CLIO TALKS BACK: Clio looks at power dressing in France

"A more just France will be a stronger France"
Clio comments: Women in political life, especially at the top, do have issues about their appearance. Here is an assessment of the 2007 contender for the presidency of France, Ségolène Royal, and her approach to power dressing, by her biographer Robert Harneis:

"With a minimum of policy declarations, support for her [Ségolène Royal] grew. Initially, at any rate, this was connected to her uniqueness in being an attractive woman in the very male-orientated French politics and the enormous media attention it generated. The readers of the French edition of FHM got so carried away, they voted her the sixth sexiest woman in the world, beating Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. She said of herself at this time, with evident satisfaction, 'even when I say nothing it generates interest.' . . .

"Despite cultivating an image of spontaneity Ségolène left little to chance in her campaign to seduce the public and, through them, win the primaries. In the summer of 2005 she had work done on her jaw, supposedly because she had a slight lisp, but it also had the effect of making her already pretty smile quite dazzling.

"She took great pains with her appearance and dress, taking advice from longstanding friend and adviser Nathalie Rastoin, a top executive with advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, who is an expert in public opinion surveys, brand marketing and particularly revitalizing old brands. There was plenty of scope there for her with the Socialist Party. They meet at least twice a week to decide on presentation tactics. It is she that advises what clothes to wear. No detail is too small. According to Isabelle Mandraud of Le Monde, no member of her team is allowed to wear sunglasses when they accompany her. When the television company RTL used a picture of her and François Hollande [Clio: Ségolène’s now ex-partner and father of her four children, as well as secretary-general of the Socialist Party] together on the steps of the National Assembly she threatened to sue because they showed her one step in front of him, which could be misconstrued."

Clio asks: do you think such obsessive concern with image is justifiable? or not?

Source: Robert Harneis, Ségolène Royal: A Biography (Petersfield: Harriman House, 2007), pp. 134-135.