Just like the PM, we like to splash the cash on our clothes
When Prime Minister Theresa May appeared in a pair of expensive leather trousers, she incurred the wrath of fellow politicians who claimed she was being too grand. Kerry McKittrick talks to local personalities about how much they’ve blown on luxury items.
Prime Minister Theresa May has been no stranger to having her footwear scrutinised ever since she donned an animal print pair of heels in 2002 before making a speech.
She also chose the same pair again on her last day as Home Secretary earlier this year.
Now, however, it's Mrs May's trousers that are making the headlines in a furore dubbed Trousergate, despite the political turmoil around Brexit and other world issues with which the Prime Minister is involved.
And when she appeared in a Sunday supplement recently in a pair of £995 Amanda Wakeley leather trousers, the 61-year-old was criticised by former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
The female MP claimed the PM's attire was an indulgence too far at a time when many people in society were suffering tremendous hardship.
But is it okay for the country's leading politician to splash so much cash on her wardrobe?
Even the MP who criticised her spending has been spotted with a Mulberry Bayswater bag, which retails for £850.
But Mrs Morgan was quick to hit back, explaining the bag was 12 years old and a gift.
Here, we talk to local personalities about the most expensive items in their wardrobe.
‘I used to spend a lot on one designer bag every year as an investment’
Cathy Martin (43) is director of Belfast Fashionweek. She lives in Holywood with her daughter, Valentina (4). She says:
I wear both designer and high street clothes, and within that I mix up both local and international designers. For me it's about how gorgeous something is and how in love with it I am, so I love statement pieces.
I'm a big believer in re-selling too. If there's a statement piece I can only wear about five times, then I'll re-sell it on eBay or at a fashion souk.
In the last year my policy has been that I can buy clothes only if I pay for them with the money made from selling old ones. I've even stuck to it... mostly.
My favourite online labels are Boohoo, Misguided as well as Zara and some of Topshop - although some things in the latter are a bit too young for me.
I'm conscious of where I shop too and the ethics they use around production.
The most expensive item in my wardrobe is a python-skin Gucci handbag that cost £1,200. I bought it in Cruise years ago and just fell in love with it.
I also have a jumper from MaxMara which I bought recently. It cost £650 and I bought it after a work project with them.
Previously I've bought bags as an investment, buying one good handbag a year. But I haven't done that in about five years.
When it comes to my personal style, I'm not afraid to be a bit more adventurous within the constraints of my height and body shape.
I'm curvy, so certain outfits just don't work for me. I tend to wear clothes that accentuate my best features and hide the bits I don't like.
I don't think there should have been as big a furore about Theresa May's trousers. If they make her feel good then it doesn't matter if she spent £50 or £500 on them.
‘I love my £500 coat...but there was a £2,000 velvet dress which I only wore once’
Beth Robinson (59) is a director and co-founder of Templeton Robinson estate agents. She lives in Belfast with her husband, David. She says:
As I’ve gotten older, I spend more money on clothes, and when you invest more in good-quality clothes, you buy fewer items. However, I undermine this principle by still buying too many clothes... As a result, I have to keep clearing out my wardrobe. My rule is that if I haven’t worn it for a year or more, it has to go.
The single most expensive item I bought was an outfit from Harvey Nichols 10 years ago for a property awards event in Dublin. It was a long, red velvet dress with a little jacket over the top. I had seen it in a Christmas brochure and fell in love with it. I bought the dress and had it altered overnight. The dress cost £2,000 — but then we did win at the property awards. I don’t think I wore it again after that, although it’s an outfit that I held on to until about a year ago. It was a one-off purchase and I’ve never splashed out like that again.
A better cut of clothing does make you look better, although young people can look good in the anything from the high street.
I buy about 90% of my work clothes from MaxMara and Emporio on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. My more casual outfits come from Please Don’t Tell, again on the Lisburn Road.
I do shop in London, but it’s so big. By the time you find your way around Harrods, you’re exhausted. The lovely thing about local shops is that they get to know you and will phone if they have something they think will work for you.
My most expensive recent purchase is a lovely coat from MaxMara that’s reversible and cost about £500. I do have a habit of not wearing things as I love to save them. I have been known to buy a second pair of the same shoes to keep.
Women should indulge themselves — if you’re well turned out and feel good about yourself, it’s worth it. There is a certain age and stage where you have to draw a line though and say ‘that’s it’ for the leather trousers so I don’t like Theresa May’s trousers anyway.”
‘I realised I could buy a full wardrobe for same price as one designer shirt’
Marcus Hunter-Neill (33) is a broadcaster and drag queen. He lives in Belfast. He says:
I have a pair of Armani trousers that I wanted so much when I was 20. I first saw them on a mannequin when I was in London, although I didn’t know what brand they were at that stage. Three days later and I was still thinking about the trousers, so I had to buy them.
They cost £800 — which I could just about afford — and I’ve never seen anything like them before or since. They’re almost like male culottes.
I kept them for special occasions for ages and then I started wearing them all the time as part of my uniform when I worked as a make-up artist, so they’ve had plenty of wear. They’re not fashionable any more and are practically done, but I still have them.
Another expensive item in my wardrobe is a coat from a designer in London that was tailored for me and cost £650.
I used to only buy designer clothes until I realised I could dress myself for a season for the same price as one designer shirt. Now I’ll only spend a lot of money on clothes that I know will last — for example, I bought a Ralph Lauren coat 10 years ago, but I still wear it.
The next most expensive thing in my wardrobe cost about £30.
Whenever I spend a lot of money on something, I try and do something charitable to make up for it. I bought a Vivienne Westwood necklace for £130 and felt guilty, so I bought food and donated it to a homeless shelter.
‘I spent £200 on a pair of boots five years ago and am still wearing them’
Claire McCollum (42) is a TV presenter. She lives in Greenisland with her husband Alastair and their children Samuel (10) and Rose (8). She says:
I don’t have expensive clothes in my wardrobe. As I’m on TV I have to do a lot of changes, so it would cost a fortune to buy designer clothes. There are very few items in my wardrobes which cost more than about £30.
However, I did splurge on a pair of FitFlop boots five winters ago. They cost £200 — an amount that I have never spent on anything else to wear — but they were absolutely worth it.
I was looking for a pair of boots for walks and these are lined and have a biscuit-suede exterior. They can be rolled up to your knees or down to your ankles — so they’re really versatile.
I’ve worn them every single winter, so they have absolutely been worth the money. As soon as I saw them I knew I would get the cost per wear out of them.
A pair of jeans is another item I would be happy to spend money on — up to about £100 if they are a good fit. Again, it’s because I know I would get the wear out of them. While I’m not a sale shopper I like the high street — Next, Primark and Dunnes are some of my favourites stores.
Women should splash out now and again on fashion — as long as you love what you’re buying and feel confident in it then it doesn’t matter what people think. Let’s face it, we all love a treat.”