A little over a decade ago, there was a shift in the way Julie Bishop dressed, the choices she made to present herself, visually, in parliament, to the public and the media. The strings of pearls disappeared. The brooches and brightly coloured jackets vanished. In their place were Armani suits, little black dresses, crisp white shirts.
It was more than a natural evolution, the kind we all go through as we adapt (consciously or not) to prevailing trends. No, this was sharp and, as it turns out, deliberate.
Speaking to Mia Freedman on Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast, the former Foreign Minister, who announced her departure from politics in February, said her style shift was a process of reclaiming her identity – of which fashion has long been an integral part.
Listen to Mia Freedman interview Julie Bishop on No Filter. Post continues after audio.
“When I was first appointed to the ministry [in 2003], I was asked to be the Minister for Ageing. And one of the Prime Minister’s senior advisors rang me and said, ‘Julie, take this the right way, but forget the Armani suits and forget the corporate look. You’re the Minister for Ageing, you’re going into aged-care homes; you’ve got to dress appropriately.’
“I said, ‘What? You mean like cardigans?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, more prints, more colour… just not corporate.’
“So you’ll see me, as Minister for Ageing, looking like they expected me to look. And then I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. Don’t let other people define who you are, what you wear. Be authentic.’ And so I just decided one day, ‘I’ve had enough of that. I’m going to dress the way I want to dress.'”
There are those who would argue that fashion-talk is frivolous when coming from the mouth of a politician - a three-time deputy leader, no less.
But Julie Bishop doesn't see it that way.
"I don't apologise for it," she said. "It's who I am, and if you want authentic politicians, you've just got to accept the fact that I love fashion. I always have, and I always will."
In fact, by conspicuously supporting Australian designers (Rachel Gilbert is among her favourites) on the world stage, Bishop has sought to demonstrate the power and potential of the local industry.
As someone with that kind of fashion consciousness, it's little wonder her choices are watched so closely, often dissected as keenly in the political pages as they are in glossy fashion mags.