The twinset, in russet and camel colors, was my ‘homage’ to Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister, who died Monday at the Ritz Hotel in London.
If you're unfamiliar with a twinset, it's the classic matching sweater-duo ensemble, sleeveless or short-sleeved sweater under a cardigan, a style much favored in the U.S. by June Cleaver and sorority girls in the 1950s, like the classic insufferable rich sorority girl parody from “Auntie Mame":
And in Britain by a lady of a certain age and certain class. It is usually worn with pearls, ideally three strands. Odd numbers of strands are considered more chic than even numbers. It’s probably what she wore “off duty” as prime minister.
One can’t see her [see, I’m channeling her already!] lounging about Number 10 Downing Street in velour sweats, but on duty and on display in her prime ministerial position, though, she almost always wore a kind of uniform, a brightly colored suit, ladylike but not alluring, and not unlike what the Queen wears. [In the same spirit, the Queen wears twinsets when she’s off-duty and having fun, which is to say at some horsy event or another.]
Because Thatcher was Britain’s first woman prime minister, Britons enjoyed handicapping the relationship between their head of state [the Queen] and the head of government [the prime minister]. Theirs was not the affectionate relationship of, for example, the Queen and Winston Churchill. And the best sartorial story about the relationship is the story – which has entered into myth if not into the annals of fact – that Mrs. Thatcher’s office once called Buckingham Palace in advance of a joint appearance to find out what the Queen would be wearing so Mrs. Thatcher wouldn’t commit lese majeste and wear the same color.
The Queen, Mrs. T’s office was informed, doesn’t take any notice of what other people are wearing.
I wrote about Mrs. T when she came here in 1991 to celebrate the 80th birthday of her “political soulmate,” former president Ronald Reagan. She visited the Reagan library, under construction, and the JPL, among other spots. You can read that account here.
And here’s my obituary of the former PM.
I last saw her in 2002, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, at the celebration of the Queen’s golden jubilee. I actually heard her before I saw her – that unmistakably clear voice whose pitch she worked hard to shape into the pitch and tone that became part of her political toolkit. Her funeral, next Wednesday, will be at St. Paul’s.
Now back to my outfit! The skirt is a vintage Sonia Rykiel, which is worth the constant battle with moths to keep it in repair. I like vintage for myriad reasons: no one else is wearing what you’re wearing … the fabrics are usually of much better quality and more interesting than present-day ones … and unlike current store-bought things, vintage has the merit of being environmentally friendly.
I was tickled to see my viewpoint endorsed by the accomplished Vanessa Paradis, the charming and glamorous French singer and actress, Chanel model, Lagerfeld muse, and the new face of H&M’s new environmentally conscious line. Here she talks about embracing those virtues herself. Merci, Vanessa!
Oh, I spared the oysters and didn’t wear pearls with my twinset. Rose gold is the choice du jour. Real? I wish!