I read an interesting post over at Man Repeller the other day, in which Leandra Medine asks the question: What Happens When Getting Dressed is No Longer Fun?


I know, I know. I swore off Man Repeller a few months ago because I was offended by their article associating retirees with “baggy pants and pastels and slippers.” I was in such a snit that I wrote a whole post in response, describing how the internet makes me crazy in so many ways. But lately I’ve been drifting back to the blog. I think the young women who post there are talented: bright, witty, and really good writers. And even though I’m definitely NOT in their target age demographic, I still like many of the articles. Reading them makes me feel as if I were still teaching, as if I’ve just stumbled into a conversation with several female students breathlessly talking prom dresses, or new shoes, or career plans. I used to love those conversations. And I miss them. So I read Man Repeller


Anyhoo. I was reading Leandra Medine’s post the other day. And it started me thinking about why it is that, at certain times in our lives, getting dressed stops being fun. And then I thought, “I’ll bet getting dressed is no fun for Brigitte Macron these days.” 


 Brigitte Macron with her husband the recently elected President of France

Catapulted into the international spotlight when her husband became the President of France, Brigitte Macron is now the object of intense international scrutiny. Of course she was scrutinized before he won the election, but now the attention is international, no longer just in France where they are perhaps more sanguine about leaders with controversial personal lives. Much of the attention has focused on their twenty-four year age difference which is, weirdly enough, the same age difference between Donald and Melania Trump. And like so many things on the internet, what I’ve read about the Macrons swings wildly between the ecstatic and the vitriolic. 

Brigitte Macron sprang to mind for me because of a post I read last month on Tish Jett’s blog A Femme d’un Certain Age. Tish writes briefly about the dress Mme Macron chose to wear to a function at the NATO conference in Belgium. But the conversation really takes off, as it often does on blogs, in the reader comments. Oh my, Tish’s readers sure had a lot to say about Mme Macron’s dress, her shoes, her posture. And then there were the comparisons with Mrs. Trump’s dress, and posture. Among other things. Phew. 


 Brigitte Macron looking chic and much more relaxed at Paris Fashion Week.

I will say that the group photo of the spouses and partners of the NATO leaders, which prompted the conversation, was a dreadful shot of Brigitte Macron. I didn’t include the photo in my post, but you can see it here if you’re interested. Like many of the readers of Tish’s post, I didn’t much care for Brigitte’s new dress. I agree she does look a bit stooped in the photo, and very uncomfortable. And since I’ve seen many other shots of her looking chic and relaxed and lovely (see above) I can only imagine how chagrined she must be that this one terrible photo has now gone viral. The shot made history, not because of Brigitte Macron, but because it includes Gauthier Destenay the same sex spouse of Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. But still, how devastating to have that terribly unflattering picture be the one by which you are judged by so many strangers. 


And I wonder, did all the resulting chatter make Brigitte Macron doubt herself just a little? Did it shake her confidence? Does it make getting dressed in the morning a bit more stressful now? Less fun? 


You can say what you will about political spouses… that women should know what they’re getting into when they marry politicians, that they should expect to be the object of scrutiny, learn to weather the scrutiny, learn how to behave and to dress for the part, whatever that part is in the political landscape. But the bashing many female politicians and wives of male politicians take about their looks and their fashion choices is stunning. And usually mean-spirited. And often unfair. Sylvia Bashevkin, a political science professor at the University of Toronto says in this article in McLean’s: “We dissect female politicians and wives of [politicians] in terms of intimate and trivial details– their appearance, how they speak, how they raise children, and treat their spouse– very little about the benefits they might bring to public life, which is how we evaluate male politicians or even male spouses.” 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Michelle Obama in Washington in March 2016

In her article in Chatelaine about Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Rachel Giese says that many times political spouses just can’t win: “Too dutiful, and you’re letting down the sisterhood (see: Hillary baking cookies.) Too outspoken, and you’re a scold (see: Hillary pursuing health care reform.)” Maybe Mrs. Clinton in her former role as the wife of President Bill Clinton is a poor example for Giese to use here. Hillary never looked that comfortable as a politician’s wife to me… being, in my opinion, much more suited to the role of politician herself. Still if, like Hillary, fashion is not your thing, how galling to be judged by what you wear rather than by what you do. 


Grégoire Trudeau seems quite comfortable in her public role as wife of the Prime Minister, though. She is relaxed in front of the camera, which is no surprise since she worked in media in Montreal before her marriage to Justin Trudeau. Grégoire Trudeau is also what Linda Trimble, political science professor at the University of Alberta, calls in the McLean’s article, a “pillar of the Trudeau brand.” The Trudeaus being so very skilled in that increasingly common political strategy of “using domestic life to optimize a leader’s identity and appeal.” And I guess, whether we like it or not, part of the appeal of the successful wife of a public figure is how she looks. Like Michelle Obama or Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau seems to know exactly what to wear to suit her public role. And her exuberant personality. I find she rarely puts a foot wrong, sartorially speaking. She always looks lovely. 

Grégoire Trudeau with her husband and daughter walking the Great Wall of China in 2016

Believe me, I say that in full awareness of how deplorably sexist that statement sounds. In my defense, I will add that I think Justin Trudeau is just as concerned with his fashion choices as Sophie. And he never puts a fashion foot wrong either: the famous choice of brown shoes with his blue suit, the strategic sleeve-rolling signalling he’s ready to get down to work, the distressed jeans and tee shirt, and all those colourful socks. Then again, he is his father’s son. I wonder how many of us here in Canada remember Pierre’s cape? And whether you liked Pierre Trudeau’s politics or not… you have to admit that man was seriously cool. 


But, getting back to Leandra Medine’s post on Man Repeller. Medine attributes her fashion malaise to a possible identity crisis. That makes sense when you consider that she has always made “a case for style as a litmus test for identity.” She says that not knowing what to wear “feels like writer’s block.” I love that line. When you express yourself through your clothes, not knowing how to dress would most certainly feel like writer’s block. 


I can see how an identity crisis would take the fun out of getting dressed in the morning. “What should I look like if I don’t exactly know who I am?”… sort of thing. 


And I can’t help but wonder if Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s fashion choices (and indeed her husband’s too) work so well because she knows who she is, or at least what her very public identity should be. The “Trudeau brand,” so to speak. 


I can also see that Brigitte Macron’s new identity as the wife of the President of France will make her fashion choices more difficult, more treacherous… shall we say. She clearly loves clothes and fashion. But I imagine that getting dressed will probably be a lot less fun from now on. Since she will certainly be closely scrutinized to see if she puts a foot wrong. And not only because she is the spouse of a president, but also because she is the older spouse of a much younger man. 


Better fasten your seat belt Brigitte. It’s probably going to be a bumpy ride. 



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40 thoughts on “When Getting Dressed Stops Being Fun.”

  1. How funny . I was out with friends last night & that unkind photo of Mrs Macron came under discussion . We were sympathetic . Melania must be stiff competition , she never seems to take a poor photo & the camera truly is her friend – plus a great deal of time , effort & money has gone into that appearance . Yes , the frock was a bad choice by Mrs M & did it really cost THAT much ! Despite all this , & agreeing that the pressure of being a ' public ' wife must be awful , there was no disagreement on who we would swap places with if a choice had to be made 🙂
    Wendy in York

    1. If you mean a choice between swapping with either Melania or Brigitte… definitely a no-brainer there. Can't imagine what it must be like to be under so much scrutiny…and I thought that teenage girls were a tough audience!

  2. So so spooky to see this, our minds are in sync! I'm surprised you haven't popped up in my DNA results as a potential relative (I'm in touch with a Toronto lady who definitely is!).
    Back last autumn I intended to do a series on the styles of powerful women in politics but dropped the idea when things got nasty. Mrs M whetted my appetite again recently but previous events have soured me somewhat so that's stayed in draft form, the wind has been taken from my sails.
    Looking forward to hearing what you have to say when I have time later today. Meanwhile, are you sure we're not related?!!

    1. Things were decidedly "nasty" last fall. I remember being chastised for my post on "Nasty Women." Since Hubby says I'm related to most people who live in on our east coast… the chances are good. 🙂

  3. The internet never forgets and it doesn't ask if you've had a bad day
    I've always wondered would it be better to dress oneself alone and stay oneself (and have one's own mistakes) or hire a stylist,when being in the spotlight?
    You can never please everyone and everyone thinks that has right to criticize fashion choices (fewer of them want to express their opinions about benefits they might bring or atomic physics,f.e.)
    I'm ok with her age and her wardrobe,but it seemed to me,too,that she wasn't feeling very comfortable- (and I felt sorry,it must be awful for her)
    Your PM and Mme Trudeau look really great
    Very interesting and thought provoking post
    P. S. When I'm not feeling very well ,I'll take more care about my appearance than when everything is perfect

    1. I can imagine how I would feel if some of the shots I've discarded and did not use on the blog suddenly were front and centre on the internet. It would be devastating.

  4. Sue, thanks for your thoughts. Below are some thoughts about this topic I've had rambling around in my head for the last few weeks.

    The thing I hated, yes, hated, about Tish's blog re Madame Macron was not Tish's post, but prissy comments by many who commented there, whose sartorial standards seemed stuck in the Fifties and insisted Macron had violated some Major Rule. Their comments bothered me more and for longer than I'd expected they would.

    So what if Madame Macron's skirt was short? So what if her shoulders were a little sloped in that nano-second recorded by the photographer? So what that she's 24 years older than her husband?

    The compulsion of women who are not perfect to criticize others' imperfections or their mere differences suggests that many of us may be struggling against a terrible trait we’ve been cursed with by evolution — the compulsion to form mobs of haters when we see a woman in the spotlight. (Yes, not all women do this. But many do.)

    Speaking for myself, a 71-year-old woman, seeking conformation with Parisian Fashion Standards is not the basis of my affection for fashion. I'm with Leandra and with you. For me, fashion is in service to finding my own evolving style. And to having fun. And to experimentation and creativity. Certainly, every outfit I concoct is not a grand success. But unless I start wearing a uniform every day, occasionally I’m going to disappoint myself and others.

    In closing, I think what made me feel most uncomfortable about Tish’s readers’ comments was that I was embarrassed to be in the same room with some of them – and a little sad to find out what they found so important.


    1. So well said, Ann. I also was not criticizing Tish's post, I know she has been supportive of Mme Macron and her husband in previous posts. It was the hyper critical remarks about that "nano-second" of time in the otherwise very chic life of Brigitte Macron. I was surprised at the tone of the comments and a little saddened as well.

  5. I think Brigitte Macron is da bomb! Doesn't matter to me what she wears, just like Michelle Obama was awesome, I consider Mrs. Macron the same. Wonderful women married to outstanding world renowned leaders. Educated, progressive thinkers, which is what this world needs more of. The photo of her in the black dress was simply snapped at the wrong moment it would seem. I don't think she was ready for it. LOL Guess we have all had those moments. xox But you are right, the media will judge her now for every.little.thing she does and wears.

    1. That photo definitely was shot at the wrong moment. In the same article there was another group shot where she looked much more relaxed.

  6. Thank you for this blog post – both interesting and informative. I feel bad for Brigitte Macron since I think she will not be able to win – it's so "shocking" how "old" she is! I just hope she'll do what she would normally do anyway.

  7. Such an interesting post. I can't imagine being under that level of scrutiny all the time. I've seen too many awful pictures of myself that I would NEVER want broadcast. The pressure to look perfect before stepping out my door (and that's assuming no higher powered lens are looking into my windows) would paralyze me. And of course, how *dare* she be older than her husband???

    I love Brigitte Macron's look, Ms. Trudeau is another stunner, and I always thought Michelle Obama looked amazing regardless of her outfit and activities. Poor Brigitte got caught in a bad pose and now it's everywhere. I can't imagine that was the best picture of that group, which makes me wonder if photogs are always trolling for clicks. Yes, I've become cynical. Ha!

    1. It was a terrible picture of Brigitte Macron. I saw others which were much better. Sophie Trudeau is lovely, I think. But I also think that the Canadian press has been kind to her…which is nice to see. No need to make someone's public life any harder than it probably already is…IMO.

  8. Love this piece! I stopped reading Man Repeller when she made a degrading comment about my age when I said I wasn't up on wearing socks with sandals. It "flew all over me." xoxox, Brenda

    1. I'm with you, Brenda, on the socks and sandals thing… for anyone over six.
      P.S. I had to go look up that expression "flew all over me"… never heard of it before. Love it. Apparently it's quite common in the southern US???

  9. I stopped reading Man Repeller ages ago when it became more of a marketing magazine. There used to be an edge when it was just her. Now it is just another amongst the crowd.

    The double standard exists with regards to age differences between spouses. It is deplorable.

    This is the only photo I've seen of Bridgette Macron where she didn't look totally fierce. It is a shame that is the one that people choose to remember.


    1. I hear you. But I still like some of the articles on MR. Agree about Mme Macron's photo.. it is a shame that one is out there. Still think that the photo came to be so popular because of the same sex spouse in the shoot… for the first time ever.

  10. I read Tish's post and I too was dismayed (not for the first time) by how quickly the comments become nasty. Women in the spotlight invariably and unfairly come under criticism for their appearance regardless of their reason for being in the spotlight. Great post and an interesting talking point. Also like your new sweater, shades, your journey to finally embrace curly hair and other recent posts which I have enjoyed but didn't manage to comment on. Hope your brother has continued to improve and that you have a little summer weather soon. Iris

    1. Thanks Iris. I always enjoy your "round-up" comments. Ha. I know you're always paying attention:)
      My brother is continuing to improve. Thanks for asking. Don't know where he gets the reserves of strength. Tough as old boots, I guess.

  11. Women are so judgemental of other women. Nothing is ever said of overweight, aging, poorly dressed or unattractive men in the public eye. Nor should they. Why?

    1. Well… except for the Donald's hair. That gets a ton of comment. But the comments about men usually come after they have disappointed the public in some other way first. With women their appearance is so often the first line of attack.

  12. Sue, I read this early this morning, but wanted to wait to comment until I could read again and process. Medine's article resonated with me as I find I sometimes go through "style shifts" where nothing I have or see feels right. I've been in one of those funks the past few weeks.

    But your point was more about women who are in the public eye because of their husbands' political careers, and yes, what a minefield!! (I was also dismayed by the nastiness in the comments on Tish's blog, and saddened.) I can't imagine having all kinds of subtext being assigned to what you chose to wear on a given day. And yes, women participate (with glee at times, it seems) in policing other women and tearing them down.

    I think it places an extra burden on women who choose careers that put them in the public eye. I'm not talking about actresses or models, but rather politicians, academics, journalists (who especially have an entire set of appearance-related requirements that men don't have). It's frustrating, and I think it's another way in which women aren't yet competing on a level playing field.

    1. Me too…I'm undergoing a sort of style shift. Have been since I retired, I think. Maybe that's what you're experiencing?
      I generally love Tish's blog. I own her style book. But the comments on that post simply got right up my nose, as they say.
      Good point about the level playing field… or lack thereof. Especially for women whose appearance has nothing to do with their job!

    2. I will always remember something a world-renowned female faculty member at Princeton University said to me once when we were discussing academic conferences: she said when she took the podium to give her paper, she would always be "a body first, and her message second" whereas the men were just their message. She looked so sad and resigned when she said it, and I, inexperienced at the time, was so struck by her comment it has never left me. And it's so true. No matter if the woman is the prime minister, a presidential candidate or a Nobel Prize winner, first and foremost she's a body under (frequently vicious) scrutiny. –Catbird Farm

  13. I loved her outfit and it looks to me like she was just caught unawares. A moment longer and she would no doubt have stood in a manner that was comfortable and smiled and we would all be saying how wonderful she looked. It's appalling that women think it's ok to criticise other women in this manner and it's very easy to do when you are not putting yourself 'out there' every day or trying to live your life in the public eye.

    1. I agree. I can't imagine how many crappy shots I have had taken of me. Yet none of them are in our photo albums… or on my blog.
      Also surprising in this world where everyone is talking about "shaming" especially with respect to body image. If it's not okay to speak about a woman;s weight if she's heavy… why is it seemingly okay to speak disparagingly about a woman's weight and posture if she's thin??

  14. Thank you for taking this subject on in such a thoughtful way. I love your blog!
    Best wishes, Lindy

  15. Oh, dear, one of those times when I wish I belonged to another kinder species. Whatever that might be. Thank you for your kind and meaningful writing.


  16. I guess I'm the odd one out. The first thing that struck me when I saw that photo of spouses was Mrs. Trump in her fancy cocktail dress. I confess I have no experience with such things, but she seemed to be dressed inappropriately, at least in comparison to the other spouses.

  17. Thoughtful and perceptive post as usual. I thought Ann's comment was spot on.

    When I read uncharitable judgements such as the comments on Tish Jett's blog, it just makes me sad.

  18. Hi Susan, I wrote my two cents worth on Trish Jett's post. And had to pull back because I was becoming mighty pissed off at the lack of love Mme. Macron was receiving. Personally, I dug the dress. It was a dress I, at 62 years would wear. I am a fan of both Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron. I hope I run into them next week when I get to France–I'll BEG him for political asylum!!! She is a stellar example of a chic woman who has her own style. I'm a fan.
    As far as Man Repeller goes, I don't like the way older women are envisioned on that site nor on many other sites. But—I get a kick out of some of the posts–they can be entertaining!!!!
    Good post Susan–this was a nice read and great food for thought!!!

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