In 2013, in her obituary of Margaret Thatcher, Telegraph fashion writer Hilary Alexander wrote: “From the hair to the handbags, Margaret Thatcher styled herself as she led the country – with confidence, conviction and unshakeable belief.” Margaret Thatcher is the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the only woman to have held Office to date. Alongside Diana, Princess of Wales, she was regarded as one of the 1980s’ most important power dresser.
The V&A was offered the Baroness’s fashion and jewellery collections. Their decision to politely decline the offer shocked many and made the headlines of the press a few months ago. Christie’s are now holding two landmark sales of Thatcher’s possessions: a flagship auction of 150 lots at Christie’s headquarters on King Street on Tuesday 15 December and an online auction of an additional 200 lots until 16 December.
The perks of auctions are the private viewings that are held ahead of the auction date. They give potential bidders the opportunity to discover the items for sale without the spin of the art exhibition’s curator and assess the value of each lot and the pieces they would like to bid on.
The two sales are providing public and private insights into the trajectory of a political titan. The sales present items relating to Thatcher’s time in Office offering bidders the chance to buy a piece of history. Lots include signed speeches, satire drawings and – my favourites – presents received from foreign dignitaries such as an original edition of the Perestroika signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and an Eagle offered by friend and supporter Ronald Reagan as an award for Thatcher’s “spirited support of the market economy principle”.
Aside from private possessions with a direct political value a large part of the lots for auction consist of iconic outfits of Baroness Thatcher. The items for sale include her midnight blue velvet wedding dress along with several outfits worn during her days in politics and at key social functions. All outfits represent Thatcher’s personal style of power dressing.
The daughter of a professional dressmaker, Margaret Thatcher said in an interview for Vogue in 1985, that she was “brought up to know the importance of cut” and recognised the potential power of fashion to enhance, project and mirror individual stature.
She was a pioneer in personal styling projecting an executive and powerful yet feminine image. She was very loyal to Aquascutum and their structured skirt suits for her office outfits but was more daring with her evening wardrobe which included pieces from young designers such as Tomasz Starzweski.
Alike all style conscious women Margaret Thatcher complemented her outfits with accessories such as pearls and brooches. She also had an impressive collection of handbags which soon became her trademark. Before the time of the “It Bags” Margaret Thatcher’s handbags were often compared with Winston Churchill’s cigars and led to the creation of the term “handbagging” with reference to Margaret Thatcher ministerial style in cabinet meetings.
One of Margaret Thatcher favourite handbag makers is Launer the iconic leather goods brand handcrafted in England and benefitting from a Royal Warrant. A favourite of stylish women with a classic taste, Launer produces high quality timeless pieces and still offers the bags cherished by the Iron Lady such as the Juliet (as pictured) or the Eva, for sale on Tuesday.
Mrs Thatcher: Property from the Collection of The Right Honourable Th baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, LG, OM, FRS is taking place at Christie’s King Street on 15 December from 3.30pm, the online sale will close on 16 December.