With new film Iron Lady – starring Meryl Streep – in the cinemas at the moment, Margaret Thatcher is back in the headlines, but not just for her politics. Her extremely tailored style, typical of Eighties power dressing, is going through a rather surprising revival. We asked Sofia Tourlakidou, owner of vintage store SoLovesVintage.com how to update the Iron Lady look for a modern take on the Eighties power suit.

“The most distinct feature of Eighties fashion is definitely the shoulder shape”, explains Sofia. Yes, Eighties designers revelled in big bold shoulders in an update on the classic, more masculine Forties silhouette.

The business¬† suit – extremely tailored and structured – combined the angular shoulders with a nipped-in waist and was made famous throughout the decade thanks to TV dramas like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Dallas’ and Margaret Thatcher’s tailored business suits.

Interestingly, Thatcher’s suits masterfully combined the power dressing template still followed by female politicians such as Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton, with a distinctively feminine touch. In amongst a sea of grey-suited men, Thatcher cleverly chose bright colours – such as Tory blue – only a woman could get aways with at the time.

As the Prime Minister’s career progressed, so did her style. “Her look was more feminine when she was first elected”, Sofia says. “She wore pastel colours and her silhouette was softer. As she became more powerful, her suits became more angular and masculine and she ditched softer colours in favour of red tones.”

Here are Sofia’s top tips for a modern take on the Iron Lady look:

Stay suited. A suite is still a great wardrobe staple and doesn’t just have to be just for work. Update the look from the Eighties and mix and match different suit pieces of different but complimenting decades, colours and fabrics. Women have been wearing dress or skirt suits from as early as the Thirties until now. Just think of Jackie Kennedy in her Mainbocher dress suits or Joan Crawford’s suit in Grand Hotel to see other decade’s take on the look.

Wear colour. Smart dressing doesn’t necessarily mean black. Little has changed in men’s business fashion and if you go for a bold colour you will still be standing out. I love this fitted blue suit (pictured right) in a very Thatcher-esque blue. It’s from the Fifties so the cut is much softer and more feminine that an Eighties equivalent. If you can’t face a colourful suit, try a bold coat.

Accessorise. Mrs Thatcher was a vivid brooch wearer – you can get vintage brooches such as this cherry one quite cheaply. Brooches add a quirky, personal touch your outfit and look fab pinned to a coat too.

Dress well. Wearing well-fitted, structured clothing is a powerful business tool and will make you feel comfortable and relaxed. Make sure your clothing fits properly and isn’t too tight or too big.

It seems obvious but I think we’ve all worn something ill-fitting once and then fidgeted the whole day feeling uncomfortable.

Be shoe-sensible.¬† Whatever shoes you go for, remember you’ll need to be able to walk in them. Thatcher mostly wore the black mid-heeld pumps so typical of the Eighties, a clever choice. Black goes with anything and a mid-heel won’t kill you after a day running around in the office.

Get a classic bag. The Eighties favoured classic bags in black, white and beige as well as crazily coloured ones in bright tones. A classic bag such as this little box bag will look ‘business’ without being too corporate.

2 Responses

  1. kSto

    I entered the workforce in the 80s and it was great–for the first time in two decades, designers were making clothes for grown-up women. Naturally, I couldn’t afford the latest fashions, so I wore vintage suits and “Doris Day” dresses to the office. Good times, fun clothes.