A female politician’s fashion choices are often, whether intended or not, considered a political statement. This was the case for former Deputy Liberal Leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop MP when she announced her resignation from Federal Cabinet in August while wearing red high heels.
The red satin block pumps captured the public’s attention, and have now been donated by Ms Bishop to the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) as a “tribute to the aspirations of all women”.
Handing over the shoes, Ms Bishop said fashion has been used over the years to make political or social statements.
“On the morning of the press conference, I was thinking about what to wear, and my mind focused on the grassed courtyard at Parliament House, and so I decided to go for what I would consider a sensible pair of heels, or a comfortable working boot,” Ms Bishop said.
“But through the deft photography of Alex Ellinghausen, my red shoes were seen as a statement of female empowerment.”
She said she questioned whether gifting her shoes to the museum would serve any “positive purpose”.
“As Australia’s first female foreign minister, I always wanted to ensure that I made it easier, not harder, for other women to follow. As Australia’s current foreign minister is my dear friend, Marise Pain, the second female foreign minister of Australia, I hope I have achieved that aim.
“So, if by gifting these red shoes to the Museum of Australian Democracy, I inspire just one young woman to aspire to enter public life, to aspire to be the foreign minister and be the prime minister, then this gift will have been worth making.”
Ms Bishop said, having worn the shoes just once, “there’s some sadness that I part with them.”
MoAD Director Daryl Karp said the shoes are more than just stylish footwear, and can encourage visitors to consider how even simple clothing choices can be political statements.
“They demonstrate how personal fashion choices are consciously, and unconsciously, political and powerful.
“At a time when, regrettably, negative commentary about female politicians often centres on their physical appearance, many watching Ms Bishop’s press conference were struck by how this bold colour represented her confidence and command of her political destiny,” Ms Karp said.
The handover came the day after Liberal MP Julia Banks resigned from the party last week, further reducing the number of females in the Coalition’s ranks.
Ms Bishop said it is her intention to contest the next Federal election in her West Australian seat of Curtin.
Julie Bishop’s red shoes will be on public display at MoAD at Old Parliament House until Sunday 16 December 2018.