Power Dressing:
First Ladies, Women Politicians & Fashion
By Robb Young
Foreword by Pamela Golbin
Published by Merrell
Publication Date: February 2011
192 pages
500 colour illustrations
29 x 20.2 cm (11.5 x 7.75 in)
Flexibound, ISBN 978-1-8589-4515-6

For some, it’s a constant thorn in their side. For others, it’s their secret weapon. A few say they don’t give it much thought. But whatever their views on fashion, women in politics know they will be judged by how they dress more than their male counterparts. Fashion, with all its superficial subtext, might be a dirty word in parliament or the presidential palace but a female politician’s style can never be invisible like a man’s. And on the arm of their husbands, first ladies inevitably make a statement about the leader in a dark suit and tie next to them. These women aren’t afforded the immunity of a uniform. Like it or not, fashion is still a potent measure of women in politics today.

Power Dressing is the first major work to explore the role of fashion and style in the careers of hundreds of first ladies and women politicians around the world. Combining entertaining portraits with sharp sartorial analysis, concise thematic chapters are interspersed with profiles of more than 50 serving and former women presidents, prime ministers, congresswomen, governors, MPs, mayors, royals and first ladies from over 30 countries, ranging from such contemporary figures as Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Queen Rania of Jordan to such iconic women as Eva Perón, Imelda Marcos and Margaret Thatcher. Featuring over 500 colour photographs that shed light on political context, and quotes from prominent figures commenting on each woman's style, this captivating book reveals the milestone 'fashion moments' as well as the unspoken rules of the political fashion game.


These aren't just powerful women. They are Nobel Peace Prize winners, dictators’ wives, violent vigilantes, Olympic gold medallists, refugees, porn stars, scientists, convicted fraudsters, celebrated economists, ruthless entrepreneurs, pioneering environmentalists, beauty queens, socialites, soldiers, tortured prisoners, transsexuals, terrorists and multi-millionaires.

They aren’t always suited and muted. They also wear lip piercings and gothic make-up, turbans, tiaras, flowers in their hair, tribal jewellery, skin-tight trousers, leather corsets and headscarves, couture gowns that cost a fortune, second-hand clothes, vertiginous stilettos, counterfeit handbags, diamonds, powder pink saris, blue burqas and even go nude in public.

They are as young as 18 and as old as 100: communists, democrats, socialists, republicans, hardline conservatives, assassinated populists, secularists, religious fundamentalists, freedom fighting separatists, mad monarchs and screaming liberals.

They are the iconic women of history and the sometimes faceless wives of iconic men: Black Panther Party members, martyred suffragettes, the original Marie Antoinette, cross-dressing Egyptian pharaohs, Celtic warrior queens, empresses of the ancient world, Jackie Kennedy copycats, pioneering congresswomen, Evita, Elizabeth and Eugenie, Mrs. Mao and Mrs. Ataturk, Mrs. Franco and Mrs. Lenin, Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Gorbachev too.

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe; from the White House to Whitehall; and just about everywhere in between, hundreds of political women from over 90 countries are divided among five thematic chapters. More than 50 of these women have been profiled in-depth through entertaining and informative 'style portraits' and hundreds of colour photographs featuring their outfits. They include:

Benazir Bhutto, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Azam Al Sadat Farahi and Zahra Rahnavard, Cherie Blair, Grace Mugabe, Imelda Marcos, Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan, Emine Erdogan and Tansu Ciller, Sajida Talfah Hussein, Winnie Mandela.

Angela Merkel, Condoleezza Rice, Cristina Fernández De Kirchner, Neelie Kroes, Sarah Palin, Ségolène Royal, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Makiko Tanaka, Park Geun-Hye, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rebiya Kadeer,Yulia Tymoshenko, Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Madeleine Albright, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wu Yi, Carme Chacón, Mara Carfagna, María Teresa Fernández De La Vega, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Tarja Halonen, Tzipi Livni, Ilona Staller, Baleka Mbete, Quentin Bryce, Letizia Moratti, Rachida Dati, Svetlana Medvedeva and Lyudmila Putina, Theresa May, Asma Al-Assad, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Chantal Biya, Michelle Obama, Miyuki Hatoyama, Rania Al Abdullah, Samantha Cameron, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned and the many wives of Jacob Zuma.