Appearance style went from darkly shapeless to clear lines


IT IS, quite frankly, inconceivable that any male Irish politician would agree to take advice on a radical overhaul of his appearance. Then again, the electorate would look with considerable suspicion upon any male politician who actually did so. Thanks to her authority, Mary Robinson may have been able to ignore or brush aside many stereotypes.

When it comes to her appearance, however, she has had to conform to the same powerful, if unofficial, rules as other women in her position.

Prior to announcing her intention to stand for election, sartorial matters were clearly not the most important of Mrs Robinson's concerns. True, when her transformation into a figure of fashion occurred, she had certain natural advantages: strong and handsome features; height and good posture; and a slim figure.

But in her pre presidential days, none of these was usually shown to advantage. Perhaps because of her legal background, she tended then to favour black and rather shapeless clothes, her hair looked as though it rarely received too much attention, and make up was almost unknown.

Once on the presidential campaign trail, she was advised to give her personal style a radical overhaul. This advice was based on the correct understanding that a softer, more overtly feminine image would have wide appeal.

The rules she learned then have been faithfully followed ever since. She invariably dresses in strong, single colours, such as green, purple or red; these make herb more immediately identifiable and photogenic in a crowd. She prefers clean, simple lines which accentuate her slimness and height. She wears the same few pieces of striking jewellery, almost invariably gold, and eschews any fussiness of detail. Her shoes are elegant but comfortable and her hair, which has a light bodywave and is much shorter than formerly, is cut in an easy to manage style.

Best of all, Mrs Robinson has avoided the kind of clothes preferred by most female politicians who tend to follow the example set by Margaret Thatcher when she was Britain's prime minister. Accordingly, you will not catch Ireland's president in royal blue suits with sensible knee length skirts and a pussy cat bow blouse.

Ever since wearing a Louise Kennedy ensemble for her inauguration at Dublin Castle, Mrs Robinson has been a firm supporter of Ireland's designers. As the public face of this State abroad on her many trips, she has probably done more for Irish fashion than anyone else outside the business in recent years.

From being someone to whom clothes meant little, she now regularly features on the world's best dressed lists.