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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK

UK Politics

Dressing for power

William Hague's hat's first and last outing

Politicians have long known the importance of power dressing and now a new exhibition in London is bringing the best and worst of MPs clothes out of the closet.

The Museum of London has gathered together those clothes have that caused a stir in the corridors of power over the last hundred years.

Their display of sartorial elegance includes donations from Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, and has on show perhaps the most memorable recent example of a politician's fashion gaffe - William Hague's baseball cap.

But the Tory leader's convention breaking headgear is not alone in grabbing a hatful of headlines.

[ image: Keir Hardie:
Keir Hardie: "Shock tactics"
In 1892 the first Labour MP, Keir Hardie, caused a few ripples when he took up his seat in Parliament wearing a tweed cap and a working man's suit.

His failure to wear a top hat prompted the magazine Vanity Fair to declare: "His headgear has endangered the foundations of parliamentary propriety, and provided innumerable paragraphs for the papers."

According to museum director Simon Thurley Keir Hardie was the "first politician who used the clothes he wore as shock tactics".

If this emphasis on what politicians wear rather than what they seems a little much Caroline Cox, the principal lecturer at the London College of Fashion, says the importance of a politician's dress sense in winning over the voters should not be underestimated .

[ image: The clothes worn on Labour's first day in office are on display]
The clothes worn on Labour's first day in office are on display
As Ms Cox says the effect of seemingly superficial changes in style often grab the public's attention.

She sites the example of Tony Blair's change of hair style from a 1980s swept back look to a 'Nero' which she says made "the public go mad".

As well as the clothes worn by Tony and Cherie Blair on Labour's first day in power, the public can also examine the clothes of Harold Wilson, Ken Livingstone and the first woman MP, Nancy Astor.

Power Dressing: the fashion of politics is on at the Museum of London from 27 August to 19 September

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