Hark! Are those Yves Saint Laurent suede peep-toe pumps I see amidst a sea of dowdy shoes?!
Valérie Trierweiler must not have gotten the Hollande government memo when she was packing for her first official visit to Washington. How else to explain her choice of expensive designer stiletto heels for a White House function? Leaving aside the style faux-pas of sporting a pair of 140mm (5.5 inches) platform shoes to a White House luncheon for spouses of G8 heads of state, the Yves Saint Laurent "Palais" suede peep-toe pumps which retail for €530 is difficult to reconcile with the Hollande government's modesty theme (never mind that "Palais" is actually French for "palace").
The "I'm just a normal guy" message which was hammered home by the Socialists during the presidential campaign (in opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy's "bling-bling" presidency) remains the mot d'ordre as Hollande and his new government take up their functions amidst growing anxiety over the Euro crisis. As the French economy continues to sputter, France's new president is eager to show the French electorate that he feels their pain. In keeping with his campaign promise, members of his cabinet took a 30% reduction in pay upon taking up their appointments last week and are now subject to a new set of rigorous guidelines governing expense accounts, gifts and the like. Pay cuts are also in the works for the president and prime minister. After the glam Sarkozy years, low key modesty is the new black.
In fairness to Ms. Trierweiler, she is neither a minister nor even an elected official. Still, as the companion of France's newly-elected president, she will be heavily scrutinised. She will be expected to set an example or, at the very least, not detract from the message by providing the President's political foes with fodder for their cannons especially on the eve of hotly contested legislative elections.
This misstep (pardon the pun) is surprising given that Ms. Trierweiler is herself a seasoned political journalist who understands the stakes better than the average political spouse. Moreover, if one believes French political analysts who covered the Hollande campaign, the "I'm just a normal guy" campaign message was actually her idea. It doesn't help that Trierweiler herself was eager to point out shortly after the election that she, unlike Carla Bruni-Sarkozy who frequently wore Dior haute couture and other high-end designer labels during official functions, preferred "quality pret-a-porter" suggesting that her tastes were more in keeping with those of average French women than her predecessor. Her choice of shoes therefore begs the question: Should the consort of the president be sporting an ostentatious pair of €530 designer pumps given the current economic climate?
Ms. Trierweiler might want to take a page from the Duchess of Cambridge's sartorial playbook. While the former Kate Middleton may not get very high marks from the fashion forward set, her talent for mixing high and low wardrobe choices cleverly play down the privilege of her rank and go a long way in helping her connect with ordinary Britons. She manages to look pretty (as a princess should) but with little risk of alienating economically-strapped Britons. Politically pitch perfect for the current economic climate.
Shortly after French media called the election for Hollande on the evening of May 6, Trierweiler took to Twitter to declare herself proud to accompany the new president and happy to share his life. If she's going to enjoy the journey alongside her man, she needs the right shoes. It's not fair but few things in politics ever are for the consort of a sitting president.
The Luxe Chronicles