriate then, it's inappropriate now. I can't believe that given the content of the speech people want are still responding like this. Poor form SMH.

      Commenter
      Erikah
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      October 13, 2012, 3:45PM
    • Sing it, sister. +1 to Angela!

      Commenter
      Miss E
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 15, 2012, 12:58AM
    • @Petroleuse, haven't you heard? Anything less than unadulterated and sychophantic worship of Julia Gillard and everything even remotely associated with her is clear and undisputable evidence of hatred and misogyny.

      Obviously you are not keeping up to date with contemporary political orthodoxy.

      Commenter
      Greg
      Date and time
      October 16, 2012, 7:59PM
  • Prison stripes?

    Commenter
    Brisbane Bear
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 2:11PM
    • Oh the irony! Mere days after Gillard delivers one of the most inspirational speeches of our time and here we have an article analysing the consequence of the outfit choices of (female) politicians. Yawn.

      Commenter
      Lisa Hanlon
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 2:14PM
      • YES and was'nt it a BRILLIANT speech!! As for her clothes this is a LIFE STYLE page !!and BLUE looks great on our "badass motherf..cker" PM. I LOVE her!

        Commenter
        Ruby
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 3:53PM
      • Her inspirational pre-written speech on misogyny and sexism right after supporting one of the most vile people to grace the planet, who denigrated women more than any other public figure EVER! The Labor females have set back womens rights to the 19th Century. They sacrificed principles for power. Thankfully Julie Bishop dresses and behaves with class and distinction, something our PM has yet to learn.

        Commenter
        Justa comment
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 7:46PM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    Featured advertisers

    Horoscopes

    Capricorn horoscope

    Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

    ...find out more here