I'm a phannatiq! Stella Creasy MP
Stella, Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow, talks about her two passions: politics and music
Tell us about wearing phannatiq to the Elle Style Awards.
It was like walking into a Bond film. Flash bulbs going off. Someone actually had to teach me how to pose for the photos. It was fun but I felt I couldn't move for fear I'd get noticed and thrown out for not being cool enough! Which is why it was so good to wear phannatiq. I wore phannatiq because it's from Walthamstow but also because I knew it looked good.
I don't have a great fashion sense but I have a huge appreciation for good fashion and for the skill that goes into it. It was lovely wearing phannatiq and knowing it would be beautifully cut. That makes a difference to how you look and feel. In an environment where everybody else was at least three sizes smaller than me, I felt I could at least stand my ground.
How much do clothes matter to you?
I have to think about what I look like. I think that goes for women generally, not just MPs. It's endemic. One of the most bizarre experiences I had in parliament was a debate because a male MP complained about women wearing jeans in the chamber. There's a dress code for men – they have to wear a tie – but there isn't a dress code for women.
I don't want people to focus on what I'm wearing, I want them to focus on what I'm doing. So I strike the balance of not being confined – I find wearing a suit confining, I'm not a conformist and I'm not about to start now – and not being distracting. I think women struggle with that across society. And if you want to champion equality sometimes you have to push it yourself.
Because of my job I don't get out as much as I used to. As a woman about to hit 40 I think it's an age when people are very judgemental about what you can and can't wear, and then I'm in a job where people are judgemental as well. Me and my mates have a Topshop rule: if you can walk into Topshop and find five things you could wear that are not accessories then you can go back. Otherwise it's time to move on!
You describe yourself as an "indie MP" – what does that mean?
I was a teenager in the 90s obsessed with indie music. I made multiple bad fashion choices. My brother used to take the mick out of me for wearing blue lipstick, he said it looked like I'd been kissing fridges!
I went a bit goth then indie: DMs, stripy tights. I wanted to look like everyone in my scene. There weren't that many female role models. Wendy James from Transvision Vamp – I guess that's why I still cut my hair this way now. And the lead singers of The Darling Buds and The Primitives. But I was influenced by indie culture generally, so I was wearing the men's lumberjack shirts as well as the flowery dresses. To say it looked a mess would be an understatement!
What's your signature movement?
Staring at my feet and shuffling, on the dancefloor. That was me clubbing at Fabulous Freddy's Freakshow at the Colchester Arms and it's still there.
Do I shoegaze in parliament?! It takes a reasonable amount to get me onto the dance floor but then when I'm there I think I have to commit. The same is true as an MP. When I do spend time in the chamber – and the chamber is only a very small part of being an MP – then I think if you're there you have to commit to it. But it would be a bit weird if I got up and started throwing gladioli!
What's your biggest passion? And your worst vice?
Both are probably music. And I still, six years into being an MP, want to change the world. That passion for change hasn't gone away. People call me a moderate but I'm a radical. My vice, if it's not being snobbish about music, is impatience with things moving too slowly.
I learned the hard way. I was a community campaigner as a kid. I helped run the Baby Milk Action campaign at school. I persuaded them to take all the Nestlé products out of the vending machine but it only lasted one day because there was nothing to replace them! I lost the support of people in the school because I hadn't thought of the next step. That was a life lesson.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Giving a shit! I expect to fail at lots of things. That's part of trying to do things differently. But I hope nobody would doubt my genuine commitment to trying to get it right. And also… being completely right about music. Unassailably right!
Read about Stella's work at workingforwalthamstow.org.uk
Follow her on Twitter @stellacreasy