In a first for a New Zealand leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is being photographed this weekend for a spread in the US edition of Vogue magazine.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has confirmed the shoot is taking place this morning in Auckland, but would give no further details.
Vogue, long considered the “fashion bible”, will not be featuring Ardern on the cover – it is not in the habit of featuring female politicians in the top spot, but politician’s wives are fair game. Michelle Obama has featured on the cover three times, Hilary Clinton also featured as a US First Lady, and Melania Trump featured on the cover when she married current US President Donald Trump.
And already this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for British Vogue. In that shoot, the Prime Minister is shown at the country house Chequers, seated in front of a fireplace. She is also pictured striding through the countryside with husband and childhood sweetheart Philip a step behind.
The Vogue story says Theresa May was asked what advice she would give to girls who want to be prime minister.
Her reply was, “Be yourself. And if you have any setbacks, don’t ever think it’s because you’re a girl.”
While Vogue interviews are never just about fashion and clothes, an appearance in the “fashion bible” begs a question about the message it portrays.
Sunday magazine is covering this debate in the Sunday Star-Times December 17.
The magazine says Ardern, who does not have a stylist, can wear a Juliette Hogan maxi dress and a faux fur jacket from a Hastings SaveMart on the red carpet, or be photographed on election night in a bespoke Maaike ensemble paired with Ugg boots in her living room. Her relatability, authenticity – and style – is part of her appeal.
But Sunday magazine poses the question, “Is it OK to discuss the Prime Minister’s clothes?”
Claire Regnault, a senior curator of New Zealand History and Culture at Te Papa and co-author of The Dress Circle, a social history of New Zealand through fashion, was asked if there was room for conversations about Ardern’s image as well as those about her policies.
“I would hope it’s more about her ideas, what she’s doing, where she’s taking the country,” she says.
“Surely there’s more interesting things to her than her wardrobe. It’s part of the story but… I’d also hope her legacy would be represented by something more than a frock.”
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