Power dressing - our best and worst-dressed MPs

Last updated 05:00 24/02/2013

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It’s red carpet season so we decided to see how our MPs measured up in the fashion stakes on their daily parade to Parliament.  

Fashion guru Brownyn Williams gives her own take – and offers some sage advice to MPs who want to stay off the worst dressed list in future. Political journalist Kate Chapman reports.


Ruth Dyson (Labour)

Dyson has been around Parliament since Karen Walker was in pigtails but all those years in the public eye haven’t improved her dress sense.

Williams’ verdict? Middle-aged housewife.  ‘‘Those high-necked jackets she wears make her top half look heavier than it is. One and two-button jackets will leave the chest area open and break up the width of her body.’’    

 Barbara Stewart (NZ First)

Stewart had barely been in Wellington two minutes before she adopted the Wellington uniform of black.  In Stewart’s defence, black is NZ First’s colour. But it’s not hers.

Williams:   ‘‘Stewart’s uniform seems to consist of well-worn flat ankle boots, a high-neck black top and a saggy jacket.’’ 

Julie Anne Genter (Green)

She may be the first female MP to turn up to Parliament’s debating chamber in a backless top. It’s not often MPs are lost for words. But some of them did not know where to look.

Williams: ‘‘People who care for the environment can also be well dressed – see Stella McCartney for a great example. Genter’s sloppy silhouettes and drapey fabrics are totally unflattering on her youthful figure. She can still retain her youth and look more polished with structured basics and having fun with playful and bold accessories.’’  

Hekia Parata (National)

The beleaguered education minister flaunts as many hairstyles as she does outfits. She has been reaching deep into the designer wardrobe lately for a series of boxy jackets – a playful take on the flak jacket look perhaps?

You either love or hate Parata’s look. She just squeaks into our worst dressed list – but Williams takes a different view.

‘‘I think what she does is quite chic. She’s obviously been told that structured and boxy jackets work on her body shape, and she’s made them into her staple. It’s refreshing to see someone breaking the traditional codes of what a women of the House should wear.’’  

Richard Prosser (NZ First)

Cleary it’s not just Muslims that make Prosser uncomfortable – it looks like it’s been a while since he saw the inside of a fashionable menswear store.

Williams: ‘‘Like all male MPs, Prosser should invest in a good suit. They wear one every day, and being in the public eye makes dressing well seem ever more important. Purchase one made-to-measure suit from Crane Brothers and it’ll last them years and be well worth the investment – and it’ll keep them off the worst dressed lists.’’  

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Jami-Lee Ross (National)

We think he overcompensates for being one of Parliament’s younger MPs by sporting the older man’s favourite, the pinstripe suit.

Williams: ‘‘Many men make the mistake of thinking pinstripe suits are smart. In actual fact they are categorised under ‘monopoly men’, ‘mobster’ or ‘sleaze ball’. Solid colour suits are much more elegant.’’  

Murray McCully (National)

A political opponent once described him as looking like he’d been left out overnight in the rain. All that international schmoozing hasn’t smartened him up any.

Williams: ‘‘Did you know it only costs about $50 to take your suit to the tailor and get it fitted properly? Amazing.’’ 

Rino Tirikatene (Labour)

Wearing a red tie almost every day might impress the boss, but nobody else. 

Williams: ‘‘I love Rino in his suit and pounamu get-up, but the minute he pops on one of his candy cane ties, my interest dwindles significantly.’’


Judith Collins (National)

Collins can silence with a look, and she always dresses to kill. No wonder they call her Crusher.

Williams: ‘‘Safe – veering on boring. Socially acceptable but far from fashionable. I’d like to see her push the boundaries a bit.’’

Annette King (Labour)

King has a wardrobe full of timeless classics. Year in, year out, King is one of Parliament’s best dressed MPs.

Williams: ‘‘King uses a clever slimming trick. Wearing top and bottoms in the same tone will elongate your silhouette. By throwing on a mid-length jacket in a contrasting shade you’re visually cutting your width in half.’’   

Louise Upston (National)

As Whip, Upston can’t afford a bad hair day – she sits behind Prime Minister John Key in Parliament, in direct line of the television cameras. She carries it off with a combination of panache and timeless classics. Classically chic.

Williams: ‘‘Safe but elegant.’’ 

Jacinda Ardern (Labour)

Ardern shrieks effortless elegance. Her outfits can take her from the debating chamber to the cocktail circuit with ease.

Williams: ‘‘She’s the best looking MP our country has ever had. She has fun with her fashion and dances that line between keeping her youth and dressing the part for Parliament.’’

David Clark (Labour)

An MP with an edgy but snappy dress sense – those black rimmed glasses add the Joe90 touch. Geek chic.

Williams: ‘‘Very sharp with a great example of a well-cut suit.’’ 

John Key (National)

All those years of corporate schmoozing taught Key the value of a good suit. No doubt it also helps to have a stylish wife like Bronagh running a critical eye over the wardrobe. Key always dresses to impress. Best dressed. 

Williams: ‘‘The knot on his tie is always perfect, his shirts are ironed immaculately, but his trousers are often on the short side. The verdict? His dress sense is a mirror  of the rest of the country’s attitude towards clothing – acceptable, conservative, safe, but a little too boring for my liking.’’

Kris Faafoi (Labour)

The former ONE News reporter teams up well-cut suits with jazzy ties. His is the look all male MPs should aspire to.

Williams:  ‘‘I like Faafoi’s preppy sense of style. He clearly has a bit of fun with his wardrobe.’ 

Paul Goldsmith (National)

Cerebral but classy.

Williams: ‘‘Goldsmith has mastered the smart/casual look – a category that makes most men green with worry.’’

- Stuff


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