So Samantha Cameron’s £65 M&S dress is back in the news. Apparently, she was only able to get hold of it because of a personal contact with Stuart Rose, the retailer’s CEO.
This story rankled with me when it came out earlier in the month – and even more so now. What rankles is that it seems to be one rule for men and another for women.
According to the press, David Cameron buys his suits at Richard James in Saville Row (where prices start around £1000) – and nobody bats an eyelid. It is expected – after all he wants to rub shoulders with the world’s leaders.
Yet Samantha Cameron is praised because she wears – to a hugely important occasion – a £65 dress from a high street chain (albeit the quintessentially British one).
And, nice though it was for the money, the people with whom she presumably wants to be rubbing shoulders will absolutely know where it has come from – even without the press hype.
Does it increase Cameron’s electability. I can’t believe it does. I for one don’t want whoever is first lady mixing with Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni looking (and, whatever you’d like to believe, she will be feeling it) like the poor relation.
The whole episode is symptomatic of another English tradition: frowning on women who make an effort to look like they belong in a position of responsibility, like they are successful; effectively putting them down in a way which takes their confidence away and leads them to devalue themselves.
I see this so often with my customers: they’ll not go for a job they could do well because the salary is too high and they don’t think they would get it – because they don’t think anyone would pay them that much.
Judged by their male peers for being mumsy; praised by the British press for not making an effort to look the part; it’s no wonder that British women don’t know which way to turn.