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What is the appropriate attire for a successful appearance at a party conference?


According to actress Bette Midler, the right footwear can give one the power to rule the world.

Attendees at political party conventions in Britain this month may have more modest goals, such as keeping their feet dry and blister-free.

According to experienced attendees of political conventions, balancing functionality and appearance at these yearly events for influential individuals, advocates, lobbyists, and journalists is quite a challenge.

Kat Logut, a member of the PR firm iNHouse, stated that preparing for a conference is a difficult task and it is likely that something will be overlooked. She helps manage the company’s conference lounge, where tired VIPs can receive complimentary coffee and survival kits.

Those traveling from London to Manchester on Sunday for the Conservative Party conference have had to pack lightly in order to navigate the rail network, which has been affected by strikes. They also have to endure the unpredictable weather conditions.

“It is simpler for men to pack a few shirts, suits, and a pair of shoes and be ready for a job. However, women have to deal with the challenge of changing weather conditions, as windy days can be difficult for wearing skirts. Additionally, they may feel pressure to wear something unique at each conference,” she stated.

Scarlett MccGwire, a media and presentation consultant who has advised various Labour politicians, expressed frustration over the difficulty of deciding between dressing in cheerful, summery attire or returning to winter clothing.

She stated that you don’t want to be cold, but also don’t want to constantly carry a coat while indoors.

Cleo Watson, a former Tory adviser, proposed the idea of combining a stylish high-heeled shoe with NikeAir technology, citing the popular trainer brand.

Keep pretending until you succeed.

While Members of Parliament, especially those in ministerial positions, have become skilled at maintaining a stylish appearance while traveling between Westminster and their respective constituencies on a weekly basis, party conferences serve as a significant opportunity for activists. Many of them see this as a chance to make valuable connections that could potentially lead to a successful political career.

Laura Dunn, a political consultant and former blogger on political fashion, mentioned that attending conferences is a significant event for many individuals. She noted that for some delegates, it is the most anticipated event on their schedule.

Gawain Towler, who is almost always seen wearing a tweed three-piece suit, experienced some fashion disasters at the Tory conference last year | Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

She mentioned that it’s a special occasion for them, so they will dress in their finest attire.

Watson stated that many of the young individuals who attend believe in the phrase “fake it till you make it.” This means dressing as if they already have the position they desire, which in their case is foreign secretary.

“If you wish to bluff your way into a social gathering, your chances are higher if you simply appear intelligent and well-groomed,” she stated.

However, Gawain Towler, a well-known communication specialist at Westminster who has experience working with UKIP, the Brexit Party, and currently the Reform Party, believes that this goal can cause many formally dressed delegates to go beyond their limits. Towler, who is often spotted in a tweed three-piece suit, personally witnessed fashion disasters at the Conservative conference last year.

According to him, there are many individuals under the age of 26 who are either employed by, involved with, or connected to the Tory party. However, they are unable to afford a good quality suit. Despite this, they still wear suits because they believe it is necessary, but it gives off the impression of young men on trial.

The leader acknowledges that delegates of the Reform Party do not dress in a fashionable manner and also acknowledges that the right-wing party displays more eccentric behavior. However, he believes that the fact that the party currently holds no elected MPs relieves some of the pressure.

“He stated that their appearance does not hold significance as there are no job opportunities available.”

The Tory team works behind the scenes and receives assistance from Sheridan Westlake, a long-time adviser at No. 10 Downing Street. Westlake creates a memo for the party conference, including his own suggestions for packing, which has become a well-known tradition among Conservative aides.

Dress for government

Many delegates are not featured on television, so fashion mistakes can go unnoticed outside of the conference. However, it is important for frontline politicians to dress well as they will likely be featured in news broadcasts while their party is in the spotlight.

According to MccGwire, if you are part of the opposing party, you must dress as if you were entering government. You must also dress as if you are capable of leading the country.

She remembers how Barbara Follett, a member of the Labour party, played a role in improving the reputation of several women within the party leading up to Tony Blair’s overwhelming election win. This became known as being “Folletted.”

According to Waston and Dunn, Theresa May is a versatile politician who excels in the realm of fashion. Leon Neal/Getty Images also recognizes her abilities in this area.

“Female members of Parliament have no trouble preparing for conferences as it is a regular part of their life on the parliamentary grounds. They maintain a polished appearance and have comfortably broken in their shoes,” stated Watson.

Watson noted that most MPs who have to travel for conferences and foreign affairs are skilled at efficiently packing a compact wheelie suitcase and choosing appropriate shoes that they know will be comfortable for them.

According to Waston and Dunn, Theresa May is a politician who excels in the realm of fashion, as evidenced by a social media account dedicated to celebrating her style during her time as prime minister.

Dunn is also a fan of current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s attire — despite social media sniping from style guru Derek Guy. “I actually think Rishi does dress very well. I don’t buy into the whole the short trousers thing is bad,” Dunn added.

According to MccGwire, Peter Kyle, who was recently promoted to Shadow Tech Secretary, is someone to keep an eye on at the Labour conference. She praised his suit, which he wore for the broadcast round during the Selby by-election, saying it was exceptional.

Some individuals do not prioritize dressing to impress and ultimately do not see its importance.

Watson, a former Downing Street aide, recounts how she spent much of the 2019 Tory conference taking pictures for young Tories who wanted a photo with the former Boris Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings, who proudly eschewed sharp suits in favor of a distinctly disheveled look.

“Clearly, he was dressed in a frightening manner,” she remarked.